The Sinfulness of Chocolate 

Chocolate is a veg, right?  I mean it starts as a plant so it should count as part of our five a day.  Just like wine is fruit because it comes from grapes.  Hands up from those that are with me on this.  Anyone?

Because I completely forgot to do a birthday cake for our daughter earlier in the year I decided to make up for it when we celebrated a bunch of family birthdays a few weeks ago.  You know, she never said a word.  Once the lightbulb went off I felt really guilty.  A familiar feeling, I’m sure, for many parents.  Our daughter is a massive fan of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate I decided to go for a chocolate cake with ganache and raspberries.  Unsurprisingly, she was on board with this idea.

After doing a bit of research online and realising the recipes are pretty basic, making me wonder why I haven’t made it before, I used this guide from Add a Pinch to create my dessert.  I also made a chocolate cake as a base for this.  The difference between the glaze and the filling are the ratio between the cream and chocolate.  This is not a low calorie treat!


I did the filling first.  In a saucepan, gently heat a 1 cup/8oz of heavy or double cream with 2 tablespoons/1oz of butter.  Don’t boil or scald but heat until the butter is melted.


In a large bowl add 2 cups/11oz of white chocolate.  Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted and everything has blended together.  If you would like you can also add a couple of tablespoons of flavouring, I didn’t to this stage because of the other flavours that I was putting together.  


Chill until it has a thick spreadable consistency.  Spread on the first layer of the cake and add a layer of fresh raspberries.


For the glaze, redo the cream and butter.  Pour it over a cup/6oz of dark chocolate along with 2 tablespoons/1-2oz of spiced rum and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  This will be very liquid so it will need to be chilled a bit so it doesn’t completely run off the cake when you pour it on.  


Top with more fresh raspberries and serve.  I have to say this was a hit.  This will definitely be made again!

Marshmallow Fondant and Exterminate!

We just had a very busy few days with celebrating Father’s Day and my son’s birthday.  We did a small family gathering on Saturday and our friends have a tradition of hosting a BBQ at a local lake.  It was perfect before the kids are off on their summer adventures of camp and making the rounds with the grandparents.

My husband and I also got bikes!  Turns out the kids were thrilled as they love the bike paths round here so we’ll have plenty of fun with this family activity.  Though could someone please, please invent a more comfortable bike seat?  Yikes.  We’re lucky that there are many places to bike round town.  This town used to be a hub for the railways, even building the steam locos here.  When the rails were pulled up the lines became trails for bikes and walking.  Miles of them!

As some of you know we are fans of Dr Who and I wanted to do a Dalek cake for my son.  The thing is store bought fondant is, to put it mildly, awful tasting.  Not something you can really truthfully call edible.  While watching the Great British Bakeoff awhile ago we saw one of the contestants make a marshmallow fondant.  Of course the recipe wasn’t disclosed, probably something about editing and not enough time!  Excuses, excuses.

Thank goodness for the intertubes.  There are a few versions on how to make the marshmallow fondant.  I decided to go with the Wilton version as it was pretty simple.  When you have loads going on, simple is best!  Wilton is a cake decorating brand stateside.

The fondant needs to be started the day before.

Dalek cake 1 2016

In a large microwavable bowl add 16oz of good quality marshmallows and a couple of tablespoons of water.  Microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until the marshmallow has melted.

Dalek cake 2 2016

As you can imagine this was an extremely sticky enterprise.  Better than superglue!  Add 1 1/2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar.  You will need an additional half pound of the sugar set aside for the kneading.

Dalek cake 3 2016

Now if you know what you are going to do and know you just need one colour, add your colourant at this step.  It will be much easier to incorporate.  However, I was still figuring out how I was going to decorate this cake.  Start incorporating the sugar into the melted marshmallow.  If you want any flavouring this is the step you add it.  I added a teaspoon or so of vanilla. Once the sugar is incorporated tip the mixture out on a greased counter.  And when I say greased, I mean greased.  I used vegetable shortening.  Not only do you need to grease the counter you need to grease your hands as well.  Sounds messy but trust me, it is much needed.

Knead like you would knead bread adding in the extra half pound of the sugar a bit at a time.  You may not need all of the sugar.  I had about an eighth of a cup left after the fondant came together in a smooth ball.

Dalek cake 4 2016

Store in an airtight container or bag and place in the fridge overnight.  In the morning let it come to room temperature.  Add the colourant and then knead until the colour is uniform throughout.  Be patient as this can take awhile and be careful of your wrists as it is a bit of a workout.

