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.

 

 

Simple pleasures

You know a recipe is simple when you can describe it in a single tweet, as I just did. In French, which is generally longer than English.

“Langues de chat” are simple French butter biscuits, like tuiles, but without almonds. Their name mean “cat’s tongues”, and their shape is appropriate:

Langues de chat

They’re a staple in French homes – my parents often have a couple to go with their after-lunch coffee, for instance. They are as ubiquitous in French shops as rich tea biscuits are here.

For bakers, they’re known as a simple way to use up egg whites – in this case, to make a dent in the processed egg whites I bought for the “croquants aux noix”.

So, to my recipe: Preheat your oven to 180°C (160° fan), and line at least one baking tin with non-stick parchment.

Weigh your egg whites. Weigh out equal weights of caster sugar, lightly salted butter (soft) and plain flour. In a large bowl, whisk together butter and sugar until they turn pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egg whites, then the flour. Add the flavour of your choice (here, for nearly a kilo of batter, 1 tsp of vanilla paste).

Put in a piping bag, pipe short lines (about 5 cm) on the lined baking tin, making sure you leave enough space for the batter to melt and spread.

Bake until the edges are brown, but the centre remains pale. Slide the baking paper off the tin onto your counter top, leave to cool off a couple of minutes, then place the biscuits on a cooling rack. Once cold, either eat quickly or place in an airtight box.