Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

I am a savoury head.  It’s not that I don’t like sweet things, I just prefer savoury.  Hands down.  Every time 🙂 Hubby, on the other hand, has a serious sweet tooth, which means that we rarely steal each other’s snacks (one of the many secrets to a happy marriage if you ask me!) Unless they’re sweet AND savoury, then all bets are off!  Fortunately (or should that be unfortunately??) sweet and salty combos are quite popular at the moment so there’s been quite a bit of happy sharing going on – sea salted fudge should be outlawed it’s so insanely delicious, and there are still two batches of Hubby’s salted gooey caramel pecan bars in the freezer from the Christmas bakefest!  And then at the weekend Hubby made this… zomg…

I’m sure there are a million things you could pour this over but sometimes simplest is best, and over vanilla ice cream (Mackie’s in this case) and sliced bananas that epic salty sweet combo was impossible not to appreciate.

Hubby says – Having tried, and failed, to make a good caramel sauce before – the others of which are bitter, burnt memories – I can attest to the fact that this is the easiest, loveliest caramel sauce you can make at home.  Thank you Kelsey’s Essentials for the recipe!

As the grateful recipient slash guinea pig of this caramel sauce I can attest at least to the loveliness of it if not the ease, but judging by the lack of potty mouthage going on in the kitchen during the cooking process then it’s probably safe to assume that he’s not lying about the easy either 😉

Salted Caramel Sauce
Salty and sweet liquid gold for pouring over ice cream or just eating straight out of the jar with a spoon.
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Stuff you’ll need…
  1. 1 cup white granulated sugar
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 3/4 cup double cream (heavy cream)
  4. 3 1/2 tbsp/70g unsalted butter
  5. Sea salt – to taste, up to 1 tsp
Cook!
  1. 1. Combine the sugar and water in your saucepan and set over a low heat. Gently whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat because you absolutely do not want this to boil! And it’s important to make sure the sugar is dissolved first otherwise there’s a high chance that it will crystalise when you add the cream later. Also, if you do this right then the cream and the butter don’t need to be at room temperature and you can use them straight out of the fridge.
  2. 2. When the sugar has completely dissolved, then turn the heat up to high until the liquid is gently boiling – without stirring. Keep a close eye on it as you need to watch for the liquid changing colour, usually about 5-6 minutes from when it starts to boil. You’re watching for it to turn a deep amber, like a good ale. Once it starts to change colour it becomes really time sensitive and it’s literally a matter of seconds between perfect and burnt. So as soon soon as it turn that amber colour, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. 3. Carefully whisk the cream in first, pouring slowly as you whisk as the mixture will bubble up. Once the cream has been whisked in, add the butter and whisk until smooth.
  4. 4. Finally add salt, stir, and set aside to cool – you might want to transfer it out of the pan for this bit.
  5. Hubby says it will keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge… HAH! Good luck with that! Ours didn’t last 2 days 😉
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials
Adapted from Kelsey's Essentials
fifigoesnom https://www.fifigoesnom.com/
Herman, The German Friendship Cake

Herman, The German Friendship Cake

So here he is, our Herman, and didn’t he scrub up nicely!  He also tasted properly delicious, crazy moist and all cinnamony, with teasing nibbles of apple here and raisins there.  The only thing that might have improved him would have been a slick of Danish bun style icing on the top.  Maybe next time.

I read somewhwere that Herman is the modern equivalent of the chain letter, which I can see, but Herman didn’t threaten me with bad luck until the end of time if I didn’t pass him on.  And he turned into a delicious cake instead of wastepaper bin fodder.  So yeah, I’ll take Herman and his eventual cakey self over chain letters any time 🙂

Caring for him was actually kind of fun, although Hubby will tell you that the first thing I did upon rehousing him into a mixing bowl when I brought him home was try and delegate all care of Herman to Hubby.  Which isn’t strictly a lie… But it was almost like having a pet, as the gluey blob of beige became a personality in his own right.  Strange but true!  That I then felt no remorse at a) baking him, and b) scoffing him is also strange but true… So if you get offered a Herman, do accept, he really is worth it.  And that’s coming from a self-proclaimed savoury head! And if you can’t wait for someone to pass you some Herman, you can very easily start your own.  A quick google of “Herman starter” throws up a bunch of websites with instructions on how to make your own Herman sourdough starter.  All you need then are some instructions to pass on with your little Hermans when they’re ready.  Here are the ones that came with mine, sad faces and all LOL 