Dalek cake 5 2016

I layered the cake and shaped it.  Then coated it with buttercream.

Dalek cake 6 2016

Roll out the fondant until about 1/8″/.3cm thick.  Drap the fondant over the cake.  The mistake I made here was not to keep the fondant cool enough.  So it began to rip as I was doing this.  And because it came into contact with the buttercream I couldn’t roll it up again and chill it.  So the Dalek looked a bit injured.

For the grey parts I used rice crispy treats and gum paste.  I also found edible adhesive.  That was a cool find I must say.

Dalek cake 7 2016

The cool thing about this is I managed to keep this a surprise from my son.  So when I brought it out after the lunch he was very surprised.  That was the best.  And it is wonderful, despite him growing so fast, he still loves stuff like this.

Victorian Sponge and a Fabulous Trip

There is something really surreal about being in London in the morning and the Hannafords grocery store in NH at night on the same day.  It messes with your head.  But we had an amazing trip.  The weather was just gorgeous, we even got a bit of a tan!  I didn’t blog as much I as planned because I forgot the cord for my camera.  Like most people I always forget something.  At least it wasn’t something major like a passport.

A few years ago I had tried to make a Victorian Sponge and it failed.  The middle wouldn’t cook and it was heavy, basically the opposite of what it should be.  I wasn’t sure if my technique was off or the flour was just different enough.  So it was on my list to make it while visiting my in-laws.  My MIL makes a fabulous Victorian Sponge.  My son is a fan so I wanted to get this figured out.

My MIL is a great teacher as it came out perfect!  Enough that I will be trying this here at home with our flour.

The cookery book she had is called The Dairy Book of Home Cookery.  No idea who wrote it as it didn’t indicate.  Which is weird.

If at all possible use a hand mixer rather than the big mixers as you need to be delicate with the batter.  Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Prepare two 7in/18cm tins by greasing with butter.  Cut out circles of parchment paper to line the bottom of the tins.

Victorian sponge 1 2016

In a mixing bowl add 4oz of caster sugar and 4 oz of softened butter.  Cream the two ingredients together with the hand mixer.

Victorian sponge 2 2016

Now this is where I went a bit wrong the first time I made this.  I was about to move on to the next step when my MIL said I wasn’t close!  Keep mixing.  And be patient.  It needs to be pale in colour and fluffy.

Victorian sponge 3 2016

Weigh out 4 oz of self raising flour.  Take a tablespoon of flour to the mixture and add an egg.

Victorian sponge 4 2016

Mix well and repeat this step with another egg.

Victorian sponge 5 2016

Sift the remaining flour in and gently fold it into the egg and butter mixture.

Victorian sponge 6 2016

You want to keep it airy as you do this step, don’t crush the fluffiness!  Divide the batter between the two tins.

Victorian sponge 7 2016

Bake for 25-30 minutes until it is golden brown and is springy to the touch.

Victorian sponge 8 2016

Cool for a few minutes then turn out on cooling racks.  Once it is cool spread jam of your choice onto one of the cakes and top with the other cake.  We used my Mil’s amazing rhubarb and ginger jam.  I’ll have to try to recreate it.  Delicious!  Sift powdered sugar on top.

Victorian sponge 9 2016

Serve when ready.  Add a cup of tea and enjoy!

Victorian sponge 10 2016

So glad my MIL helped me with this because this is definitely a treat we love.  🙂

Tips: If the batter comes out a little dry because of the flour add a little milk.  For different flavours add a teaspoon of vanilla or almond extract.

 

Bakewell Tart and Delicious Traditions

Another season down and on to feeding the creative side of my brain!  I managed to end the tax season in my typical fashion of coming down with a really bad cold.  So much for hitting the ground running.  I am finally catching up with everything.  Unfortunately bills and things have to have a higher priority than blogging.  Boo.

Part of my inspiration this year for blogging is to bake or cook dishes that have a bit of family tradition.  I place a great deal of value on having a connection with the past as we go forward with the new generations.  I don’t like history forgotten.

A few weeks ago I asked my dad what treats his mum cooked or baked when he was growing up.  My Grandma is someone I’d love to go back in time and spend a day baking with.  She was incredibly smart and the ultimate multi-tasker.  I sometimes think she would read, watch telly, and do the cross word at the same time because her brain needed the high end exercise.  She passed away when I was very young but I have wonderful memories of her.

My dad responded with a list of things she would make like amazing homemade bread, sponge cake, and bramley apple pies.  She would also make bakewell tarts.  As this has been on my list for awhile I thought that would be a great place to start.

