Salted Caramel and Sour Cherry Zillionaire’s Shortbread

BIG, big apologies for my absence from the blogiverse. We are having some building work done here at Cutest Cakes HQ so a combination of project managing, tea making, working, dog walking and everything that goes with organising two children has forced blogging so far down the list of priorities it has largely disappeared out of sight.

However that does not mean the recipes have dried up! This is a fantastic, post Lenten, splurge and for someone who isn’t into sickly sweet stuff, just the ticket.

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Making Million or Zillionaire’s shortbread is quite a lengthy and messy business. I make no apology for this, there is no getting away from making an effort sometimes, but if you can get hold of ready-made salted caramel, or ideally make it on a separate occasion and store it in the fridge to keep it more solid, this will reduce the faff factor.

You will need:

A jar of Salted Caramel such as Hawkshead Relish Salted Caramel Sauce.

This is a 320g jar which should be more than enough, stored in the fridge before using to keep it as solid as possible.

Alternatively I give a recipe for making Salted Caramel, this time use:

250g Caster Sugar, 4 tbsp water, 160ml Double Cream, 50g Salted Butter, ½ tsp Coarse Sea Salt.

If you haven’t made caramel before it is a bit of a scary process but you’ll be fine.

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat gently over a moderate to low heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir at all at any stage. Swirl the mixture around from time to time off the heat, but once dissolved allow the sugar syrup to come up to the boil and boil for around 5-8 minutes. During this time the syrup will become a dark ‘caramel’ colour and thicken. Swirl occasionally but that’s all. Once the desired colour has been reached, remove from the heat and very gently and slowly pour in the cream. At this point it will look like it has all gone wrong, don’t panic, add the butter and sea salt too, find a whisk appropriate for your saucepan, and whisk gently until a smooth sauce-like consistency is reached and all the butter has melted. A crusty shelf of sugar will have formed about 2cms above the bottom of the pan, just work round that, don’t try to dislodge it as you pour the sauce into a jug. Leave to cool. The odd stir as it cools might help to stop a crust forming.

After about 2-3 hours you will have a supercooled liquid (for the scientists amongst you), fridge until required, ideally overnight at least. You can transfer this sauce to a thoroughly clean, preferably sterile jam jar with a lid where it will keep for weeks!

So once you have resolved the caramel issue, you can move onto construction of this delicious confection.

You will need for the Shortbread: a 6″ square, ideally loose-bottomed, cake tin, greased on the bottom and very slightly up the sides, 125g Plain Flour, 40g Caster Sugar, 80g Butter, softened

and finally for the topping you will need: 50g Milk Chocolate, 80g Plain Chocolate and 50g Dried Sour Cherries.

So to make the shortbread, pre-heat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C, then mix the flour and caster sugar in a large bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Knead the mixture until it forms a dough and then press into the base of the cake tin to give an even layer. Prick with a fork and then bake for 15-20 minutes until firm to the touch and very lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely, then spread with the chilled caramel sauce (as much or as little as you want) and return to the fridge whilst you melt the chocolate, separately in Pyrex bowls, either over a couple of pans of simmering water or in the microwave until you have two bowls of smooth molten chocolate. Remove the caramel biscuit base from the fridge and dollop spoonfuls of first the milk and then the plain chocolate over the caramel, you can smooth it all over or not as the case may be and then dot with the Sour Cherries. Return to the fridge to allow the chocolate to set, once cooled, which won’t take long.

Now, this particular recipe does not result in neat solid squares of chocolate caramel shortbreadIMG_0790, as you can see. This is a decadent, stuff it in, finger licking, lip smacking, Nigella style delight, and having eating way too much of this over Easter has resulted in a bit of diet action at this end.

So find a REALLY sharp large knife. Remove the tin from fridge, loosen the contents round the sides of the tin with a palette knife and then push the loose bottom of the tin upwards to release the shortbread the transfer, minus the bottom of the tin, to a large plate, the caramel will start to ooze as you can see. Ignoring this, cut into squares and the dish up as required. Return any uneaten squares to the fridge where it will keep for days, if you can stand to leave it alone.

Yummy.

Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes in British Measure

No messing with this post. These are awesome.

If you are fully ‘alerted’ up to what is ‘hot’ in baking it would appear that Chocolate Salted Caramel Cupcakes are sizzling. One or two hip London Bakeries offer these glorious delights but if you ‘live in the sticks’ like I do then they are hard to come by. Just to add to the frustration I couldn’t find a recipe in metric prompting a translation process from cups and sticks and ‘what is heavy cream’  and about a months worth of testing to finally provide a sample.