Hello, my name is Herman. I am a sourdough cake. I need to sit on your kitchen worktop for 10 days without a lid on. Please do not put me in the fridge or I will die. If I stop bubbling then I am dead 🙁

 

  • Day 1: When you get Herman home, put him in a large non-metallic mixing bowl and cover loosely with a clean tea towel.
  • Day 2: Stir well with a wooden spoon
  • Day 3: Stir well
  • Day 4: Herman is hungry! Add 1 cup of plain flour, I cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk. Stir well
  • Day 5: Stir Well
  • Day 6: Stir Well
  • Day 7: Stir Well
  • Day 8: Stir Well
  • Day 9: Herman is hungry again! Add 1 cup of plain flour, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of milk, and stir well. Divide into 4 equal portion, keep 1 portion and give the other 3 away to friends with a copy of these instructions.
  • Day 10: Herman is VERY hungry!  And so are we…
Herman, the German Friendship Cake
Delicious, crazy moist and all cinnamony, with teasing nibbles of apple here and raisins there... Friendship cake, does it get any better than that?
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Cook Time
1 min
Cook Time
1 min
Ingredients 1:
  1. 1 portion of Herman starter
  2. 1 cup of sugar
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 2 cups of plain flour
  5. 2/3rds of a cup of cooking oil
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 2 teaspoons vanilla essence
  8. 2 cooking apples, cut into chunks
  9. 1 cup of raisins
  10. 2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon
  11. 2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
Ingredients 2:
  1. 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  2. 1/4 cup of melted butter
On Day 10:
  1. Herman is VERY hungry! Stir well, and then add all of the ingredients in the first list above.
  2. Mix everything together and put into a large greased baking tin. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and melted butter per the second list above.
  3. Preheat the oven to 170-180 C before put the cake mixture in. Bake for 45 minutes.
  4. After 45 minutes, the top should be nice and brown (and the amazing smell of the cake should be setting your dribble off!). Cover with tin foil and bake for a further 15 minutes, just to make sure that the middle of the cake is cooked well enough. Stick a knife in the middle to test, if you get wet cake mix on the knife then it needs more baking.
  5. Don’t worry about over-cooking Herman or drying him out, the apple makes him lovely and moist.
  6. When you’re happy that Herman is cooked, take him out of the oven and leave him to cool down a little. If you can’t wait, he tastes great while still warm with a little cream or ice-cream.
Notes
  1. Herman also freezes well, which given the amount of cake he makes is probably just as well!
fifigoesnom https://www.fifigoesnom.com/
Hello Herman!

Hello Herman!

Meet my new friend, Herman, the German Friendship Cake.  Only, he’s not quite cake yet.  More a bubbling blob of beige that kind of smells like glue…

 

If you’re not familiar with Herman, he’s a sourdough cake starter that you are gifted by a friend, that you feed and nurture for ten days.  By this time he will have quadrupled in size, so you split him into four batches and pass three on to friends who then start their own ten day feeding cycle of the Herman sprogs.  The fourth batch you bake into a delicious cake, full of cinnamon and apples, and share with more friends.  How lovely is that!

So this is my Herman, on day 2.  The instructions that he came with are hilarious!  They’re handwritten and besides those days where Herman gets hungry and you have to feed him, they’ve drawn a sad face next to the “or he’ll die” warning LOL  I’ll be back when he’s less blobby and more cakey, which I’ve already tasked Hubby with the baking of since Herman is of Amish origin, apparently, and Hubby hails from Amish country (although isn’t actually Amish himself…)

 

Simple Sponge Cupcakes: Victoria & Lemon versions

Simple Sponge Cupcakes: Victoria & Lemon versions

Easter weekend and then my birthday have conspired to throw my posting timetable a little off track… Hoping to resume normal service this Sunday!  In the meantime, feast your eyes on these seriously cute cupcakes that Hubby rustled up to celebrate (or commiserate) me turning another year older 🙂

Being a savoury tooth rather than sweet, I prefer my cake-age to be of the unfussy variety.  It took me forever to persuade Hubby that a Victoria sponge really was my idea of a good time, whilst death by multiple varieties of chocolate really wasn’t!  So this year I woke up to the smell of these baking, and they were utterly divine.  The perfect balance of buttercream and strawberry jam in the middle allowed the simple tastiness of the sponge to shine through.  Just perfect with a nice cup of tea…

Thank you, Hubby, for spoiling me so.  Again.   <3

And now it’s over to Hubby for the recipe!