The recipe I used was from the Baking with Mary Berry baking book my sister gave me for my birthday.  It is actually pretty straight forward.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

In a mixing bowl add 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 tablespoons of cold butter.  You will see this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to butter!

Bakewell tart 1 2016

Using a pastry fork blend the butter and flour until well blended.  You want it to look like small bread crumbs.  I found it weird that no salt was in the recipe.  It wasn’t too bad but next time I make it I would add about 1/4 tsp of salt.

Bakewell tart 2 2016

The next step is to add a bit of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together.  This part is hard to explain as you don’t want it too dry or too wet.  So keep adding until is just comes together.  This step always brings me back to when my dad taught me how to make pastry.  He learned from my Grandma.  I was an adult when he taught me but it was still fun standing side by side learning from him.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt 9 tablespoons (see what I mean?) and add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Cook for a minute or so.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

Bakewell tart 5 2016

A one large egg, beaten, 3/4 cup of rice flour, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract.  Mix well.

Bakewell tart 6 2016

Set aside.  Grease a tart pan that has a loose bottom.  The recipe called for 7 1/2in/19cm diameter pan.  I don’t have one of those but I have a rectangle one roughly the same area size.  Roll out the pastry and lightly press into the pan.

Bakewell tart 4 2015

Trim the excess and set aside.  Spread raspberry jam on the bottom of the pastry.  I kept it a bit too thin this time round but I will put more in.

Bakewell tart 7 2016

Pour in the filling and then cut the excess pastry in to strips and place them in a criss cross pattern.  Brush with milk.

Bakewell tart 8 2016

Bake for about 45-50 minutes until golden brown and the filling is set.

Bakewell tart 9 2016

If you would like dust it with icing sugar.

Bakewell tart 10 2016

This isn’t overly complicated and is worth the effort to make.  The almond and raspberry flavours are a great pairing.  I hope I did my Grandma proud.  🙂

Pear and Gooseberry Cake

Oh, just two more weeks of tax season and then I can get back to blogging more regularly.  Can’t wait!  Yesterday I didn’t have time to blog because I was baking and cooking up a storm.  It felt so good to be up and moving about.

The PT is working really well.  I went back to Pilates and last week after doing a forearm plank suddenly my shoulder felt fixed.  Figured out the bicep tendon had been flipped out of it’s groove for months.  Geez, if I had known doing planks would help I would have done that a lot sooner!  It’s wonderful not to feel old and infirm.  Can’t tell you how excited I am about this!

For St Patrick’s Day I usually cook something Irish.  Go figure, right?  As a treat I found a Pear and Gooseberry Cake with a Black Currant Compote in The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

It can be tricky to find ripe pears and because I only decided to do this on the day, the pears were pretty hard.  I microwaved them for a bit to soften them a little.  They were still on the firm side after baking but it was balanced with the softer gooseberries.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

Pear gooseberry cake 2 2016

This is a cake not made with a mixer.  In a bowl mix together 1 3/4 cups of self rising flour, pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of ground ginger.

Pear gooseberry cake 3 2016

Cut in 4oz of cold butter into the flour mixture.  You want to mix the butter in well enough that it looks like bread crumbs.

Pear gooseberry cake 4 2016.JPG

Add in the two pears, chopped and about 1 1/2 cups of gooseberries.  The recipe calls for 3 cups but that would be way too much and put out the cake out of balance.  Mix well.  Add a 1/2 cup of sugar.

Pear gooseberry cake 5 2016

Add 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 a cup of milk.  Mix and then spread out into a 9 x 13″ pan.

Pear gooseberry cake 6 2016

Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Pear gooseberry cake 7 2016

While the cake is baking put a cup or so of black currants in a small saucepan.  Add about a 1/2 a cup of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Gradually add brown sugar until you get the balance of sweet and tart you like.  Just don’t make it thick like jam.  I kept it on the tart side because my husband loves the flavour of the black currants.

Pear gooseberry cake 8 2016

This is a very moist cake with a lovely sweet and tart flavour to it.  I do apologise for the last picture.  My camera was being wonky, I think because the batteries weren’t  charged properly.  I have to say it’s nice that it is so light later now, I’m back to being able to use natural light again.

