Salted Caramel Chocolate Pots

According to my husband, I’m the only person who, when there’s a spare half bottle of cream in the fridge, says “Oh a half bottle of cream? I need to make salted caramel sauce”.  Except tonight, I had a craving for chocolate as well, and I’d had this recipe for Chocolate Pots on my to do list for ages so I combined the two and, well, here you go.

This dessert has only 4 ingredients (none of them healthy) but noone said this was a health  blog.  It’s a pretty quick and easy recipe to make in the morning and then have ready for dinner.  If you can avoid eating them for that long…

IMG_0451.JPG

The key to the salted caramel not being too sweet is to take the caramel as far as you dare.   It will start to smoke and you’ll think “oh god it’s going to burn” and then it will start to foam a little and someone will say “what are you burning in there” and then just when you think it’s all over and you’ll spend the next half hour cleaning burnt sugar off the pots, drop in your butter and cream and it will be amazing.image

Salted Caramel Chocolate Pots (serves 4)

Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup sugar
45g salted butter
60ml cream

Melt sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan on a medium heat until it starts to melt and then darken.  Swirl the pan (don’t stir it) to ensure it caramelises evenly.  The pan will start to smoke, when the caramel starts to foam and darkens to a dark amber colour, drop in the butter and then stir in the cream, taking care it doesn’t spit and foam on you.  I find I can turn off the heat at this point and the residual heat is enough to melt any hardened caramel into the sauce, but if you still have hard lumps, leave it on the heat and stir until it’s smooth. Taste the sauce, add a pinch more flaky sea salt if you think it’s required (I like my salted caramel on the saltier side). Leave to cool a little before you assemble the pots.  Any residual sauce can be kept in the fridge and served over icecream.  Or just eaten with a spoon.

Chocolate Pots
125ml cream
100g dark chocolate (I used Whittakers 62% which was nice and dark and not too sweet)
20g butter

Melt cream, chocolate and butter over a low heat and stir gently until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Let cool.

To assemble:
Spoon two tablespoons of caramel sauce into the bottom of 4 125ml ramekins. Chill until set.  Gently divide the chocolate between the ramekins.  They will be about 3/ 4 full.  Sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt on top, cover with gladwrap and refrigerate until set. Remove from fridge about 1/2 hour before serving.

These turned out super rich and decadent – the recipe would definitely work as 6 smaller desserts, especially if serving after a bigger meal.

Peanut Brownies

It’s funny what can inspire you to cook something.  An open packet of roasted salted peanuts and a paint tin of M&Ms (a freebie from buying paint for our new kitchen!) inspired our baking this afternoon.

Peanut brownies are an old school NZ favourite – a classic from the Edmonds cookbook era.  I remember having the extra special treat of baking in my lunchbox, in the days before muesli bars and bought biscuits became the norm.

There’s a running joke in our family that chocolate baking only needs a tablespoon of cocoa, a hark back to our childhood days when nothing ever came out of the oven with the dense strong chocolately flavour that I search out in my baking these days.  So when I saw this recipe had only 2 tablespoons of cocoa it was a flag to me to increase it and modernise this old recipe.

I’ve reduced the sugar a little, amped up the cocoa, and used roasted salted peanuts.

 Peanut Brownies
adapted from Edmonds Cookbook

125g butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 cups standard plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt (omit if using roasted salted peanuts)
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 cup roasted, salted peanuts (or just plain roasted peanuts)

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy and light.  Add the egg and mix well, then add sifted dry ingredients and mix gently until a dough forms.  Add peanuts and mix.
Place tablespoon sized cookies onto baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes until cooked (be careful you don’t burn the bottoms!)

 

Tuesdays with Dorie – Rugelach

Well, I’m not doing so well with this blogging business.  Seem to go in fits and starts.  And I always remember that it’s Tuesdays with Dorie week on the Sunday night before!!!  Last couple of weeks have been recipe and baking light – have fallen back on a couple of slow cook meals that I’ve done in one go and reheated every night, as the house DIY and baby growing take their toll.  Luckily, I remembered this week that the recipe was Rugelach and had handily scanned the recipe so I had it on my phone and could check the recipe in the supermarket.  Seems I didn’t read the whole recipe though, as you’ll see it made for a tasty but messy substitution!!!

