Caramel Shortbread

I always see loads of recipes for these called many different things e.g. Twix bars, caramel fingers etc. I’ve just always known these as caramel squares and they are one of the many things that my mum would always be asked to make for us and unlike some of the other recipes I’ve seen, I do insist on making my own caramel, which although adds a fair bit of time to the baking process I think that you cannot beat homemade caramel. 

I normally need a full evening or preferably afternoon to make these so just be warned as these a fair bit of cooling involved and I always make them the day before I want them so it can completely cooled and be cut up into equal squares.


Ingredients

For the base

125g Butter

50g Caster Sugar

175g Plain Flour

For the Caramel Filling

175g Butter

115g Golden Caster sugar

3 Tbsp. Golden Syrup

1 Tin Condensed Milk (400g)

For the Topping

100g Dark Chocolate

100g Milk Chocolate


Method

1. Prepared a large dish, I use a deep casserole dish but any dish roughly 20cm square will do, just grease with some butter, making sure that you do the sides as well. Pre-heat the oven to 180°c 

2. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the sifted plain flour and mix until it begins to bind together. Knead the mixture until it becomes smooth then press it into the pre-prepared dish. With a fork, prick the mixture in numerous places and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until it started to go golden brown.

3. Leave to cool ready for the topping.

4. When the base has been in the oven for roughly 10 minutes start to make the caramel. 

5. In a saucepan over a low/medium heat add the butter, sugar, condensed milk and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

6. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5-8 minutes until it begins to thicken and darkens in colour. Keep stirring!

7. Pour over the cooled biscuit base and leave to cool.

8. Once the caramel has cooled, in a suitable bowl over some simmering water, melted the chocolate chunks until completely melted then pour over the caramel then place in the fridge to cool.

9. After a couple of hours once the chocolate has started to set but not completely, score through the chocolate where you want the pieces to be. This will mean that once the chocolate completely cooled, you will get nice neat squares.


Nutritional information

Serves 16

Calories:  343 

Protein:  3.8g

Carbohydrates: 39.6g 

Of which is sugars:  26.8g

Fibre: 0.4g 

Fat: 19.1g

Of which is saturated: 12.1g

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​Gluten free and gluten full cheese and pancetta muffins

I have to start with some apologises, it has been far too long since I last updated you all, but everything has just got a bit on top of me since starting a new job and getting into some new routines. But, never fear, I think I’m getting there!
As mentioned in my previous post I mentioned that I had made numerous things to take into work to suit all tastes and dietary requirements. I have made these muffins a couple of times and attempted to make them gluten free but they didn’t really work, so unlike the peanut butter cookies, I didn’t have the  confidence to only make them gluten free just in case the same thing happened again. Luckily, they didn’t, previously they were far too dry, crumbly and just had a really unpleasant aftertaste which the gluten full ones definitely didn’t have. So you can guarantee that when I was taste testing these I was hyper critical. This time, I was rather impressed that I couldn’t really tell the difference between them and I was happy to take them into work. They went down really well! I am determined to help change the way some people view gluten free baking which means I’m really picky about which recipes I take into work, so I’m happy to have a savoury option to take in. 

Ingredients

1 Pack Lean Pancetta

1 Cup Grated Mature Cheddar

1 Cup Whole Milk

1 Cup Gluten Flour

1 Cup Gluten Free Flour

2 Tbsp. Salted Butter

1 Tbsp Gluten Free Baking Powder

1 Tsp. Salt

½ Tsp. Xantham Gum

2 Eggs


Method

1. In a frying pan, cook the pancetta lardons until cooked through then leave to one side to cool.

2. Preheat the oven to  175°c and grease 12 muffin tins/cases.

3. Over a medium heat, melt all the butter then allow to cool to room temperature.

4. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and milk together, then add the butter, cheese and  bacon lardons and divide the mixture into 2 separate bowls. Ready for the gluten and gluten free versions.

5. In a separate bowl combine the flour and half of the baking powder, salt and sugar. Add this to one set of the bacon mixture.

6. In a fresh bowl, mix the gluten free flour, xantham gum and remaining baking powder, sugar and salt then add to the second bacon mixture. With this mixture if it begins to look a lot thicker/drier than the gluten version just add a bit more milk to ensure the mixture doesn’t get too dry once baked.