Sugar Crust with Crème Pâtissièrere

It’s back to reality after the holidays, kids back to school (they weren’t too thrilled!) and we’re back to work.  All the build up for the holidays and poof it’s gone in a blink of an eye.  We spend a lot of that “spring” cleaning.  It feels good to start the year off without clutter.  I’d like to know where it all comes from, seriously I think it multiplies.  I hate the clear outs but I love the results.  It motivates me to try new things and let the creativity flow.

For Christmas my husband and I try to be creative and feed our hobbies for gifts.  We don’t need stuff per se.  The Great British Bake Off has lit a bit of a fire under us to branch out in the baking arena and I knew we were going to bake through the break.  I found a fluted tart pan with the removable bottom for my husband.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the same gift from him!  Luckily we got two different sizes.  Great minds!

Have you ever wanted to bake something and you follow recipes and it comes out completely differently?  Boy did that happen to me.  I wanted to make tarte au citron that Mary Berry does.  I started everything and realised I didn’t have all the ingredients.  You’d think I was new at this.  So I thought well the set lemon tart is a set lemon tart so I used Julia Child.  I ended up with a strange lemon flavoured whipped meringue tart.  Tasted good but definitely not what I was going for.  So I need to get the ingredients for the tarte au citron and try it again!  But I did like the sugar crust so I made it again and decided to use Julia Child’s crème pâtissière.  I could eat bowls of that!

For the crust I used Mary Berry’s recipe for the crust.  It’s not difficult but it is very fiddly.  The sugar weakens the structure.  You also want to keep the butter cold through this process.

In a food processor add 6oz of flour, 3 1/2 oz of butter cubed, and 1oz of icing sugar.

Creme patissiere 2 2016

Pulse until well blended.  Add one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cold water to the food processor.

Creme patissiere 4 2016

Pulse again to blend.  Now her recipe says it would come together in clumps.  So far it hasn’t done that for me but when you test it you want the mixture to stick together when pressed.

Creme patissiere 5 2016

Tip out onto to the counter and press the mixture together firmly until the pastry comes together in a ball.  The trick is to not overwork the crust and make it tough.

Creme patissiere 6 2016

Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Lightly grease the tart pan.  Now the directions state to lay out parchment paper and to place the bottom of the tart on the paper.  Draw a circle that is an inch and a half bigger than the tart bottom.  This is to give you a guide when rolling out the pastry.  I made this crust twice this week and tried it the first time and didn’t do it the second.  For me it didn’t make a difference but if it helps you go for it.  Flour the bottom and the paper and place the pastry in the centre.

Creme patissiere 7 2016

Flatten out the pastry out then roll.  This is where the swearing begins.  Did I mention it is fiddly?  Keep the rolling pin floured because it will stick!  This is the most frustrating part of the whole process.

Creme patissiere 8 2016

Carefully fold the pastry in on itself so the bottom shows.  Drop it into the tart frame.

Creme patissiere 9 2016

Carefully press the pastry into the flutes.  A trick that is mentioned is to use spare pastry to press in the pastry without poking holes into it.  That works somewhat.  You can also use a knuckle.  Just keep the nails away!  Allow a bit of overhang as the pastry will shrink when blind baking.

Creme patissiere 10 2016

Use a fork to dimple the base without poking completely through. Chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven at 400F/200C. When ready to bake line the pastry with tin foil and fill with dry beans.

Creme patissiere 11 2016

Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and the beans.  Trim the excess pastry off the edge. Bake again until it is golden brown and cooked through.  Unfortunately I got sucked into Star Wars.  I was getting my geek on!  So I was just a few minutes late in getting back to the oven.  So it browned a little too much!

Set the pastry aside to cool.  On to the crème pâtissière!  This isn’t difficult but you need a bit of elbow grease with the whisk.  I added a bit more milk to Julia Child’s recipe because I didn’t want it to be overly thick but yet have it set.

Using a mixer gradually mix in a cup of granulated sugar into 5 egg yolks.  Keep beating until the mixture forms pale yellow ribbons.

Creme patissiere 13 2016

Gradually and slowly pour 2 1/4 cup of milk that has been brought to the boil.  You need to do this slowly because you don’t want to scramble the eggs with the hot milk.  Add the mixture into a large saucepan and put it over medium heat.  Keep whisking while it comes to a boil.  It will get thick before it gets smooth again.

Creme patissiere 15 2016

Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and whisk it for a couple of more minutes to cook the flour.  Remove from the heat.

Creme patissiere 16 2016

Add a tablespoon of butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

Creme patissiere 17 2016

Mix well and let it cool.  Once it is cool enough spoon it into the pastry crust.  Let it set in the fridge until it is time to serve.  Slice fruit of your choice.  We had some lovely strawberries to use up.  Dust with icing sugar.