Sooooo – I had no idea what Rugelach was before I read this recipe and had never tried them before.  Rugelach are a tasty pastry of Jewish origin – often made in a crescent shape (like a croissant).   This recipe was for more of a “cut” cookie – when rolled up they reminded me a little of a cinnamon bun. It’s made with a cream cheese pastry, spread with a fruity jam like paste, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (you had me from here alone!), then nuts and dried fruit, and rolled. From looking at a couple of the posts already up, seems you could bake them flat (like a sausage roll), or standing up like a cinnamon bun.

I’d never made a cream cheese pastry before, but this turned out really great, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more recipes that use it. The recipe said to have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature, but again due to lack of organisation (and impatience), I used cold butter and cream cheese. The dough was light and kind of flaky with that slight tang from the cream cheese.  Delish!  Turns out it’s also pretty great cold, as I’ve just eaten my second one from the leftovers in the fridge as I type this!!!

Chilled Pastry

My lack of organisation meant I didn’t really follow the rest of the recipe properly after the pastry.  I was too disorganised to make the lekvar (like a thick jam) myself, and I forgot to buy nuts.  So I used this really great plum jam we had, and instead of nuts…….  chopped chocolate.  It was actually delicious – the combination of jam, cinnamon and chocolate worked well.  Although it was VERY messy to bake (which might have somethign to do with the fact I didn’t chill it after rolling it up – again the impatience!!!).  The chocolate and jam and sugar kind of caramelised and spread over the baking tray, although when I took them out of the oven I just used a spatula to kind of push it all around the tray and back towards the pastries and they looked ok (well you can judge from the photos).  And tasted GREAT!!!!!

The rolled pastry with jam and cinnamon sugar

Ready to roll....

Cut and ready to bake

The hosts this week are The Urban Hiker and My Baking Heart – the recipe can be found at either of their sites….

The finished (sticky and messy!) product!

* PS – I’ve learnt early on that the recipes in this book make WAY too much for just the two of us in this house – so I made 1/3 of the recipe.  It made about 10 large-ish bun sized cookies/pastries.  (There are only 2 left).  And I was left with a heap of cinnamon sugar.  So I might have to make some more of the White Loaves and use it to make cinnamon bread or buns instead!!!!

**PPS – I promise I’m going to get my act into gear and start posting properly.  And taking some proper photos (that aren’t last minute in the middle of the night).  Promise.  Really.

 

 

Project Wedding – Making Whoopie

I’ve been a bit remiss on the blog lately. Ok, very remiss. I’ve been doing a bit of baking but taking photos has been a bit beyond me, and I feel bad posting just words. Feel free to tell me otherwise.

I’ve been thinking about making whoopie pies for a while. While researching chocolate cupcake recipes for Project Wedding, I kept coming across whoopie pie recipes. And Pinterest is full of pictures of them. Anyway, whoopie pies are the new cupcake. They’re easier to eat, no fussing around with wrappers, and you don’t get left with that annoying bit on the bottom which has no icing left. (Can I convince you T??) Some stories say they were designed to use up leftover cake batter and icing. They’re supposed to be a bit like a cross between a cookie and a cake. The original versions I’ve seen are chocolate with fluffy vanilla icing, a bit like an Oreo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I decided to make chocolate cakes, but with a chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead. This gives a nice creamy taste but without the extra sweetness you’d get from other frosting recipes. I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for the buttercream, adapted a little to reduce the amount of butter. I think the butter here in NZ has a stronger taste and I like the flavour and texture of this recipe with less of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate Whoopie Cakes
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 dozen finished sandwiched cakes (24 individual cookie/cakes)

1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
113g butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon lemon juice made up to 1 cup milk and left for 5 mins)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line baking trays with baking paper.

Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Beat butter and sugar on a medium speed until fluffy. Add egg and beat until combined, then add vanilla. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk, either beating on a low speed or folding in with a spoon.

Use a cookie scoop to scoop the batter onto the lined trays, and bake for about 12 mins until middles are set to the touch. Cool on a cooling rack.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
250g butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
150g dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature

Heat egg whites and sugar over a pot of simmering water, whisking gently until it reaches 160degrees Fahrenheit. Beat using a whisk attachment on medium speed for 3 minutes, then beat at a high speed for another 7-10 minutes until the bowl is cool to the touch. Add vanilla. Switch to a paddle beater and slowly add the butter piece by piece, waiting until each piece is incorporated before adding the next. The meringue will deflate slightly and will possible stay a bit runny until most of the butter has been added. If the mixture looks like it’s curdling, just keep beating beating beating. Trust me. I was nearly in tears an hour before my birthday party this year, because the caramel icing I was making curdled. I just left it on the mixer, still beating and it miraculously came back together by the time I’d done my hair. Once all the butter has been incorporated, slowly add the cooled melted chocolate and beat until combined.

If you are still having problems, the hints from Smitten Kitchen and also this one from Sweetapolita are genius

This should be enough to sandwich all the cakes together. Use a piping bag and be generous with the filling.

Store the filled cakes in the fridge if you need to, but leave out for a few hours before serving to soften the icing, otherwise it might feel like you are eating solid butter.

I’m still in search for the perfect cupcake recipe, and the wedding is coming up fast. At least I know I’ve mastered the Buttercream though!!!

Project Wedding – Take One

I’ve agreed to make wedding cakes and cupcakes for a good friend who is getting married in December. The wedding is at a winery, and at the beginning of summer (the week before Christmas). The request is for cupcakes and I’ll probably make a cake to cut, and chocolate is top of the list of flavours. Decoration is still open to negotiation.

So – first on the list I need to find a good chocolate cupcake recipe. It needs to be pretty light (to be eaten after a meal in summer), moist (not too many crumbs on the dresses!), but not too delicate (needs to travel well). I also like a cake that has a bit more of a crunchy top rather than a soft spongy one (I find they hold up to handling better). There is a recipe that I’ve been using for years that came from Cupcake Bakeshop, but the last couple of times I’ve made them I have had inconsistent results (probably user error on my part!!). I’ll try that one again soon.

I saw this recipe on Sweetapolita, and seeing as I was using her recipe (and amazing tips) for Swiss Meringue Buttercream, thought it would be a good place to start.

The recipe has no butter, but uses oil to keep the cupcakes moist and pretty fluffy. I guess that would also help keeping them a bit fresher given I will be baking in advance. Not sure whether they would freeze or not (although I would rather not need to freeze but just bake the day before). They also have nice strong coffee which gives them a bit of a kick and really enrichens the chocolate flavour.

The batter was a bit runny, which made it a bit harder to get it evenly into the cases. I normally use a cookie scoop to get cupcakes even but it was a little messy and the cat had a few licks of the floor after I dripped it. If this is the recipe I go with in the end, I will need to find another way to get the batter into the cases (perhaps a squeezy bottle?). I also think I filled them a bit too much – even though I halved the recipe which should have left me with 9 cupcakes, I filled 12 and had quite a bit of batter left over. Next time will make up another tray rather than use the extra batter to fill them up a bit. They didn’t really dome up very well, rather were a bit flat and spread across the pan a bit and were harder to get out of the muffin tray, as you can see in the picture above.

I used my standard Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe for these, as I think it will hold up to the heat better than a standard whipped butter frosting. I used 2 egg whites and ½ cup sugar, and about 150g of butter. I tend to use slightly less butter than most recipes suggest for buttercream – I think it gives a slightly less buttery taste, and doesn’t seem to affect the texture at all. Once the frosting is all whipped up, I added about half a cup of melted dark chocolate. I have yet to find a recipe for SMB that gives a really dark chocolatey colour and taste – perhaps it’s just one of the characteristics of the frosting. If I can’t get the right flavour maybe I’ll try a whipped ganache frosting.