7. Spoon the mixture into your prepared tins (I use a different type so it’s easy to remember which are which), only fill them about 2/3 full to give them room to rise.

8. Bake for roughly 20 minutes or until they begin brown.

9. Leave to  cool on a wire rack then enjoy!

Nutritional information

Serves 12

Calories: 209

Protein: 9.3g

Carbohydrates: 18.7g

Of which is sugars: 1.4g

Fibre: 0.8g

Fat: 10.6g

Of which is saturated: 6.0g

Lemon Bars

Every so often I just fancy baking without being too fussed to eat the end result (I know, weird, but it does happen on the odd occasion) and this week I had one of these times. I was raking my brain trying to think about what to make that would still go down well at my house without then leading to being tempting treats in the house for me later in week when I’m being good. This is particularly important as most recently my willpower hasn’t been at its best so I’m better not having it in the house otherwise I’ll hit a midweek slump and a whole batch of baking will be gone in one. Not good.

So, light bulb moment of something lemony similar to the mini lemon loaves I made, which I promise I will post the recipe for I just want to tweak it a couple of times before I do, but I thought of lemon slices. Now I’ve never made my own lemon curd, and to be honest, I’m not a lemon fan. I can just about take it in some hot water every so often or a dash on pancakes with sugar on pancake but generally whenever my mum would make homemade lemon tarts (with homemade lemon curd) she would have to make me jam tarts instead as I wouldn’t eat them. However, my partner is partial to such desserts and does enjoy a good lemon meringue so I figured these Betty Crockers bars would be perfect.

Ingredients

1 Cup Plain Flour
½ Cup of Softened Butter (salted or unsalted it doesn’t really matter)
1 Cup Caster Sugar
¼ Cup Icing/Powdered Sugar
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Lemon Peel Grated
½  Teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ Teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs

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Method

1.       Preheat the oven to 150-180⁰c (my oven always runs hot so I have to go for a slightly lower temperature)

2.       In a large bowl, rub together the flour, icing sugar and butter. It may take a few minutes but it will eventually turn into a breadcrumb consistency then it should all of a sudden start coming together. Be careful how long you keep mixing it for as the butter warms it will before more difficult to keep its shape.

3.       Press the dough into a 8×8 tin, ensuring you do around 1-2cm sides to contain the lemon mixture, if it’s non-stick you can get away with not greasing the tin – trust me on this.

4.       Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until it’s starting to go slightly brown. As you will be re-baking you don’t want to overcook the bottom.

5.       Whilst that’s cooking, whisk together the remaining ingredients until it’s light and fluffy. This can take a few minutes, so just keep going with it. I used an electric whisk to help speed it up but it still took a fair few minutes.

6.       Once the base is done, take it out the oven and pour the lemon topping straight onto the base and put back in the oven for a further 20-30 minutes.

7.       Keep a check on this, I had to cover the top with tin foil at the 10-15 minute mark as the top started to brown a lot quicker than expected, but it’s done once the filling doesn’t wobble when moving it or leave an indentation when you press on it.

8.       Leave to cool, then remove from tin and cut into slices.

9.       Dust with icing sugar to finish.

wp-1462640111557.jpegNutritional Information – Serves 12

Calories: 202
Protein: 2.5g
Carbohydrates: 29g
Of which is sugars: 19.4g
Fibre: 0.5g
Fat: 8.7g
Of which is saturated: 5.1g

Bakewell Tart

I’ve been busy training for my upcoming 10k (less than 10 weeks to go now, eeek!) I’ve only just built up to running 5 miles and I’m actually enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. Although, despite knowing I live in a hilly area and even through my ‘mapmyrun’ app saying I would climb over 200 feet, I didn’t appreciate quite how hilly it was until my fitbit said that within the 5 miles I had gone up the equivalent of 60 flights of stairs. Needless to say, I was shattered afterwards.
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So, this in mind, I decided I would treat myself to a few bits over the weekend and I spent most of Saturday, after a cracking spin class, in the kitchen baking and cooking to my heart’s content. I will include bits of everything I’ve made over the weekend but one particular favourite was a Bakewell tart. I was trying to think of something that I could make for pudding on Saturday but would also be suitable for the boy to have as a bit of pudding during the week, so I cut the rest up into Bakewell slices for him J

I did end up making two through the recipe below but that was only because I didn’t have a tray big enough so I made two slightly smaller but no less delicious ones instead.

