Sunday, May 27, 2012

Millionaire shortbread

So I was looking for a simpler dish to make after the big lunch, and thought some biscuits would do nicely.

My self-proclaimed 'apprentice' was keen, especially after seeing the chocolate covered picture in the book.

So, I acquired the goods and sat down this morning over my breakfast coffee. Which is a good thing, as this is another recipe with a lot of "chill for X hours" in it. That and the butter seems to be a theme.

Steps to be taken:

  1. Make shortbread 
  2. Make caramel
  3. Sandwich together
  4. Coat in chocolate
Sounds easy when I write it like that, doesn't it? Four easy steps. This took a large chunk of the day - not a recipe you can just knock up. Also, the caramel takes the longest to set, so I made that first.

Let's see...

Making caramel

Ahh... scary real caramel to be made. I even needed my candy thermometer - for the first time I think ever.

Warm up your double cream.

Melt together your sugar, butter (of course), salt, glucose and milk. Once it's all melted you just whisk it until it hits 155 degrees. Easy right?

Start stirring..

Still stirring..

 Still stirring...

 Yep... Need to periodically change hands to recover..

Finally getting a bit brown... this took ages. And it started to get really heavy and hard to stir. I may have even broken into a sweat. Well, a ladylike glow anyway.

 Ha! That's more like it...
 Off the heat and in goes in the warmed cream..
 Mmm... sticky caramel goodness.
 Poured into the tray and ready for the 4 hour chilling..
Small person was disappointed I wouldn't let her eat the sticky stuff from the whole saucepan. (She got the spatula). It was pretty tasty.

Making shortbread

So  The caramel is chilling in the fridge, time to make shortbread.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. I skipped the salt because I picked up the wrong butter at the shop (despite the special trip to get it... I managed to pick up the salted, not the unsalted butter. Sigh.)

Cream your butter and raw caster sugar..
 until fluffy.
 Add in the egg and olive oil. This uses olive oil for a lighter flavour. I only had the fruity kind of olive oil, but will buy the lighter style of olive oil next time.
 Looks good to me... bit soft though.
 Hmm. The dough was super soft. I almost added extra flour I was kind of worried about it. I thought since it was going to get put in the freezer for 2 hours it would firm up.
 (..Insert Scooby hands..)

So it's 2 hours later. Time to go into the oven.
 Yep, no cutting out here, whole giant biscuit goes in for 20 minutes or so. I like this lazy approach.
 Once it's just out, you cut it up and then let it cool. This was very neat way of making perfect shaped biscuits.
 Time to get the caramel out and make matching sized bits of caramel. It's about 3-5 mm thick.

Now for the messy bit. I forgot to take a picture of  me melting the chocolate and of them all lined up assembled before covering in chocolate.. but  this was pretty much what happened.
It was pretty messy, and more like icing a large number of small cakes than the artful drizzling the photo in the book promised, but we got there.
We were a little short on chocolate (I bought 200g block, not 250g) but all except one got covered.
 Into the fridge to set.
 And time for dessert!
 Inside.. caramel meets shortbread slathered in chocolate.

Things I learned from this recipe:

  • Buy the unsalted butter. Yes, they were right next to each other, but still. 
  • Use "light" flavour olive oil. After making the dough, I could still tasty the olive oil (though it was gone on cooking).
  • Making caramel from scratch is kind of scary and more physically demanding than I would have guessed. A long time standing up and an awful lot of bicep building (muscle power really not my thing).


Yummy, though more hassle than I was anticipating!  They are pretty fiddly. More a special occasion biscuit than a "have some for guests" biscuit.

I can't shake the feeling that I spent many hours making a nicer version of those cheap toffee chocolate biscuits. Good though. Possibly nostalgic.

Guest opinions:

Only one 'guest' has tried one so far. His opinion is "too busy for him". As in, too much going on. He did note he'd happily eat the caramel and shortbread separately though. 

I found them quite nice. The caramel has just the right amount of give, and the shortbread is soft but not too crumbly. The dark chocolate sets of the sweetness of the caramel nicely.

Next: I'm thinking maybe another meal is in order?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meal One, Part Two: Dessert edition

Ahhh dessert, that siren singing you to your doom for the sweet tooth-ed people like myself. I once noted to my mother that if sugar (or more specifically, chocolate) didn’t have calories, I would eat it all day long.

So when I saw a recipe for a Liquid centre chocolate pudding in Heston Blumenthal at Home, I knew it was a chance to try a great dessert and try to emulate (but not replicate) a similar dessert I had at Must Winebar in Margaret River that I had on our honeymoon.

