Caramel mud cake and some chocolates too!

My son recently had a birthday, and his favourite flavour is caramel, so I adapted my mud cake recipe for caramel.  It helped that when I was recently on a cruise I returned with a bottle of caramel Baileys, and I could use this for additional flavour.  I also made him a few caramel chocolates too – sugar overload!

My chocolate making instructor was right, you can’t use silicone moulds and get good chocolates, you need to bang them on the counter (to get rid of air bubbles), and silicone is too floppy!  But even though my chocolates didn’t look professional, they tasted great!

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Cake:

225g  chopped butter;

180g chopped white chocolate:

1/2 cup milk:

1/4 cup Baileys caramel liqueur;

1 & 3/4 cup caster sugar;

1 & 1/2 cups sifted plain (gluten free of course) flour;

1/2 cup sifted self raising (gluten free again) flour;

2 eggs, lightly beaten.

Pouring ganache:

180g chopped white chocolate;

1/3 cup thickened cream.

Preheat a fan forced oven to 130 celcius (150 if not fan forced).  If using a silicone cake pan, there is no preparation to do, if using metal, grease and line with two layers of baking paper.

Place butter, chocolate, milk, liqueur, sugar and 1/2 cup cold water in a pan over medium heat, cook until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.  Leave aside to cool for about half an hour.  This needs to be cool or when you add the flour and eggs they will cook and go clumpy.

When cool, whisky through sifted flours and eggs.  When combined, pour into pan and bake in oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Test with a skewer.

Hint – because the large amount of chocolate will be heavy, the SR flour will cause the cake to rise a little, be gentle taking it out or it will fall.  A sudden change in temperature or rough handling will cause the cake to fall a little, but even if it does, it doesn’t matter – the pouring ganache will cover up most mistakes!

After 10 minutes, turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  If the cake is still hot when you try to pour the ganache over, the ganache will go too runny straight off.  The consistency it is, it will pour over and a bit will run off, but if the cake is hot it will just stream off too fast.

Melt ganache ingredients together – you can do this by putting them in a microwave safe container and cooking them in 30 second bursts, checking after each.  For the first two, I just like to take the container out and shake it a little to make sure the ingredients are mixing, after the third I will take it out and stir it.  If the chocolate melts in the cream, that’s all you need to do.  If it needs more, reduce to 15 second bursts, white chocolate “siezes” quickly and you don’t want to curdle the cream either.

Once it is well combined, pour over top and swirl around with a spatula until you get the look you like, this is not a thick ganache so it will not “sit on top” unless you put it in the fridge and set it first.

 

I can tell you the ingredients for the chocolates, but unless you have learned how to temper chocolate, it will not make a lot of sense. I do plan to do a video one day, but I have to get someone to film it first!

You will need a digital thermometer and a thin scraper (think of something that can scrape pastry scraps off a bench) as well as the moulds.

The best way to describe the tempering process is as follows:

These were milk chocolate outers (different chocolates have different temperature requirements), so you take a quantity of milk chocolate (for twelve chocolates you will need to start with 200g, plus have some extra either in buttons or chopped into small pieces to have nearby to use during the tempering process).  Either melt the chocolate in a microwave in 30 second bursts or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water (as explained before, don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water).  Keep stirring the chocolate while checking the temperature.  For milk chocolate you need it to come up to 40-45 degrees celcius.  Once it is in this range, take off the heat.  Now, you need to bring the temperature down to between 30-31 degrees celcius.  You can do this initially by adding small amounts of additional milk chocolate and stirring until it melts (this is why you either need buttons or small pieces).  Keep checking with the thermometer.  If you don’t want to add any more chocolate, you can place the bowl over an icepack for a few seconds, stirring, then take it off (and put it on a different part of the bench, the icepack will have made that spot cold).  If you take it down too far, blow some hot air from a hairdyer into it, stirring all the while, but if you are careful when bringing the temperature down, you shouldn’t need to do this.  Once the chocolate is in the pouring range (30-31) quickly slather it into the mould, you don’t want to waste time or it will cool and start to thicken.