The following recipe makes quite a few, but the chocolate sponge cake freezes beautifully, so if you don’t need them all go freezer rather than go fewer. The reason I say this is that I have devised a recipe which more or less uses up the pots of yoghurt and cream which I find very satisfactory when baking. However if you are unaffected by these things you can halve all the ingredients.

There are three stages to this: making the salted caramel ideally a good 3 hours before the cakes, making the chocolate cakes and making the buttercream.

Stage 1 – Salted Caramel 

125g Caster Sugar, 2 tbsp water, 80ml Double Cream, 25g Salted Butter, ¼ tsp Coarse Sea Salt.

If you haven’t made caramel before it is a bit of a scary process but you’ll be fine.

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat gently over a moderate to low heat to dissolve the sugar. Do not stir at all at any stage. Swirl the mixture around from time to time off the heat, but once dissolved allow the sugar syrup to come up to the boil and boil for around 5 minutes. During this time the syrup will become a dark ‘caramel’ colour and thicken. Swirl occasionally but that’s all. Once the desired colour has been reached, remove from the heat and very gently and slowly pour in the cream. At this point it will look like it has all gone wrong, don’t panic, add the butter and sea salt too, find a whisk appropriate for your saucepan, and whisk gently until a smooth sauce-like consistency is reached and all the butter has melted. A crusty shelf of sugar will have formed about 2cms above the bottom of the pan, just work round that, don’t try to dislodge it as you pour the sauce into a jug. Leave to cool. The odd stir as it cools might help to stop a crust forming.

After about 2-3 hours the caramel will have arrived at the consistency of Golden Syrup which is the end point. (Even if you fridge it it still doesn’t set completely and can be stored in the fridge for a few days which is worth bearing in mind. Allow it to warm up to room temperature before using.)

Stage 2 – Chocolate Cupcakes

If you bought a ¼ pint of Double Cream for the Caramel some of the rest is used here.

2 large Eggs, 150ml pot Plain Yoghurt, 15ml Double Cream, 85ml flavourless Oil, ½ tsp Vanilla Extract, 175g Plain Flour, 250g Caster Sugar, 65g Cocoa Powder, 1 tsp Baking Powder, 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda, ½ tsp Sea Salt, 85ml decaffeinated Coffee, warm.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/Fan 155°C. Line a 12 and a 6 hole muffin tin with muffin cases. Put the eggs, yoghurt, cream, oil and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat to combine, use a hand-held or free-standing mixer. In another bowl combine the flour, caster sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sea salt and stir round to mix, then with the mixer on a low-speed start to add spoonfuls of the dry ingredients to the wet. Once all combined turn up the mixer to medium and beat for a minute to form a smooth batter. By hand fold in the warm coffee. Dollop the mixture into the paper cases and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. (I tend to use 3 tbsps per muffin case which will give you around 16 cakes. You can put a little more mixture into each case which will obviously make fewer overall.) Once cooked the sponge should spring back slightly when pressed, leave in the tins for a few minutes and then cool on a wire rack.

Stage Three – The Buttercream

100g Salted Butter, softened,  300g Icing Sugar, 2 tbsp Milk, ½ the Caramel Sauce

So making Buttercream is described on the ‘Baking: Cake Recipes and What-not’ page, but essentially, place the butter in a bowl and beat for a minute or so, add the icing sugar and slowly beat with the butter to combine, add 2 tbsps of milk and continue beating slowly until incorporated then turn up the speed and beat quickly for 2 minutes. Turn off the mixer add the caramel sauce and continue to beat quickly for another 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Assembly

As you can see from one of the photos above, you are not quite there yet. Remove a plug of cake from the centre of each one with a small sharp knife and drop a small amount of caramel into the hole, then coat with the buttercream however you wish. If you spread it on these quantities will be sufficient, if you want to swirl it on with a nozzle you will need to make more. Piping with buttercream is quite a decadent business and requires anything up to double the quantity needed for spreading!

If you are not completely exhausted by all this and can make a greaseproof paper piping bag, add a couple of teaspoons of caramel to the bag and drizzle it across the top of the buttercream or pipe a puddle of caramel into a small well scooped out of it.

Alternatively chocolate sprinkles or mini fudge chunks, that sort of thing, can be used to decorate.

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