The verdict: these cupcakes had a lovely light and moist texture, and a nice rich chocolate taste. My only worry is that they spread although that may have been my fault for filling the cases too full. Definitely one to think about.

Stay tuned for more chocolate cupcake recipe testing!!!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes – adapted from Sweetapolita (makes 12)

1 cup plain flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa*
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
½ cup strong black coffee (I make mine in a stovetop coffee maker, but a strong instant coffee would work as well)
½ cup milk**
¼ cup vegetable oil (I use rice bran, but any light, flavourless oil would do)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract***

Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
Whisk flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl or jug, whisk the wet ingredients together, then add to the dry ingredients and whisk for a few minutes until combined.
Fill the cupcake cases about ½ full (not more like I did!) and bake for between 12-15 minutes (although mine took about 18 mins).
Cool on a tray. When cool, ice with Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting as above.

*Don’t even bother using Bourneville or Cadbury cocoa. When I can stretch my budget, I try and buy Valrhona cocoa (available from Sabato amongst other places), but the Equagold range is available at all my local New World stores and does the trick just as well. It’s definitely worth getting a good quality cocoa – your baking will thank you.

**The original recipe stated buttermilk, but that’s not very common here in NZ and I was too lazy to make my own, would be interesting to see what difference it makes.

*** Like with the cocoa, it’s worth getting a really good quality vanilla extract (not essence). I like the Heilala vanilla extract or Equagold also do a good one. I’ve seen a few recipes around for a homemade vanilla extract, so stay posted and I may try that out on here soon.

Cookies

I failed miserably at my weekend list – I only managed to achieve one of the things I set out to do.  Luckily we had some amazing weather (making a change from the snow earlier in the week (!)) which made it ok to not be in the kitchen all day!!

I did manage to bake a hummingbird cake (banana and pineapple), but I tweaked the recipe too much from the original, so I need to try that one more time and I think I’ll get it perfect.

I made a few batches of cookies last week – the peanut butter and chocolate chip went down a TREAT in my office.

Chocolate Peanut Buttery Cookies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I adapted this recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, a gorgeous bakery that started in Portobello Road in Notting Hill, London (they now have  bakeries in Soho, South Ken and The City).  I used to visit there often when I lived in London (could never decide which flavour cupcake to get so always ended up getting more than one and eating them walking down through the Portobello Rd market).

The cookies are crispy and have a great peanut flavour, but next time I would use more chocolate chips (I nearly always double the amount of chocolate chips specified in a recipe – you can never have too many, right??).

Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F) and line 2 baking trays with baking paper (or just grease them with cooking spray or oil).

Cream 225g butter (at room temperature), 150g sugar and 200g brown sugar until light and fluffy.  This should take about 3-5 minutes in a stand mixer (I use my Kitchenaid mixer, but a hand held egg beater or a wooden spoon with very strong arms would also work).    Add 240g crunchy peanut butter and keep mixing until it’s combined.  Add 2 eggs and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure it’s all mixed in properly.  Add ½ – 1 teaspoons of vanilla extract.
Sift in 340g flour, 2½ teaspoons baking soda and ½ teaspoon salt, then mix again slowly until it forms a dough.
Mix in 100-150g of chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, depending on how much you love chocolate.  I would do about 150g next time.
Spoon teaspoonfuls onto the prepared trays (I use a cookie scoop which is the best invention ever) and bake for about 10 minutes – they should be golden brown and a bit flat (like in the picture above).  Leave them to cool slightly on the tray if you can (there are always burned fingers when baking cookies at my place due to early grabbing off the tray!).  Cool them on a wire rack.
The original recipe said it made 24 cookies.  I forgot to count but I reckon mine was closer to 3½ dozen (I filled two cookie containers).
Eat.  Sometimes a glass of milk goes down a treat as well.