Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Caramel macarons with chocolate sea salt

I've made no secret of my love of the flavour and have been on a serious caramel kick lately but when I heard about chocolate sea salt, my heart skipped a beat and I instantly knew that it would be to caramel what strawberries are to cream. Having had some time to master the macaron since I last openly confessed that they make me crazy - and a little bit religious (you can read more about that here), I think I have finally cracked these babies.  

This chocolate sea salt is also a keeper. I can imagine it sprinkled on really rich decadent brownies, or on top of an uber sweet caramel tart, or liberally scattered over a beautiful piece of ribeye steak (swoon!). Hmm, pretty jars filled with chocolate sea salt could make for awesome Christmas gifts, but then again, that would involve sharing it... 

Caramel macarons with chocolate sea salt
Makes 12

120g sifted ground almonds
200g icing sugar
100g egg whites (about 3 large eggs)
35g castor sugar

1/4tsp cream of tartar
Caramel colouring or sucre brûlée*

Chocolate sea salt
¼ cup good-quality sea salt
1 tbsp cocoa nibs, ground
1 tbsp grated 95% dark chocolate

Caramelised white chocolate, for sandwiching

Line 2-3 baking sheets with silicone baking sheets. Preheat the oven to 130C (fan-forced) or 150C (no-fan).
Sift together the ground almonds and icing sugar to remove any clumps. Blend any leftover mixture then sift again until nothing remains. Begin beating the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed. Once the egg whites are very foamy, begin sprinkling in the sugar as you beat. Increase the speed to medium, if necessary, and beat the meringue to stiff glossy peaks. Add about 1/4 of the almond/sugar mixture and fold until no streaks remain. Continue to add the almond mixture in quarters, folding until incorporated. Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle and pipe rows of batter onto the baking sheets, giving them space to spread. Tap the pan on the counter to bring up any air bubbles and quickly pop them with a toothpick. Allow the cookies to rest on a level surface for 30-60 minutes until they are no longer tacky to a light touch.  While they rest, place an oven rack in the lower 3rd of your oven and preheat to 150C.  Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes. (I always make a small tray with one or two on so I can do a test batch first). Allow to cool. 
To make the chocolate sea salt combine the salt, nibs and dark chocolate and mix well. 
Spread a little of the caramel white chocolate onto the tops of half the macarons and sprinkle with the salt before sandwiching together. Store the leftover salt in an airtight container and use to flavour steak, desserts etc. 

*Italian boyfriend/pastry chef extraordinaire tells me that sucre brûlée is an old-fashioned method for caramel colouring. To make, place a tablespoonful of sugar in a pan and allow to caramelise until a deep almost burnt colour. Add 2-3 tablespoonfuls of water and simmer to incorporate the caramel. Allow to cool then use a few drops to achieve the desired colour. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Caramel latte loaf cake

Caramel is the new vanilla. The food world has fallen in love with the flavour and though it will never be better, caramel is rather like chocolate's sexy cousin. It's headily sweet and totally decadent. Add a pinch of salt to the mix and you have an earth-shattering combination that is basically the crack cocaine of the culinary world. The reason for this? Consuming fat, sugar and salt all together is a serious sensory overdrive for our brains - it releases dopamine and adrenaline and totally gets our neurons fired up. Exactly the way drugs do.

 And before you feel guilty about shovelling another spoonful of caramel straight out the jar, don't, because genetically we're supposed to be attracted to foods with this tantalising trifector. It's a matter of survival people. We need salt because we can't produce our own. We need fat for energy and our sugar cravings are linked to being able to tell which foods are edible. So, make this caramel latte loaf cake and then enjoy every morsel guilt-free, because you can't fight genetics. 

Caramel latte loaf cake
Makes 2

230g Stork Bake margarine, softened
230g sugar
4 eggs
250g cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ cup tinned caramel
2 tsp corn flour
30ml espresso

Caramel cream cheese frosting
240g cream cheese
4 tbsp Stork Bake margarine, softened
½ cup tinned caramel
1 tsp vanilla
3 ½ cups icing sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 standard loaf tins.
Cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs slowly, one at a time until completely incorporated. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt then stir into the margarine mixture. Divide the batter in two and mix the caramel, cornflour and espresso into one batch. Spoon alternate types of batter into the loaf tins to create a blotchy affect. Then, using a skewer, gently swirl it around in the batter to marble the cake. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

To make the icing, cream the cream cheese and margarine together until light and fluffy. Then add the caramel, vanilla, icing sugar and salt. Use to ice the cooled cake.

Can't get enough of caramel? Try this Sticky caramel pudding, or classic creme caramel or how about some caramelised chocolate?

