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Posts Tagged ‘caramel’

We may not be getting the weather that those living a little further south are enjoying  but despite some disconcertingly wintery days, it’s definitely spring. And spring means there are blossoms on every street in Edinburgh, on nearly every tree – a transformation that always helps to bring me out of the folds of January depression and rethink my annual resolutions to move back to somewhere with a more civilised climate.

This year spring is extra special because it marks the beginning of the run up to our impending nuptials (and I have the prospect of genuine Mediterranean sunshine and warmth to look forward to!). Unfortunately this also means things are even busier than usual so I’m finding even less time to write. And the pressure is on for the dreaded hen do, complete with humiliating outfits and party games which although intended to be a celebration of your last days as a singleton, have you doing things that no sane single person would ever contemplate.

As you can probably tell I had resolved not to have a hen, but when anyone asked Ross if he was ready for the big day his response was “yes, the stag is all organised!”. So I had to vacate my house last weekend while it was taken over by inebriated men who had been out partying all night. My cunning plan was to escape to a friends house and spend the afternoon in the sun with a jug of sangria and a mountain of tasty nibbles (any excuse to make party food). No pink cowboy hats. No collecting strangers pants.

Well things didn’t go quite according to plan – it rained nearly all day and the girls decided to ignore my threats of bodily harm and tried to dress me up in various kitsch accessories with a distinctly hen-ish theme. But it still turned out to be a generally pleasant experience and despite the lack of a BBQ we managed to eat ourselves silly, so all in all… a success. To give you some idea of the spread, we had everything ranging from cheese and pickle hedgehogs and mini burgers to scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam (seriously good scone recipe to be shared soon I promise). Unfortunately I was too busy arguing my way out of a veil and ridiculous glow in the dark sunglasses to take pictures of it all but I made more of these caramel tartletts with the left over ingredients afterwards.

The tarts are filled with a very light caramel crème patisserie, finished with a crunchy caramel drizzle and just small enough to pop a whole one in your mouth. Mmm, yum.

They keep relatively well in the fridge for a day so they are good for parties when you need to make things ahead and they are suitably delicate  for a spring party menu. In fact I could happily eat a whole plate of these without even noticing I had overindulged  so your waste line has been warned.

Spring Caramel Tartlets

Crème Patisserie recipe adapted from Nigella’s Feast.

  • 48 mini shortcrust pastry cases (I dont have the moulds or the patience for blind baking these myself)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 125ml milk
  • 125ml double cream
  • 150g castor sugar
  • 15g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tsp water

Warm the cream and milk in a pan. Cream the eggs and 50g of castor sugar and then whisk in the flour. Add the heated cream and milk into the egg mixture and whisk until smooth. Pour back into the saucepan and whisk  over a low heat until the custard thickens. Add the vanilla and set aside.

Caramelise the sugar by combining 20g sugar and 1tsp water in a pan over a high heat until it turns a caramel colour. Whisk into the custard and leave to cool.

Lay out the pastry cases in a baking tray or tupperware and fill with the cooled crème patisserie. Caramelise the remaining sugar with 2 tsp water and drizzle over each of the tartlets (you could also add chopped nuts or a variety of other toppings). Cover and store the tartlets in the fridge until ready to serve.

Our cat was more interested in eating the blossoms than the cakes. She has always been weird.

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If Christmas had a smell, it would smell like a gingerbread latte.

I wait all year for the red cups to arrive in Starbucks so I can finally get my paws on a gingerbread latte and when they disappear in January I go into a prolonged period of mourning. This year I started thinking about buying the syrup so I could make my own at home all year round but I decided it would take some of the sparkle out of the whole thing, like chaining up Santa on the roof and forcing him down the chimney every weekend.

While I was pondering this criminal master plan, I came up with the idea of making a gingerbread latte cup cake instead. One that would pay tribute to the original drink in its different elements, but translated into an edible cake that would happily go side by side with a normal old cup of coffee on an un-christmassy and dreary afternoon. So although its already February and very nearly March, I decided it wasnt too late to try out my fiendish idea and since I was blessed with a bout of gastric flu last week that left me on a diet of rich tea biscuits for several days (a poor substitute for the South African Marie biscuit but I had to make do), I thought I deserved a treat to celebrate my return to normal food.

The basic elements of the gingerbread latte are coffee, ginger, whipped cream and caramel sauce. I decided my cupcakes didnt need the coffee element as despite the name, coffee is not the main flavour of the drink that I love so the cupcake is a fairly standard ginger sponge. I wanted something more special than whipped cream as the frosting so I’ve used a vanilla meringue frosting instead, drizzled with caramel sauce and a dusting of grated nutmeg, which is the final end note of the latte itself. I’ll play around with the recipe each time I make it to make sure I’ve tested every potential improvement but in the meantime, here’s my de-constructed gingerbread latte for those of you who are suffering from the post Christmas blues…

Gingerbread Latte Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar (or plain castor sugar and 1 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with paper liners. In a small bowl, mix together flour,spices, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter and then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately beat in flour mixture and milk in three batches, beating until smooth.

Pour the batter into the paper liners and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Meringue frosting

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Boil sugar and water over heat to soft ball stage (120°C). Meanwhile beat egg whites to stiff peaks in a large bowl. Slowly pour syrup into egg whites beating constantly and then beat until smooth and stiff enough to spread (the bowl should no longer feel hot). Pipe onto the cupcakes and drizzle with caramel sauce (for the recipe see my last post). Sprinkle with a pinch of nutmeg and serve!

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Home-made Caramel

I made this caramel as one part of another recipe I’ve had brewing which is actually the one I was going to post for the week… I thought I would post it up in the meantime as a  visual amuse bouche to start the weekend!

Also its a perfectly good recipe on its own, for topping ice cream or dipping fruit fondue style, or just eating out of the jar with a spoon if you are that way inclined so I thought it should have a chance to shine on its own first.

Most caramel sauce recipes call for double cream but this is a (slightly) less calorific option and you can always add cream to it if you want to go the whole hog, or cow to be more accurate.

I’ll post this in the morning when I’ve had a chance to take some pictures in the light but right now I’m settling down to my first glass of wine for the weekend and writing up the recipe for which the caramel was originally intended. I’ll keep that one a secret for now to build the suspense but here’s a hint… its an ode to one of my favourite winter drinks…

Have a delicious weekend! ♥

Home-made Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 60g butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix brown sugar and flour together in a suacepan. Add the melted butter and stir well. Place the saucepan over another pan of gently boiling water and cook stirring occasionally for five minutes. Slowly add the boiling water while continuing to stir constantly. Continue to cook and stir until sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Serve immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Simple!

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