At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Caramel square time...

Now…WHO doesn’t like caramel squares?? Or millionaire’s shortbread, I have sometimes heard them called. Yesterday we had an egg shortage in the house, and I, in a bit of panic for we were equally as short on biscuits, peered hopefully into the baking cupboard, praying that I had in a can of condensed milk: that super sweet milky concoction which I have always used in caramel making. And yes, lurking in the very back, was the small squat can that I required. So...I couldn't make cookies or anything with eggs, but thankfully, no eggs are used in millionaire's shortbread.
 A few hours later… well no, I was not permitted to eat these warm – that’s one of the annoying things about caramel square making. Unfortunately, one must be patient and allow the caramel and the shortbread to cool before consumption. As for the melted choc, it’s advised to let that set too before cutting, but I have often broken this rule. ;)

I am sure that recipes for these are pretty easy to get hold of, but just in case you have taken a particular attachment to ones featured in the pic, here is my own recipe :) it's a good one, anyway, and I am of the belief that good recipes are MADE to be shared. 

For the shortbread...

  • 175 g plain flour
  • 55 g caster sugar
  • 100 g butter, at room temperature.
For the caramel...
  • a 400 g tin of condensed milk.
  • 55 g caster sugar (golden caster sugar if you have it in is great for caramel, but normal white works fine too :) )
  • 100 g butter 
And 75 g milk chocolate (well, that's the MINIMUM amount I suggest ;) ) for the top.
You also need a 20 cm deep square cake tin, greased and lined with baking paper.

  • Make the shortbread first. Preheat the oven to 170c/fan oven 150c. Sieve the flour into a bowl. Dice the butter into little cubes and add to the flour. Rub in lightly with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.
  • Gently mix the mixture with your hands until it begins to clump together, but don't worry too much about bringing it completely together into a dough. Transfer it then to the prepared tin. Bake for about 15-20 mins, until pale golden: but be careful not to let it get brown. Leave it to cool in the tin while you make the caramel layer.
  • Pour the condensed milk into a small saucepan and add the sugar and the butter. Place on a very low heat on the hob and heat gently until the butter melts and the sugar begins to dissolve. Then raise the heat to low-medium, stirring continuously. It's important that you stir all the time once you raise the heat, as caramel is notorious for sticking to the bottom of saucepans and burning. Also, be very careful that it doesn't spit at you - if it touches your skin it can leave a very nasty burn. :(
  • bring the mixture slowly to the boil, still stirring all the time. Once it's bubbling happily away, lower the heat ever so slightly and simmer (keep it so it's still bubbling, just not too fiercely :) ) for 10-15 minutes, until the caramel has darkened in colour to a nice toffee-brown. Now it's time to test to see if it's set enough. :) 
  • To test, fill a little bowl with very cold water and drop just a tiny bit of caramel in it. It it's ready, it should form a tiny little ball which will flatten easily in your hand if taken out the water.
  • Remove the caramel from the heat, and then pour carefully over the shortbread in the tin - be very very careful here you don't get splashed. And I know this is really, really hard, but you MUST wait a good bit before you can get your licking spoon to clean out the saucepan!!! I made this mistake before, and I wish I never had - a burnt tongue caused by hot caramel is NOT nice. :(
  • Let the caramel set before adding your chocolate topping. (it normally doesn't take any longer than an hour.) Melt the milk chocolate very gently in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (a bain-marie, I believe this is called.) Then spread the melted chocolate lovingly over your caramel layered masterpiece. Now let it set while you clean out the chocolate bowl and wash up. 
  • And when the chocolate is set (or sett-tish, if you really, really, really can't wait... ;) ), cut into 16 squares with a sharp knife. Now, wasn't that worth the wait? If you did manage to wait, that is.But give yourself a big clapon the back, anyway. You've just made caramel squares all by yourself, after all. :)

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