Saturday, 30 November 2013

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Well I do, if it means I get to eat things like this. Millionaire's shortbread - a buttery, crumbly shortbread base layered with smooth sticky caramel and topped with a thick layer of dark chocolate and feathered white chocolate. Calorie counters, look away NOW.

This shortbread is a wonderful thing. I made a batch last weekend and took it into work. Everyone had a piece...and then the deputy editor ate another three when my back was turned. Let that stand testament to how good this recipe is; when it comes to baking, gluttony is the highest form of flattery.

This recipe is really easy, if you can get the hang of making caramel and it can be made to look really pretty too. I apologise for the photos - flash always makes food look slightly lacklustre, but I made this in the evening, so leaving flash off wasn't really an option.

You will need:

For the shortbread:
250g plain flour
175g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
pinch of salt

For the caramel topping:
300g granulated sugar
60ml water
120ml single cream

For the chocolate:
300g dark chocolate
50g white chocolate
a piping bag
a cocktail stick

1. Grease and line a large, reasonably deep baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.
2. Put all the dry shortbread ingredients into a large bowl. Cube the butter and rub into the flour and sugar with your fingertips to form a crumbly mixture. Press the crumbs into the baking sheet.
3.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until light golden in colour.
4. While the shortbread base is baking, put the granulated sugar and water for caramel in a small pan over a high heat. You may stir before the sugar has dissolved, but not afterwards, or the mixture will crystallise. Heat the sugar syrup until it turns golden brown in colour - it will also smell AMAZING.
5. Once the caramel is golden brown, take it off the heat and pour in the cream whilst stirring vigorously. Careful - it will spit. 
6. Once the shortbread base is out of the oven, pour the caramel over the top and leave to set. Shake the baking tin from side to side to ensure the caramel is even. Set aside.
7. Break up the dark chocolate and set it in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water to melt, stirring occasionally to ensure it does not stick or burn. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. 
8. Let the caramel set a little then pour the chocolate over the caramel, as evenly as possible. You can use a knife or spatula to spread, but careful not to penetrate the caramel layer. Shake the baking tin from side to side to ensure the chocolate is even.
9. Quickly, before the dark chocolate starts to set, break the white chocolate up and put it in a non-metallic bowl. Give it a few 30 second blasts in the microwave, stirring after each time until it is fully melted. Spoon into the piping bag.
10. Pipe parallel lines one way across the dark chocolate. Use a cocktail stick to feather the white chocolate, first one way, then the other. Leave to set before cutting into small squares - I find a pizza cutter dipped in hot water works well. 

I'm dribbling just looking at it.

Until next time bakelings,


Friday, 1 November 2013

Kooky Spooky Skeleton Cookies

Who loves Halloween? But of course you do! What other occasion offers you the chance to eat sweets til you're sick, drink alcohol, dress up like a prat, demand sweets from strangers, play practical jokes on unsuspecting members of the public and make a godawful mess carving pumpkins?

Sadly, I'm too old to dress up and demand sweets from strangers without them calling the police, so I did not go trick and treating. But you're never too old for gingerbread men, so I decided to make these delicious biscuits with a bit of a twist.

After all, why go out and bully your neighbours for sweets when you could have endless fun making and icing 40 gingerbread men? And believe me, it feels endless after the first couple of hours. The recipe I based mine on was supposed to make 20, but it made 40, because I like my gingerbread men thin and crisp. So if you're going to roll your dough thin as well, then use half quantities for 20 biscuits.

You will need:

For the dough:
350g plain flour
2 tsp ground ginger
125g butter
175g light brown soft sugar
1 egg
3 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped
3 tbsp of syrup from the stem ginger jar
a gingerbread man biscuit cutter

For the decoration:
125g icing sugar
3 tsp of lemon juice
a piping bag

1. Mix the flour and ginger together in a large bowl.
2. Add the butter in cubes and rub in with your fingertips to make crumbs.
3. Add the egg, syrup, sugar and chopped stem ginger and stir with a wooden spoon until it comes together into a dough.
4. With floured hands and on a floured work surface, roll out the dough (with a floured rolling pin) to desired thickness (I think this is a matter of personal preference).
5. Cut out the gingerbread men, kneading any offcuts back together and rolling out again. Bake on a lined baking sheet for 7.5-15 minutes at 180C, depending on thickness until an even brown colour.
6. While the biscuits cool, beat together the icing sugar and lemon into a smooth consistency. Spoon into a piping bag and cut a tiny bit off the end - enough so the icing comes out smoothly but you can still do some pretty delicate piping.
7. When the biscuits have cooled, pipe little skeletons onto the biscuits, as pictured below:
8. Voila, spooky skeleton gingerbread men!

The great thing about these is that even if Halloween is too spooky for you, you'll love these, because being able to bite off their heads and eat them really takes the fear out of ghouls and ghosties. And they do taste pretty amazing.

I would like to pretend that all the biscuits were as beautifully iced as those above, but after the first 20 I got bored, so by the last 5 or so they were just series of blobs.

Enjoy, my little creatures of the night.