Once the moulds are well covered, try to tap the air bubbles out.  With a hard mould you can bang the mould on the bench, with silicone it is very difficult, you can try, but it won’t work all that well.  When the chocolate has thickened a little, turn the mould upside down over the bowl and let the excess run out (this is really fun with silicone as it goes floppy and you get it everywhere), you need the moulds to be hollow so you can fill them. When the excess has dribbled out, turn the mould over and, using your scraper, scrape the excess off the mould, you don’t want chocolate all over the mould or your finished product won’t be neat.  Put in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up.  Keep the remaining chocolate, as you will use this for the bases.

Fill with your preferred filling – this should be at room temperature.  If it is too hot, your chocolate will melt.  You can either pipe the filling in, or if you have a tiny measure (like a mustard spoon) you can use that.  Whatever is easiest for you.  Put back in the fridge for a few minutes while you prepare the chocolate for the bases.

You don’t need to go through the whole tempering process again, as the chocolate has already been tempered, but it has probably thickened up a lot by now, so using the microwave with care again, heat the chocolate in small bursts, stirring each time until it is 30-31 degrees again.  Depending on how much you have left, you may need to add more from your additional supply.  Once the chocolate is at the correct temperature, pour over the mould until your chocolates are well covered, and then scrape off the additional chocolate.  Leave them in the fridge to set again.  Once they are hard all over, you can demould the chocolates.  I bought the little papers in the baking aisle of my local supermarket, but you might be able to find papers at any confectioner’s suppliers store.

I have included the recipe for the filling below.  You will have spare filling (this makes a lot of filling), you can either store this in the fridge (it will keep for a couple of weeks once cooked) or use it as a pouring caramel sauce over a dessert.  It is a liquid caramel, not a fudgy one (I am going to try chewy caramel chocolates another time).

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Salted caramel filling:

175g caster sugar;

4 tbs water;

200ml pouring cream;

175g milk chocolate in small pieces;

125g white chocolate in small pieces;

1 tsp of salt.

Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.

Heat sugar and water in a saucepan until golden brown, the browner the richer the caramel taste, but be careful not to burn it or it will be bitter.  Stir frequently, but take care as caramel can cause severe burns if you cause it to splash up on your skin.  Add salt when it is at the colour you want.  Add cream, stirring to ensure the cream doesn’t curdle.  When well mixed, pour over chocolate and stir until all chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

This can be stored in an airtight container (I prefer glass jars) in the fridge.  If you are using it straight away, allow it to cool to room temperature first.  If you have previously stored this (I tend to make several fillings at once, then store them, then use them later on) take it out of the fridge several hours before you need it, or else heat it in the microwave on defrost until it is at the correct temperature.

Shepherd’s Pie

Everyone has a favourite recipe for this dish, mine is very basic but very tasty (sadly, there are never leftovers to take to work for lunch).  This serves four (if you are extremely hungry, add some additional vegetables on the side).

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You will need a large baking dish, and to preheat a fan forced oven to 180 celcius.

Meat mixture:

1 tablespoon olive oil;

500g minced beef (I also added a few slices of finely chopped leftover roast beef I had in the freezer);

1 large onion, finely chopped;

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped;

1/4 cup celery tops;

1 large carrot, very finely diced (the pieces of carrot should be cut slightly smaller than a pea);

1 cup of frozen peas;

1 tablespoon soy sauce (gluten free of course);

1 tablespoon chia seeds;

1 teaspoon beef stock powder;

2 teaspoons gluten free cornflour;

1 cup of water.

Topping:

500g potatoes (I used the desiree red skinned variety) very finely diced – leave the skin on, the texture is great in the mash topping;

Pinch of salt;

50g butter

Enough milk to get a smooth consistency;

1/2 cup shredded cheese.

 

Fry the onion, garlic and celery in an large, heavy based pan (I use cast iron here)  in the oil until soft, then add the mince, breaking up the lumps to small pieces.  Add the carrot and peas and fry two minutes further.  Add the chia seeds and soy sauce and cook another two minutes.  Sprinkle over the stock powder and cornflour and stir through, slowly add the water.  Cook another two minutes, then turn off the heat and let the mixture sit in the hot pan while you prepare the potato.