Creme patissiere 18 2016

Not going to lie, this was delicious.  With dishes like this I won’t bother with resolutions to lose weight!  I mean, who am I kidding.  🙂

 

Irish Apple Cake

Usually when our anniversary rolls round we are up to our ears in some house project.  If we were smart we’d do a trip or something fun like we did a few years ago.  But then again the list won’t take care of itself!

A big project is to redo the wrap around porch which means pulling up boards and lay new ones down as we go.  When most of it was done it was time to get in a skip to get the trash removed.  Silly me, I thought we could work on our foyer and walk in closet.  Might as well fill the skip up!

What was I thinking?  Granted it will cross two more projects off the list.  But we’re tired!  In the days leading up to our anniversary my husband took a few days off to make a dent in the projects.  When our anniversary rolled round we hit a wall where my husband had to handle things as I was unable to.  I felt guilty!  So I thought I should bake him a treat.  It was the least I could do.

Given that we went apple picking and we have a ton of apples I had to pick something that would use some up.  I have a great book called “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen.  In it is a recipe for Irish Apple Cake.  I mostly followed it.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Irish apple cake 4 2015

In a medium sized bowl add 2 cups of flour, 1/3 tsp baking powder, and 8 T of butter.  You want the butter at room temperature so you can blend the ingredients.  With a pastry fork or your hands work the ingredients together until it looks like breadcrumbs or small beads.

Irish apple cake 1 2015

Mix in half a cup of sugar then add one beaten egg.

Irish apple cake 2 2015

You will need 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk.  Gradually add a little bit of milk at a time until the dough is soft and incorporated.  This dough will be a pain to work with as it is wet and sticky.  Flour your hands and rolling pin to work with it.

Irish apple cake 3 2015

Grease a 9″ spring form pan.  Roll out half of the dough and place it in the bottom of the pan.

Irish apple cake 5 2015

There is a good chance you’ll have to patch holes with this so don’t be discouraged.  Press the dough up the sides a bit.  Slice a couple of apples and layer them round the middle.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the apples.

Irish apple cake 6 2015

Roll out the rest of the dough and place over the apples.  Brush with a beaten egg.

Irish apple cake 7 2015

Bake for 40 minutes or so until the dough is cooked and a nice golden colour.

Irish apple cake 8 2015

Good luck waiting until this cools.  Slice and serve.

Irish apple cake 10 2015

My husband did appreciate this with a cup of tea when he got a chance to take a break and sit for awhile.  🙂

How Many Birthdays Fit on a Cake?

Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  It was my idea to have a family get together where we celebrate 8 out of the 12 birthdays.  Given how this year has gone from on emergency to another in the family and my sister in the middle of her recovery, there hasn’t been time to get together as a family!

I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering what we were getting ourselves into.  It’s one thing to all get together for a meal but another to get through all the presents and cake in a short amount of time. But it was a lovely day.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids had a great time running about.  I think the cutest thing was my three year old nephew getting a hold of the hose.  This little peanut hosing down his wagon.  And of course when he turned so did the water.  We stayed out of range.  🙂

The tricky bit I had to sort out was the cake.  Five of the birthdays were for the kids.  Originally I planned on doing cupcakes but I just didn’t have the time to decorate individual cupcakes, it would be faster to do a cake.  But how to do a cake for kids ranging from 3-14 without making it crowded or corny?

I really wanted each of them to be represented so it took me a couple of days to figure it out.  The littlest one is majorly into Thomas the Train.  He is just enthralled with the whole thing.  My niece loves My Little Pony, my other nephew is into Pokemon, and my son thinks Olaf is the best thing since sliced bread.  And of course my daughter who is becoming a young lady so she’s not into those types of things but she had to be represented somehow.

Olaf birthday cake 2 2015

Thank goodness for the internet.  A quick search leads to ideas on how to make a character so it actually looks like it.  It’s one thing to freehand volcanoes and castles but I can’t screw up Olaf!

I also did the pokemon circle in gum paste but due to time constraints I went store bought for the rest.  I don’t think I have the skills yet to do Thomas or My Little Pony.

Olaf birthday cake 3 2015

Olaf birthday cake 4 2015Added a bit of flowers for my daughter and a bit of whimsy with yellow.