Ingredients

For the pastry

175g Plain Flour
75g butter
2-3 Tbsp Water

For the sponge mixture

100g Butter
100g Caster Sugar
175g Self-Raising Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
2 Large Eggs
2 Tbsp Milk
½ Tsp Almond Extract
For Filling
6 Tbsp Cherry Jam

For Top
Handful Flaked Almonds
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Method

  1. To make the pastry, in a large bowl rub together the flour and butter until you have fine breadcrumbs, then slowly add the water until you have a smooth dough.
  2. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured worktop until it’s large enough to line the tin.
  3. Spread the jam evenly over the pastry
  4. Preheat the oven to 180⁰c (fan oven), then to make the sponge layer add all the ingredients together and beat until you have a smooth mixture and spread this over the jam layer.
  5. Sprinkle the top with the flaked almond and put in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the top has started to go a light brown colour.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin then you can cut into slices before removing or if you’ve done it in smaller tins like I have you may be able to remove it in one piece from the tin without the need to cut it up first

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Nutritional Information

Serves 16
Calories: 213
Protein: 3.7g
Carbohydrates: 34.1g
Of which is sugars: 18.7g
Fibre: 1.1g
Fat: 6.9g
Of which is saturated: 3.1g

Gluten Free and Gluten Full Mince Pies

With Christmas now being less than 2 weeks away, I decided it was about time I actually made some mince pies! I know they aren’t the best thing for you, but I always feel more comfortable eating one or two (granted high calorie) homemade ones as I know not only the ingredients that have gone in but also the quality of them. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with the occassional indulgent treat. So with numerous work fuddles and events happening I thought it was the perfect excuse to make some goodies. There are some people at work with various food intolerances so it gives me another reason to keep testing gluten free baking (particularly as my partner isn’t too keen on GF so always requests where possible gluten full).

I admit that I am still slightly tweaking the recipe for Gluten Free but these did turn out really well, it just took a little more patience that the other ones, but nevertheless stick with it and they will turn out ok (well at least in my humble opinion). I will update once I’ll played around with the recipe a bit more but I was rather happy at my first attempt at gluten free mince pies so I couldn’t just leave it.

The recipe is essentially the same just swap plain flour for Gluten Free plain of the same ratio. There’s just a slight tweak to the method towards the end for the Gluten Free ones, so rather than repeat myself, I’ll just shout up where to change what you do slightly differently.

All you need for this is a mixing bowl and a metal muffin tin.

Ingredients
350g Plain Flour (GF if needs be)
200g Icing Sugar + extra for dusting
225g Cold Unsalted Butter (it’s important that it’s cold but cut it into cubes to make it easier to work with)
410g Mincemeat (the size of a normal jar)

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Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°c, rub together the flour, sugar and butter . As the butter is cold this will take a while and it will seem like it’s really crumbly and not working but stick with it, it will all of a sudden come into a ball that you can work with.

2. Once it’s come together into a ball, knead briefly until smooth.

3. Separate off 2/3 of the dough, this will be your bottoms.  Split into 12 small balls and flatten into the bottom and sides of the muffin tin, aim to make the pastry level so it will cook equally.

4. Fill with the mincemeat; I like a generous portion so it uses the whole jar!

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5. Take the remaining dough and again split into 12, flatten these down so it cover the top of the mince pies and press into the sides so it’s all flush. Put a couple of holes in the lid to allow a bit of steam to come out.

6. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

7. Leave in the tray to cool then remove and put on a cooling rack. For the Gluten Free Mince Pies leave overnight so the butter can completely cool, they are incredibly brittle at this stage even once the tin itself it cool. You can remove them gently from the tin, I found the best was by pressing a skewer down each side until you feel it move ever so slightly then tip the tin upside down. But they are incredibly brittle and can just crumble in your hand. If you manage to get them out then leave them to cool overnight and they are a lot firmer, I would recommend leaving in the tin for a good few hours to thoroughly cool before removing.

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8. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar and enjoy

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Nutritional Information
Serves 12
410 Calories
3.2g Protein
59.5g Carbohydrates
0.8g Fibre
38.5g Sugar
17.1g Fat ( 9.9g are Saturated Fats)