Now, this looked to me much like a chocolate fondant. (The dessert, not the gooey stuff you get inside boxed chocolates).  The key difference seemed to be (other than this being served in a ceramic ramekin rather than on a plate) that this one uses a ganache filling to stop any chance of overcooking and not getting that perfect gooey centre of a fondant. Even the recipes seem, on the whole almost identical.

But hey let’s give it a go.

Steps to be taken:

  1. Make chocolate ganache and chill for 2 hours
  2. Make pudding mix
  3. Cut out plugs of ganache
  4. Put plugs in ramekins and fill with pudding mix
  5. Chill for another hour
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
So the other thing worth of noting is that the recipe calls for a prestigious amount of chocolate – more than half a kilo for 6 people all told. About half of that goes into the ganache.

Right, so let’s look at how that went.

Take your rather huge pile of chocolate, and melt over a double boiler. I used a combination of Lindt 70% and Green & Black’s 70% chocolate. No real reason beyond there not being enough Lindt at the supermarket. Thank goodness it was on sale, because 6 blocks of chocolate is a lot. The chocolate for this dish ended up costing more than my free range chicken!

  At the same time, warm up your cream and some milk.
Once the chocolate is melted, pour in the cream and start mixing.

Initially it might look a bit weird but this is okay, keep mixing and it will get better.
Keep mixing until its all smooth and nice. See? Much better.
Add unsalted butter. (See what I mean last post about Heston just adding butter to everything?)
 Let it cool to room temperature.

Heston has you pour it into a “deep-sided container” until it is 3cm deep. I checked my bowl. Since this seemed to meet the criteria, I just left it as is.
Here is where I look at the size cutter you are supposed to use to cut out the 6 plugs of ganache. I think there is something seriously wrong with the volume of ganache you make – you are going to have a huge amount left over. Hmm..

You then chill for 2 hours. I decided to chill mine overnight, since I was going to have a lot to do in the morning, and didn’t want to be rushing.

So you pull the ganache out and cut out little cylinders of ganache, one for each ramekin. Incidentally, the recipe calls for 5cm diameter ramekins, and a 2 cm cutter. The 5cm ramekins would be tiny. You don't often get them that small and mine are standard souffle 10cm dishes, so that's what we used. And a 3cm cutter to help balance it all out. Oh and made five puddings, not six because that's how many guests there were.

 So this is where I realised that freezing overnight, not just for two hours was a problem. It was hard. Really hard. We tried heating the cutter in hot water but that just didn't help.I tried cutting it with a sharp heated knife. No go.

Husband and my Mum decided to help.
Husband heating the cutter over the gas flame..
Husband using brute force.

They got them out, but partly I suspect because by then it had softened up a lot. If making it ahead of time, I'd take it out of the freezer and let it defrost slightly before trying this. Or, just make it on the day and only freeze for 2 hours like your supposed to. (rolls eyes).

There is a massive amount of ganache left over, seriously you could make 1/3 the mix easy and just put in a suitable bowl. Such a waste. I stuck it in the freezer to work with later. Anyway, the ramekins are ready now for me to make the pudding mix.
Time for more chocolate! Melt another ridiculous quantity of chocolate (diabetics would go into shock I'm sure..) with a nearly whole pack of butter. Add token quantities of flour and a little salt.

 Whisk eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

Fold in the egg mix to the chocolate mix, a 1/3 at a time.

 Fill up your ramekins with their little ganache towers.
 Freeze for an hour (conveniently while you finish making your roast lunch).
As you're finishing your lunch put the ramekins straight into the oven for about 15 minutes.

 Mmmm.. Pudding..

Made better with Salted Caramel icecream..

And proof of lava-esque liquid filling.


These were great, though very rich. So much so that only my husband was able to finish his. Of course mine were 10cm diameter ones, not 5cm so perhaps that's why - but then the volume of mix would have been perfect for six 10cm diameter ramekins. Either way, I think there was either an error in the size of the ramekins you were supposed to use, or in the volume of both ganache and pudding mix. If making 5cm diameter puddings I think that it would have made 10-12 of them without too many problems. (And probably a better amount per person!)
I'm still unsure if they were in truth much of an improvement over the standard fondant recipe, but then I suspect they would be more stable (and can be prepared an hour ahead) which I guess is in their favour.

Guest opinions:

Well received and husband noted they were quite similar to the ones we had on our honeymoon. Mum's very much enjoyed theirs but they (and my daughter and I) found them very delicious, but too large a serving. 
I'd make them again.

Next: I'm not sure. Probably a simple dish as a breather. Maybe a soup?