Recipe: Salted butter caramel

Salted butter caramel is the food of the Breton gods.

Well, maybe not, but it’s both Breton and divine, so…

For those who, like me, grew up in a house where unsalted butter was nearly unknown, salted butter caramel is an evidence. That the whole world only twigged to it over the past 10 or 15 years is amusing.

Banana cupcake, salted caramel cream cheese icing

Salted butter caramel sauce

200 g sugar
90 g salted butter
120 g double cream
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes (I use “fleur de sel de Guérande”, of course)

In a medium, thick-bottomed saucepan, heat up the sugar and a drop of water over medium heat. Do not stir, do not touch until it turns a rich reddish brown and smells lovely.

Take off the heat, dump in the butter. It will sizzle and splutter. Do not stir, do not touch until all the butter has melted. Now, stir well with a rubber spatula until you get a smooth, uniform paste.

Add the cream and salt, stir more until all is dissolved, and Bob’s your uncle.

Salted caramel cream cheese icing

250 g cream cheese
150 g (to taste) salted butter caramel sauce
75 g unsalted butter, soft

Put all three ingredients, whip until smooth.

 

Recipe: Parfait au miel et au safran

I was on Twitter, as usual, and was asked what my favourite flavour of ice cream was. And my answer was immediate: Honey and saffron. It’s a flavour mixture that hits all the buttons for me.

Where do you find it? Well, you make it. You don’t need an ice-cream maker, just a good electric whisk.

I got the parfait au miel recipe over 15 years ago on Usenet, from a now sadly departed lady named Claudine Cowen. I added saffron on an impulse, and it was glorious.

I try not to make it too often, as it never stays long in my freezer. But go ahead, do it and share it: it’s definitely worth it.

Parfait au miel et au safran
(serves 6)

4 eggs
25 cl very good honey
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 tsp lemon juice
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
25 cl double cream

In a mortar, grind the saffron to a powder.

In a medium-sized, thick-bottomed saucepan, slowly bring the honey to a boil. Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Whisk them with the pinch of salt until foamy.

When the honey boils, pour it very slowly into the eggs and keep whisking. Once you’ve mixed in all the honey, pour the mixture back into the saucepan, add the saffron, and return it to a medium heat. Keep whisking until the foam thickens.

Pour back into a bowl (preferably a clean one), and whisk on until cooled (that goes much faster if you put your bowl in an ice bath). Add the lemon juice and the vanilla extract.

Now, whisk up the double cream into soft peaks, and fold into the honey foam. Pour into a container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Note: I think the saffron here could be replaced by cardamom with good results.

Recipe: Snickerdoodles

I first encountered the American author Jean Johnson online through her very steamy Harry Potter fanfiction. Yeah, I know. So sue me.

She and I happen to have the same birthday. I became one of her beta readers for her fanfiction, then for her fantasy/romance novels. Despite having a 9-hour time difference between us, we chatted online through my mornings and her late nights. We finally managed to meet for real a few years ago during the World Science Fiction Convention in London.

But back to our subject: to celebrate chapter 100 of one of her fanfictions, Jean included a recipe for her favourite biscuits, I mean, cookies: Snickerdoodles. These are nicely rounded, rather soft in the middle, and covered in crunchy spiced sugar.

Snickerdoodles

Here is her recipe, translated to British English:

Snickerdoodles

3 ¼ cups sifted plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup hazel nuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup butter

½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180° C.
Thoroughly sift together flour, salt, bicarb of soda, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Set aside.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and mix. Beat the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture thoroughly. Stir into the flour until you get an homogeneous dough.

Mix together the remaining ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, and dash of nutmeg in a shallow dish.

With a teaspoon, take a walnut-sized lump of dough. Roll it between your hands  into a ball, and dredge in the sugar mixture. Cook 10 to 13 minutes on a greased baking tray (or non-stick baking parchment). Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

I am extremely happy with how this came out. It looks as pretty as it tastes.

I used my Mum’s recipe, with a little salted butter and a weft of cinnamon in the apples, and shortcrust rather than puff pastry.

