Foolproof caramel

Ever started making caramel to find that it always ends up crystallising? I know that feeling far too well and completely understand how frustrating it can be.

So when I decided to make a Caramel Apple Cake to celebrate Bonfire Night, I sat down, did some research and decided to give it one last go. The result? Beautifully smooth, golden caramel – no lumps here!

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Time to share the secret, but before we begin, here are my top-tips:

1. Use a medium-large saucepan so the sugar becomes thinly spread along the bottom. This is help the sugar to melt evenly and stop it from burning.

2. Make sure your saucepan and utensils are completely dry and free from any debris.

3. Add a few spoons of water to the sugar before putting it on the heat. The water will help prevent crystallisation.

4. Resist the urge to stir the sugar as it melts. Simply swirl the saucepan to stop it from burning.

5. The cream and butter must be at room temperature before you add that them to the melted sugar, I would recommend getting them out the fridge at least 30 minutes before you start.

Ingredients (makes enough caramel to cover an 8inch cake, or 12 cupcakes).

200g granulated sugar
4 tbsps. water
80g butter, at room temperate
120g heavy cream, at room temperature

Method

Take the cream and butter out of the fridge and leave to get to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Add the sugar and water to a medium-large sized saucepan and stir until combined. Set the saucepan over a medium heat.

Leave the sugar to melt, do not stir the sugar. Simply swirl the saucepan until the sugar has melted and turns a light amber colour, similar to the picture below. Be patient, this can take a while!

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Carefully add the butter and immediately whisk until all the butter has melted.

Now remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream, whisking constantly until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have smooth caramel.

Pour into a bowl and leave to cool and thicken for about 5 minutes.

 

Caramel Apple Cake

Before I start to explain how insanely tasty this cake is, I have a confession… this is not my own recipe.

In fact, it’s my future Mother-in-laws, and after tasting this cake a few weeks ago I knew I just had to share it with you (Ruth I hope I’ve done it justice!).

Unlike the usual ‘cream your butter and sugar together’ method, this recipe requires you to rub the butter into the flour, coating the flour proteins in a layer of fat. The ‘rubbing-in’ method makes it harder for water to get through, resulting in less gluten and a finer, more tender crumb. Trust me once you take your first bite you will know what I’m talking about.

I decided to drizzle the cake with homemade caramel, because well you know it’s November…bonfire night, toffee apples and all that, and also I wanted to practise my caramel making skills, or lack of! For some reason it always seems to crystallize for me, but not this time I think i’ve finally cracked it 🙂 Read on to see my top tips for beautifully smooth golden caramel.

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Ingredients (makes an 8inch round cake)

300g self-raising flour
2 tsps. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

150g unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
150g light brown sugar
2 medium eggs, at room temp
8 tbsps. milk
100g sultanas
250-300g Granny Smith Apples, peeled cored and chopped into small chunks

For the caramel drizzle

100g granulated sugar
2 tbsps. water
40g butter, at room temperate and cut into pieces
60g heavy cream, at room temperature

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C and line an 20cm round cake tin with grease proof paper. I use cake liners for ease, which can be purchased from most large supermarkets.

Mix the flour, baking powder and the cinnamon together in a large bowl.

Add the chilled butter and rub it into the flour until it begins to look like fine breadcrumbs.

Now stir in the light brown sugar.

Add the egg and milk, and mix together until you reach a smooth, thick cake batter.

Fold in the apple and sultanas until coated in mixture.

Pour the mixture into your tin and bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the cake has browned on top and is springy to the touch. A skewer inserted into a centre should come out clean.

Leave on the side to cool whilst you make your caramel drizzle.

For the caramel drizzle*

Add the sugar and water to a medium-large sized saucepan set over medium heat. Stir until combined.

Leave the sugar to melt, do not stir the sugar. Simply swirl the saucepan until the sugar has melted and turns a light amber colour, similar to the picture below. Be patient, this can take a while!

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Carefully add the butter and whisk until all the butter has melted.

Now remove the saucepan from the heat and slowly pour in the cream, whisking constantly until all of the cream has been incorporated and you have smooth caramel.

Pour into a bowl and leave to cool and thicken for about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, drizzle the caramel over the cake.

*here are my top-tips for smooth, golden caramel – no lumps here! 

1. Use a medium-large saucepan so the sugar becomes thinly spread along the bottom. This is help the sugar to melt evenly and stop it from burning.

2. Make sure your saucepan and ultensils are completely dry and free from any debris.

3. Add a few spoons of water to the sugar before putting it on the heat. The water will help prevent crystallisation.

4. Resist the urge to stir the sugar as it melts. Simply swirl the saucepan to stop it from burning.

5. The cream and butter must be at room temperature before you add that them to the melted sugar, I would recommend getting them out the fridge at least 30 minutes before you start.

 

Marbled Millionaire’s Shortbread

Crumbly shortbread, sticky caramel and smooth chocolate… three layers of pure indulgence. Buying caramel from the shop will make this recipe super easy, however I decided to make my own and see what all the fuss was about. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t particularly difficult but it was pretty time-consuming and stirring for 20 minutes continuously can be a bit tiring, but I would definitely recommend giving it a go as it tasted absolutely amazing! For the chocolate topping I used a combination of milk and white and created a delightful swirly pattern (very easy to do), however you could try different types of chocolate; fruity, dark or even salted.

This classic bake is a real crowd-pleaser; it’s rich, hence the name Millionaire’s, super sweet and the different textures are a superb combination. Whoever you decide to make these for you will be loved!

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Ingredients (makes 12 large/16 small bars)

For the shortbread base:
250g plain flour
75g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into chunks

For the caramel layer:
100g unsalted butter
100g light muscavado sugar
2 x 397g cans condensed milk

For the chocolate layer:
200g milk chocolate, broken into chunks
100g white chocolate, broken into chunks

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 23x23cm baking tin.

Start by making the shortbread base by mixing together the sugar and flour in a bowl. Now add the butter and using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles breadcrumbs. Knead the butter until it forms a rough dough and transfer it to your baking tin, pressing it down into the tin to form an even layer.

Prick the shortbread all over with a fork and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Leave to cool completely in the tin (approx. 1 hour).

Once the shortbread is cooled, begin making your caramel by measuring the butter, muscavado sugar and condensed milk in a medium sized saucepan. On a low heat melt the ingredients gently until smooth and the sugar has dissolved (make sure there are not only lumps of sugar, if there is then removing them with a fork).

Now turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture, stirring continuously, for approx. 15 minutes until it has thickened slightly. Turn off the heat and leave the caramel to sit for 5 minutes to thicken up. Now pour the caramel on top of the shortbread and leave to completely cool (approx. 30 minutes).

Once the caramel is firm and cooled, melt the milk chocolate either in the microwave in 10 second blasts or, in a bowl set over simmering water. Spread half of the melted chocolate on top of the caramel and leave the remaining half in the bowl.

Now melt the white chocolate and dollop this on top of the milk chocolate, do the same with the remaining milk chocolate. Using a skewer, gently swirl the chocolates into each other (taking care not to touch the caramel underneath) to create a marbled pattern.

Finally, cover the baking tin with foil and put in the fridge to set for at least 2 hours before cutting into 12/16 bars. Store in the fridge and remove for 10 minutes to soften before eating.