Friday 29 July 2022

Malted Caramel Blondies

This recipe is not photogenic. We're not doing it for the 'Gram. There are no vibrant colours, no chocolate, no oozing, luscious toffee, no artful dribbles of icing. It looks like a plain, brown, utilitarian cake. Maybe a little dry. The last one to go at the bake sale. The piece you take, politely but unenthusiastically, when offered by someone you don't know well enough to be honest to. But behind that unprepossessing, unfrosted facade, it tastes fantastic.

I've been on a pottery summer school - 4 days last week building, back today to glaze the bisque-fired pieces. And on the last day of last week the teacher mentioned it was her birthday so I said I would bake something for today. Now, usually I would do something citrussy, both because I like it and because it's a crowd pleaser. But another person at the arts & crafts centre is very proud of his lemon drizzle cake and I felt that bringing something similar would be needlessly antagonistic.

These have layers of stuff making them taste good - there's browned butter, and wholemeal flour for nuttiness, soft brown sugar and chunks of caramel (which mostly melt) for rich caramellyness, and vanilla and malted milk powder to round things out. These are quite a chewy, rather than gooey blondie. If you really want goo I guess you could reduce the cooking time a bit, but I like them like this. They probably keep well but I didn't get a chance to find out.

Folding in the caramel pieces

Malted Caramel Blondies (makes 18 generous pieces, could be cut bigger or smaller)

250g butter

300g light muscovado sugar

2 eggs

1tbs malted milk powder (I used Ovaltine) dissolved in 2 tsp vanilla extract

250g wholemeal plain flour

1/2 tsp salt (I use Diamond Kosher, adjust quantity for the salt you use)

1 1/4 tsp baking powder

125g soft caramels (I used Werthers with a soft centre, but I think original Werthers might hold their shape more) chopped roughly into pieces

First make the browned butter. Put your butter into a saucepan that's quite a lot bigger than you think you need, because it will foam up. Melt it over a medium heat, swirling gently, and continue to swirl until it is a rich brown colour and smells beautifully nutty. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof mixing bowl big enough to hold the rest of your ingredients. Make sure you get all the little toasty bits from the bottom of the pan - we're not clarifying the butter, we want those bits.

Allow the butter to cool.

Preheat the oven to 160C (fan). Line a 7" x 11" baking tin with baking parchment.

Beat the sugar into the butter, then add the eggs, one at a time, then the malt & vanilla mixture. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder, and then mix the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar mixture. Fold in the caramels.

Scrape the batter into the lined baking tin. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until set but just slightly soft in the the middle. Cool completely in the tin before cutting into pieces. Although it probably wouldn't hurt to serve them warm with ice cream as a dessert.

Saturday 4 June 2022

Jubilee Trifle

Trifle - with my trifle spoon - on the buffet. Picture by the party host, my friend Sharon.

This weekend the UK is celebrating the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. 70 years on the throne. I was trying to remember the last royal occasion where there was an extra Bank Holiday (making a 4 day weekend) and garden parties and so forth, and while I could remember that it rained a lot and I wore a very good t-shirt and made a dessert with lots of berries in a Union Jack pattern, I couldn't remember what it was actually for.

Turns out it was the Diamond Jubilee, 10 years ago. And to be honest, what I said then - that I am conflicted, that a hereditary head of state is obnoxious, that the country is in a very bad way and this feels like a very expensive distraction technique - all still stands.

This time around, Fortnum and Mason ran a competition to find a Platinum Pudding - a dessert to commemorate the occasion, with a recipe that could be made all around the country. The winner was a lemon and amaretto trifle, inspired by the lemon posset the Queen had at her wedding. 

I love a St Clements Trifle - I mean, I love a citrus dessert anyway, and I not only love the way lemon provides sprightliness and orange rounds out the flavour, but I love that in the UK the combination of lemon and orange is named for a nursery rhyme - but I didn't particularly care for the winning recipe. So for the garden party we attended, I took the inspiration and ran with it.

Slices of lemon Swiss roll (bought) around the base and sides of my trifle bowl, left open in the fridge for a couple of hours to dry out a little. 

Then a very small sprinkle of Cointreau. 

Then a lemon and orange jelly (same method as the winning trifle recipe, but less sugar syrup and more fruit juices) with orange supreme suspended in it. I let the jelly start to set before I poured it into the trifle bowl, so that it wouldn't make the cake completely soggy and so the orange supreme wouldn't all sink to the bottom. 

I let that layer set completely while I made the next layer, a lemon and orange creme diplomat, made by cludging together this recipe for lemon pastry cream and this recipe for vanilla creme diplomat.

This is not a dessert to make when you get home late from work. This needs time and many bowls.

After I spread the creme diplomat layer over the set jelly layer, I let the whole thing chill over night.

This morning I scattered shreds of candied calamondin zest over the creme diplomat, and whipped cream, stabilised with cornflour a la Rose Levy Berenbaum's method and flavoured with a little of the syrup from the calamondins.

FINALLY I garnished it with a lot of sprinkles and shards of citrus meringue, made with 2 of the egg whites left over from making the creme diplomat. 

And fortunately it was absolutely delicious and well worth the effort. The layers had just the right balance of stability and tenderness and the layers of citrus flavours were really fresh and bright.

If it isn't vulgarly over-dressed, is it even a trifle?


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