Presentation-wise, I nicked a trick from Raymond Blanc, using small Braeburn apples and standing them up, for an excellent apple-to-crust ratio.

Tarte Tatin

Styling

Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve been paying attention to how I photographed my bakes. My photos are not just a proof of what I’ve done anymore. So goodbye trusty blue cake carrier, hello pretty plates!

Chilli chocolate mousse cake
Coriander chicken parcels

Romsey is blessed with a number of charity shops – including one downstairs from my home. I generally do the rounds once a week to see if anything interesting has come in. By interesting, I mean both elegant and colourful, as I already have a range of plain white or off-white plates.

I also made an effort with lighting: I try to take all the new pictures in natural light. In my kitchen, that means by the sink.

Kitchen

Even on rather dreary days like today, the natural light from that western window is enough to make anything shine. I innovated this morning by hanging a white pillowcase from the cabinet on the left for reflection.

Last point, the background: the fake granite counter-tops in the kitchen are not horrendous, but far from elegant. So I vary according to the bake, the plate, etc.

Rhubarb and star anise profiteroles
Rosemary focaccie

My favourite tea towels go well for bread, for instance. I also like to use my heirloom chopping board (I nabbed it from my parents’ kitchen when I moved out, so I can guarantee authentic French provincial provenance). I also have a number of actual tablecloths and napkins that I can use. In some cases, I even resort to scarves, if the pattern complement the plate. Lastly, I also walked into a fabric shop and came out with half a dozen or so pieces of fabric of various colours.

Poppyseed breadsticks
Sesame breadsticks
Rye sourdough and caraway breadsticks

 

A blog post about blogging

I just read something about “a new innovative webapp, which provides bloggers and webpublishers with useful tools to analyse, optimize and monetize their blogs”.

That sounds disturbingly like work…

The main objective of this blog is not to bore people who see me every day with my baking stories. Of course, if product tests and endorsements got me free swag, I might make more of an effort, but let’s be frank: for the time being, I don’t rate swag.

Nevertheless, I’m going to try to make this place a bit more interesting by adding the occasional recipe. Watch this space!

For lack of a pot

The weather yesterday was so wet and windy and dreary I thought I would make this Chetna Makan recipe. But things went against me: nor rhubarb left in the shop by the time I got there. So I decided I would improvise, and change the fruit compote to a mango, orange and raspberry medley.

I had the pudding bowl out, the compote made, when I discovered that I couldn’t for the life of me get my hands on my big soup pot. It’s hiding somewhere. Since the other pot was in use by one of my lodgers, I changed plans.

This morning, I made biscuits. Actually, I made cookies and biscotti, to speak in their original languages. But both recipes have something in common: the balls of dough are rolled in sugar before baking.

The cookies are snickerdoodles, delicately flavoured with cinnamon both in the dough and in the rolling sugar.

Snickerdoodles

The biscotti are biscotti morbidi al limone, soft-centred lemon biscuits. For these, I adapted the recipe slightly, since I had used one small lemon, and found the flavour a bit light: I added some pure lemon oil to the dough, and it worked perfectly.

Tender lemon biscuits

Both batches went down a treat at work.

And now, I need to find this pot!

I changed my mind

When you make custard tarts, life gives you egg whites, so this morning, I was planning on baking a few trays of langues de chat. But there was so much batter, and more importantly, the batter was so light and fluffy, I decided to bake it as a cake instead. We’ll call it “egg white sponge cake”, shall we?

Once out of the tin, it looked quite good.

Egg white sponge cake

Going on with the theme of “using up leftovers from previous bakes”, I’ve doused it with chocolate sauce and sprinkled it with candied peel.

Egg-white sponge cake with chocolate glaze and citrus peel

I took this to work, just because my colleagues are Luuuurvely people!

I had a slice as second breakfast (yes, if first breakfast is when you get up at 5 am to bake, there is such a thing as second breakfast). As you would expect with all the egg whites, it is somewhere between a classic Victoria sponge an angel food cake, and absolutely delicious.