Olaf birthday cake 1 2015

We had a wonderful day of family, good food, and laughter.  The best bit was my little nephew’s face when he realised it was Thomas on the cake.  🙂

Roasted Bananas With Caramel and Chocolate

We still have a crazy amount the salted spiced rum caramel that I used for the apple bars.  So I have to either freeze it or use it.  The kids would of course vote to use it up as quickly as possible then have me make more.  🙂

While watching an old season of Top Chef last week I saw that one of the chefs did a dessert that had roasted bananas.  I was sucked in with my iPad so I was playing games at the time and didn’t really get what they made but the roasted bananas stuck with me.

I don’t eat bananas because of the texture.  It makes me gag but I like the flavour of bananas in things such as banana bread.  My family likes bananas so I thought it would be fun to try something new.

This dessert was super easy because the caramel was already made.  Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

Slice the bananas and brush with peanut oil and top with brown sugar.

Roasted bananas 1 2014

While these are roasting heat up the caramel and melt some chocolate.  When the bananas have softened and the brown sugar has caramelised a bit remove from the oven.  Drizzle caramel on the dish and place the bananas on top.  Drizzle the chocolate and some more caramel over the bananas.  Sprinkle chopped peanuts and top with whipped cream.

Roasted bananas 2 2014

This was a huge hit with the kids.  And then I put them over the top by giving them some more caramel straight up.  I loved the flavour but I can’t get round the texture of the banana.  Sigh.

Salted Spiced Rum Caramel with Apple Bars

I have always said I couldn’t give up bread amidst the whole gluten-free fad.  I say fad because I don’t think everyone who gives up gluten needs too.  I have no doubt that once the dust settles only those who have gluten issues will stick to it.

However I had been doing research because of chronic pain and inflammation which I’ve had enough of.  I did get bloodwork done but I have the family trait of not presenting the normal way for medical issue so they came back negative.  My doctor, who is normally really good, said that some people are just built this way and are weaker.  Given that I was a 3rd degree black belt I don’t accept that.  So I am on a 30 day experiment to go without gluten to see what happens.  I’ve done it for a week now and I think I’m making progress but it’s too soon to tell.

Right now because I am being strict with it I have to be creative with the recipes as I don’t want to do two sets of meals for all of us.  Someone I know who loves to bake has also gone gluten free and she suggested finely processing oats and use that as flour as a substitution for certain desserts.  I thought this would be perfect for my date bars or this week apple bars given that we have a massive amount of apples.

And because I was baking with apples I thought I would try my hand at salted caramel.

For the caramel you will need:

2 cups sugar

12 T butter

2 tsp sea salt (some recipes call for fleur de sel but that’s crazy expensive)

A cup of heavy cream

Spiced rum to taste

Brown sugar to taste

This will make a lot so you can half the ingredients.  In a saucepan heat up the sugar.

Salted caramel apple bars 1 2014

You need the heat to be medium, medium high and stir constantly while the sugar melts.  It will get chunky then will smooth out.

Salted caramel apple bars 2 2014 Salted caramel apple bars 3 2014 Salted caramel apple bars 4 2014

Turn off the heat when the temp reaches 350F/175C and add the butter a bit at a time.

Salted caramel apple bars 5 2014

Stir until the butter is fully incorporated.  Then add the cream and stir well. This is where it almost went wonky for me.  When you are cooking the sugar you have to be very careful not to burn it. I had a slightly burnt taste so I needed to fix it.  I incorporated some brown sugar and a couple of tablespoons of spiced rum while adding the sea salt.  Turned out to be similar to toffee flavour and everyone gave it a thumbs up.  A happy left turn!

Salted caramel apple bars 6 2014

Let that cool while working on the apple bars.

Salted caramel apple bars 7 2014

Cut up 4-5 apples into smallish pieces and start to heat in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of apple cider.

Salted caramel apple bars 10 2014

Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Add cinnamon and nutmeg to taste and simmer until the apples soften.

Salted caramel apple bars 8 2014

Pulse enough oats to give you 1 1/2 cups of oat flour to replace the flour.

Salted caramel apple bars 9 2014

Mix this with 2 cups of oats, 1 cup sugar, and 1 tsp of baking soda.  I added 3/4 cup of melted butter like the original recipe but I think next time I would add a cup to keep it moist.  Spread out half in a 8 x 11 pan then spread out the apple mixture.

Salted caramel apple bars 11 2014

Top with the rest of the oats and bake for 25 minutes.  Drizzle with the caramel and serve.

Salted caramel apple bars 12

The caramel can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks.  To soften just microwave for 10-15 seconds.  I’ll have to come up with a few more desserts to use up the caramel!