Put the potato, salt, and enough water to cover in a microwave safe container with a lid, and cook until soft (it should be 10-15 minutes but will depend on your microwave and the density of the potatoes.  When they are soft enough to mash, drain, then mash with the butter and enough milk to get a consistency soft enough to spoon onto the pie and smooth over.

Put the meat mixture in the pie, spoon the potato over and smooth to the edges, scatter the grated cheese over and bake for 15 minutes.

BBQ chicken and cauliflower bake

I hate having leftovers in the fridge, and as you know I love a one pot dinner, so I thought of this for an ‘end of week’ special to clean out the fridge of all those bits and pieces that might still be hanging around.  This will feed 3 – 4 (depending on how hungry everyone is).

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You will need a large baking dish, and preheat the oven to 180 celcius (fan forced) while you are assembling the dish.

1/2 bbq chicken, chopped;

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets;

500g greek yoghurt;

Salt and pepper to taste;

2 cloves finely chopped garlic;

4 sprigs of oregano, leaves stripped;

3 handfuls of shredded cheese.

Place the cauliflower in a large heatproof bowl with a lid, and cook in the microwave for 12 minutes or until softened, then drain. Place the bbq chicken and drained cauliflower in the dish.  Mix together then yoghurt, salt, pepper, half of the oregano and garlic and stir through the chicken and cauliflower in the dish until well combined.  Sprinkle the cheese over and place in the hot oven for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with the remaining oregano and enjoy.

Raspberry clouds in “white” chocolate cases

Ok, I admit I didn’t know what to call this.  I found these “white chocolate” buttons that had been coloured in the supermarket.  There was pink, and yellow.  I bought them and then put them in the pantry thinking that sooner or later I would think up something to do with them.  I suspect that the white “chocolate” was more like compounded chocolate – but you get the idea.  If you have the proper colouring (powder, not liquid) you could always colour some good quality white chocolate yourself.  But I wanted to practice with my moulds, so I made this anyway.  I got four (plus a bit of “cloud” left over that I put in a separate ramekin).  The cloud was very light and frothy, and when eaten with the syrup, was almost sherbety.

This is best eaten on the day it is made, the cloud will melt away if you leave it in the fridge too long.

White chocolate and raspberry clouds in cases

White chocolate and raspberry clouds in cases

You will need four moulds that have a capacity of about 2/3 cup each.  I used silicon so I could peel them away when set.

200g coloured chocolate;

150g frozen raspberries;

2 egg whites;

2 tbs sugar;

1 tbs Cointreau.

 

Melt half of the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.  This is the “bain marie method” as below:

Melting chocolate over a

Melting chocolate over a “bain marie”

Spread the chocolate in the moulds, and put in the freezer while you melt the second half.  When the chocolate is melted, allow to cool for about 30 seconds before spreading around the mould, the first layer will slightly melt again, so you can “merge” the two without the first layer completely melting.  I did this in two batches because the moulds are so large, if you try to melt the chocolate in one batch you will just end up with a puddle in the bottom of your mould, instead of it clinging to the sides as well.  Place in the fridge to finish setting.

In the mould

In the mould

Put the frozen raspberries, sugar and Cointrea in a small pan and bring to the boil.  At the same time, put the egg whites on to whip.  It should only take a couple of minutes for the raspberries to break down in the sugar/Cointreau mixture, when this happens, pour through a sieve into a bowl, ideally you want some raspberry sauce, and some raspberry flesh.  Once the egg whites are really stiff (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down and nothing falls out) gently fold the raspberry flesh (which should have cooled a little by now) through, and spoon into the moulds.  If you have any left over, put in a ramekin and you can eat this separately.

The cloud is already set when you spoon it in, I just leave it in the fridge for about half an hour to harden up a little.

When ready to serve, demould the cases and upturn on a serving plate.  When you are eating this, you hit the case with your spoon and crack through to a cloudy inner.

Put the sauce in a small jug, and pour this over as you serve.  The combination of the sauce with the cloud is what makes it taste sherbety, without the sauce it can be a bit bland.