Simple Sponge Cupcakes: Victoria & Lemon versions
Yields 12
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For the Victoria Sponge version
  1. 220g caster sugar
  2. 200g Stork (the tub, not the block), or margarine. Don’t be tempted to use butter. Just don’t. If you want a perfect sponge, go Stork.
  3. 240g self-raising flour
  4. 4 large eggs
  5. 1tsp good quality vanilla extract (I use a variety with vanilla seeds in, it’s lovely)
  6. (And, if you’re making the Victoria Sponges here and not just cupcakes, a jar of your favourite jam)
Cook!
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F.
  2. Begin by creaming the Stork margarine using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or the electric mixer. Do this until the margarine is very soft and pale in colour, it should take a minute or two.
  3. Once the Stork is nice and soft, simply tip the rest of your ingredients into the mixer’s bowl or a mixing bowl and mix until everything is incorporated, starting on a low speed to minimise the mess. That’s really all there is too it, there’s no need to separate your wet and dry ingredients, or fold anything, it’s just that simple.
  4. As a note, don’t be tempted to over mix the ingredients, you really just want them blended, with no visible lumps. Too much mixing will result in a tougher batter, and you’ll end up with dense cakes that aren't light and fluffy. We don’t want that!
  5. After everything’s blended, just spoon the batter into the muffin cups – this recipe makes about 12 good-sized cupcakes, and set the tray into the oven, on the middle shelf. You don’t want to get the tin too close to the top or the tops of the cupcakes will brown over-much.
  6. Now, here’s the only really fiddly part. Since you’re baking on a low heat, you’ll need to keep an eye on the cupcakes. The recipe guideline states about 15 minutes cooking time, but I find that this is a good starting point for when you should first check their progress. I find around 20-22 minutes to be more accurate. You can tell they’re done when, if you insert a toothpick into the centre of one, it comes out clean. If not, just add a few more minutes at a time, and monitor them until they’re set.
  7. Once they’re ready, remove the tin from the oven, and allow them to sit for about 30 minutes before you remove them to your sheet of aluminium foil or greaseproof paper to continue cooling. This can take an hour or more, so be patient.
  8. While it’s cooling, you can prepare the buttercream frosting. As a note, I find that frosting is a very subjective area. Some people like a little, some people like a lot. The recipe below makes enough for, on average, about twice the amount of cupcakes you’ll be making, so you can easily halve the recipe. I've tried it, and found that I was panicking about running out of frosting on the last few cupcakes. Too much is always better than not enough!
Buttercream Frosting
  1. As with the cupcakes above, this is a great “basic” frosting that’s very easy to add other flavours to. The version here is vanilla.
You’ll need
  1. 500g (one box) icing sugar
  2. 250g (one block) unsalted butter
  3. 1tsp vanilla extra
Mix!
  1. The most important thing in getting an excellent buttercream is having the butter be very, very soft. Ideally you can leave it out overnight, or take it out first thing in the morning for making later. If you forget, you can soften it in the microwave, on the lowest setting, running it for about 10 seconds at a time.
  2. It needs to be soft, but NOT melted. Any melting and your buttercream won’t turn out right, so be very careful if you’re using this method.
  3. To begin, beat the butter until soft and pale, for about a minute or so. Then, add your icing sugar; batches of a third at a time seem about right. This will be messy, so be prepared to accept that. Cleaning up is all part of the fun, right? Right! After all of the sugar is blended, add the vanilla and beat until fluffy. This will probably take longer than you think, but about five minutes is a good guide.
  4. You’ll know that it’s set when you can spoon a bit up and it’s firm, yet fluffy. Be aware that the sugar and fats in the butter will firm up once it settles and make a really pleasing firm outer layer with a soft, fluffy icing beneath.
Assemble!
  1. Now that your cupcakes have cooled, and the frosting is ready to go, it’s time to assemble. If you’re making them as in the picture, just cut them in half, about halfway up or a little higher (they’re easier to stack if you cut about a 1/3 of the way from the top).
  2. Spread the bottom half with a layer of your jam of choice. I used strawberry in my version. Now, spread a good layer of buttercream frosting on the underside of the top half, and then simply sandwich the two halves together.
  3. Once you’ve assembled them all, set them back on your cooling sheet, and dust the tops with a good dusting of icing sugar. Voila!
The Lemon version
  1. For the sponge, add a few teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest to the batter, along with about a teaspoon of lemon extract (in addition to the vanilla). I prefer a nice, natural, Sicilian Lemon Extract for an authentic lemony goodness.
  2. To the frosting, add another teaspoon of the vanilla extract (in addition to the vanilla), and a few drops of yellow food colouring at the end. You’ll want to use this sparingly, as a pale yellow is generally more pleasing than a bright, glaring version.
  3. That’s all there is to it, and the lemon cupcakes turn out light, fluffy, and as Summery-fresh as you could hope for. Enjoy!
fifigoesnom https://www.fifigoesnom.com/
Chocolate Dipped King Strawberries