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chocolate red wine toffee marshmallows

A girl only needs two things in life; chocolate and red wine. 
But a little toffee and marshmallow can't hurt either so I've thrown those in here for good measure. I've been wanting to create some 'gourmet' (I really despise that word but there really aren't enough food adjectives in the English language) marshmallows for a while now since they're so trendy and all but I didn't want to make just any marshmallows. These needed to be very special marshmallows. For grown-ups!

Then a box full of beautifully-wrapped red wine toffees from Sweet Temptations landed on my desk. It was a sign. 

Obviously this toffee HAD to go into my marshmallows. The recipe I've used is based on Eric Lanlard's cocoa marshmallows and it is so incredibly simple and easy you'll wonder why you've been eating those horridly squishy store-bought pink ones all along. How amazed would your guests be if you whipped these out for after-dinner sweets?!! I know, you're welcome.

Chocolate red wine toffee marshmallows
Recipe adapted from Eric Lanlard's 'Chocolat'
Makes 24 squares

2 Sweet Temptations red wine toffees, thinly sliced lengthwise*
150ml water
2 tsp sweet red wine
200g sugar
2 tbsp gelatine powder
1/4 cup glucose
1/4 cup honey
125g dark chocolate, chopped and melted
Cocoa powder, for dusting

Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper. 
Place the thinly sliced toffee pieces on a piece of baking paper and roll out using a rolling pin to the size of the cake tin. Cut to fit the base and place in the bottom. 
Place the water, red wine, sugar and gelatine in a saucepan over low heat and stir until the gelatine and sugar is dissolved. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the glucose and honey. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and holds it's shape. Fold in the cooled melted chocolate and pour into the lined baking tin. Smooth the surface using a hot knife, cover and allow to set in the refrigerator for an hour. Once set, unmould and using a hot or oiled knife to cut into squares. Dust with cocoa powder and store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 

*You could use any very soft toffees here (make sure they're pliable) otherwise, leave out the toffee and sprinkle the base with a dusting of cocoa. 

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Passionfruit choc chip cookie cake

Although nothing makes me happier than spending an entire day in the kitchen baking up a storm, I've made no secret of the fact that sometimes, life calls for a shortcut. Or three. I'm a huge fan of clever shopping, especially for last minute desserts. A few store-bought finger biscuits, a drizzle of espresso syrup and a dollop of mascarpone and voila! You have an instant dessert. 

This 'cake' (I use the term loosely here because to be honest I'm not quite sure what this dessert is - suggestions are welcome) is made up of layered crispy giant cookies crammed with white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts then smeared with softly whipped cream and cream cheese and lashings of sunny, tart passionfruit. Can I get a yumm-o? 
Less time in the kitchen means more time for eating! 

What is your best shortcut dessert recipe?

Photograph by Gunther Schubert of Vorsprung Studio

White chocolate passionfruit cookie cake
Makes 1

1 x 500g Sasko Quick Treats Cookie Mix
140g butter
1 extra large egg
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
500ml cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp icing sugar
200g cream cheese
1 cup passionfruit pulp

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line 2 baking trays.
Place the cookie mix into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Whisk the egg then mix into the flour to form a soft dough. Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Divide the dough into two balls, then using your hands, shape into two 15cm discs. Place the discs on the baking trays and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Allow to cool completely.
For the filling, whip the cream until soft peaks then add the vanilla, sugar and cream cheese. Whisk until smooth. Place one cookie disc on a plate then top with half the cream mixture, drizzle with passion fruit then top with the remaining cookie followed by more cream and more passion fruit.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Lemon white chocolate melting moments

Rich and buttery, these pretty shortbreads are delicious with a touch of zesty lemon. They earn their name from the large amount of fat they contain, which allows them to almost magically melt in the mouth. Orange or lime zest would make a great variation in place of the lemon zest, as would swopping the white chocolate filling for sweet raspberry jam, chocolate spread or flavoured butter creams like passionfruit or lime. They would also be mind-blowing with my caramelised white chocolateI adore this recipe so much and shamefully often forget about it when I'm making a batch of cookies to fill the tin. They are just to-die-for and I don't think there is a person on this planet that would not close their eyes in sheer bliss when biting into one. A melting moment indeed.

Photography by Christelle Botha for Zone magazine

Lemon white chocolate melting moments
Makes 12

175g butter or margarine, softened slightly
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour, sifted
1/4 cup corn flour sifted
Zest of 1 lemon
100g white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Cream the butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and corn flour until combined and soft. Place the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a fluted nozzle. Pipe 3 cm rounds onto lined baking tray, allowing room for spreading. Place the tray of biscuits into the fridge for 30 minutes for the butter to chill then bake for 12-14 min or until golden. Cool on the tray. Sandwich the cookies together with the melted white chocolate. Store in an airtight container.

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