When I’m saying ‘I am baking some cookies’, it is really just an alibi to get myself a candy bar-like treat like this one. This recipe will get you the finest candy bar money can buy, so don’t just buy the pre-packed stuff: If you are going to sin, make it worth it.
Start of by baking a shortbread base (this is the ‘cookies’-part), and while it cools, make some caramel and throw it on top with some delicious crunchy nuts. Cashews, peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts…basically, any kind you prefer. They all work terrifically with caramel. If you’re a salted caramel fan, you could use ready-salted nuts, or just throw on some sea salt yourself. Your friends will ‘hate’ you for serving these…if these little sweet devils even make it out of your kitchen.
– 150 g butter (slightly softened)
– 100 g sugar
– 250 g all-purpose flour
– pinch of salt
For the caramel:
– 340 g sugar
– 240 ml cream
– 80 g butter
– and about 200 g of nuts
I wouldn’t dare telling you how many portions these amounts will yield, because it largely depends on a) how much of the ingredients mysteriously disappear from your work space and b) what size you cut the portions.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Line a baking pan or any kind of (deep) oven tray with foil (I used a lasagna pan of about 30×20 cm), and grease it with some melted butter.
To make the shortbread base, first mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Then, add the flour and salt.
Get the dough in the pan. To make things easier (because it will be sticky), you could use a piece of microwave wrap to press down the dough equally.
Bake the shortbread base until golden brown. The timing differs greatly depending on how thick you made it and of course also on your oven. I think mine took about 20 minutes.
While the shortbread cools, heat the sugar in a nonstick saucepan. Let it stand until the bottom layer of sugar begins to melt, and ONLY THEN start stirring, continuing to stir until the sugar has turned light brown in color and smooth in texture. Pour in the cream and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth again, about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat and stir in the butter. Please RESIST the urge to stick in a finger to have a sneak taste, because you will lose its skin due to the incredible heat of the caramel.
Throw the nuts on the shortbread, pour the caramel over, and let it all cool for at least two hours, or until it has set. Cutting the bars may be tricky, but can be made easier by keeping the pan in the refridgerator.
When I visited the U.K. last year, my colleagues at the University of Bristol had just planned a bake sale. Everyone would bake something at home, and everyone was buying stuff off each other (for themselves, or kids, neighbors, grandparents etc) with all the proceedings going to a good cause that the organizing team picked (the organization alternated). I loved it so much, I am still determined to introduce bake sales in the work place back here in the Netherlands. One of the guys had made millionaires’ shortbread, which is basically the same as chocolate caramel shortbread, but that doesn’t sound nearly as magnificent. He used a recipe from Waitrose, which is an upmarket chain of British supermarkets.
If you’re not baking for any sale, make sure you could stand to gain a few pounds, because millionaires’ shortbread will make you want to eat the whole batch and gain a million.
Baking brownies is always a recipe for succes. After making your family, friends and/or collegues happy, you’re guaranteed to return home with an empty box and a lot of new best friends.
Most people I know would bake their brownies using in instant mix. I’m always finding myself on the same side of this argument: It really really really is not easier (let alone cheaper) to use those packages. In the end, you’re still adding and mixing together the same amount of ingredients. Especially with brownies, the difference in taste, appearance and consistency is enormous. Those mixes will get you your ordinary chocolate (pound) cake. Sure, that’s not bad at all, but brownies are in a whole another league!
That’s why in my first post on this baking-fanatic blog I’m revealing my brownie recipe. It is the one thing I have baked most over the last few years, and it is the one thing I will be baking most for the rest of my life, since I’m marrying my brownie’s #1 fan.
For the brownie
180 g chocolate, extra dark
150 g butter
150 g flower
200 g sugar (a combination of, for instance, granulated sugar and brown sugar)
pinch of salt
For the topping (optional)
½ a can of sweetened condensed milk (+- 200 g)
10 dates, peeled and chopped
50 g brown sugar
pinch of salt
This brownie does not contain baking powder, which makes it beautifully rich and dark. It’s a fairly easy recipe (you don’t need a mixer; just a fork will do), but if you feel like going the extra mile, you can add a caramel topping.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.
Melt the chocolate and butter au bain marie, and in a second bowl, mix together the flower, sugars and salt.
Let the chocolate-butter mixture cool for a couple of minutes, add it to the flower-sugar mixture and add the eggs, one at a time.
Poor the batter in a squared oven pan (lined with baking paper, just to be sure). Optional: press coarsly chopped macademia nuts in, and bake it for 20-25 minutes.
Cook the condensed milk with the dates and brown sugar (and a pinch of salt) in a small sauce pan. Keep stirring vigorously, preferrably with a silicon spade, to make sure you don’t get burnt bits, sticking to your pan. After a few minutes, the mixture turns a nice caramel-brown, and is ready to be poored onto the brownie. After cooling, it will become nice and firm.