Chocolate Dipped King Strawberries

A few times a year, Marks and Spencer takes stock of these fantastic King Strawberries. They’re naturally sweet and juicy, which is surprising given their size — you can’t tell from the picture, but they’re each about the size of a large egg!

They’re so good that you can (and should!) happily eat them on their own, but fifi and I have always really enjoyed them dipped in a bit of melted chocolate.  As a bonus, you can easily dip plenty of other things in any leftover chocolate you might have. Some personal favourites included marshmallows, chunks of brioche, candied orange or lemon peel, and banana slices.

If you want to try this yourself, it couldn’t be easier!

Chocolate-Dipped King Strawberries
Any strawberries will work, but these King berries really take it to another level!
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. Fruit (or marshmallows) for dipping (almost anything works so long as it’s dry on the surface)
  2. A few large bars of your favourite chocolate (dark chocolate really is best, 70% or higher)
  3. White chocolate for drizzling (if you can find some with vanilla bean, it’s even nicer)
  4. 1-2 tsp vegetable oil (a flavourless oil is vital here)
Prep
  1. Chop fruit / brioche / etc into bite-sized pieces. Don't do this if you're using the King berries.
  2. If you’re using berries with stems/leaves, make sure you trim the greenery back from the fruit a bit so that the leaves don’t stick in the chocolate. For long-stemmed berries, trim the leaves and retain just the stems.
  3. Ensure that the bain-marie upper pan (or the bowl on top of your pan of water) is dry inside. This is absolutely essential, as water has a nasty habit of seizing up chocolate.
Cook!
  1. With your fruit prepped, fill the lower pan of your bain-marie (or a saucepan) with water and get it hot enough that it’s steaming but not boiling. If you’re using a bowl on top of a pan of water, make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, as it can get too hot this way, and result in chocolate that’s clumpy or too thick.
  2. Break up the chocolate and add it to the upper bowl along with a drizzle of the vegetable oil. This is to keep the chocolate silky smooth and make it easier to dip your fruit into. If the chocolate gets too thick, then add the oil a little bit at a time, mixing as you go.
  3. It’s important that you don’t add water to your chocolate ever. This will make the chocolate ‘seize up’ and solidify, and it’s rather disheartening. We all make that mistake at least once…
  4. Once about ¾ of the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat and keep stirring the chocolate until you have a smooth, shiny mixture. Turning the heat off at this point will help prevent it from burning or overcooking.
  5. Transfer the melted chocolate to a smaller, deep bowl that you’ll be able to dip into. Now you can get started with the fun part! Hold the base of your fruit or treat and just dip into the chocolate, shaking gently or spinning to rid any excess chocolate. Set each piece aside on the sheet of wax paper, and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to set.
  6. Once all of the fruit is dipped, you can melt the white chocolate (using the same method as above), and instead of putting it in a bowl, pour it into a squeezy bottle (or pastry / plastic bag). Snip off one corner if you’re using a plastic bag, and just gently drizzle the white chocolate back and forth across the fruit.
  7. Give the fruit another 10 minutes or so for the white chocolate to firm up, and transfer the fruit gently to a tray or plate and chill for at least two hours. You can take the fruit out of the fridge after it’s chilled, a bit ahead of time, if you don’t want to eat it cold. Easy as that!
fifigoesnom https://www.fifigoesnom.com/