What I’ve been up to… (Photo post)

Although my life is mostly just work, not sleeping and then sleeping as much as possible with a bit of eating thrown in, I occasionally get the chance to get out in the fresh air. Although I have to squint in daylight these days as I see little of it, I’ve managed to take the odd picture, so here’s a few I’ve taken in the last few months that I rather like!

 

There were afternoon teas and the odd stay at the fabulous Ariel house

Art tea at the Merrion

Art tea at the Merrion

Cake for guests at Ariel house!

Cake for guests at Ariel house!

 

Ariel house afternoon tea, 10/10 if not 11/10/

Ariel house afternoon tea (there was so much we took up two tables), 10/10 if not 11/10…

 

Mount Juliet afternoon tea

Mount Juliet afternoon tea

 

 

There was beach and animal time:

I think she's happy I'm home

I think she’s happy I’m home

Walks on the beach with the dogs

Walks on the beach with the dogs

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Run to Mutton Island

Layla is really into this show

Layla is really into this show

Horses on the beach Smiling lamb anyone?

Sunset in April

Sunset in April

 

Granny and Layla are besties

Granny and Layla are besties

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Existential dog.

Over the rainbow

Over the rainbow

 

There were a few travels and hikes

A rare saturday off meant a lovely hike in Wicklow :)

A rare saturday off meant a lovely hike in Wicklow :)

Vancouver Island.

Wally creeek, Vancouver Island.

Long beach, Tofino.

Long beach, Tofino.

Hiking in Vancouver. The Chief. It's pretty high. Made it though.

Hiking in Vancouver. The Chief. It’s pretty high. Made it though.

Tofino house on the water

Tofino: House on the water

 

Pronounce this.

Pronounce this.

And there were a few birthdays and celebrations!

My sister's 21st!

My sister’s 21st! There will be dancing

Wedding 2014

Wedding 2014

 

 

So that’s a bit of  a snapshot of my life lately. It’s not terribly exciting mind you, but I’ve been enjoying my time off! Anyone else been doing anything special in the last 6 months?

Dark Chocolate & Salted Caramel Macarons.

Also known as how to make everyone flock to your table at cheetah-like speed.

Dark chocolate and salted caramel macarons

Dark chocolate and salted caramel macarons

I was a latecomer to the macaron craze. I had never so much as sniffed a macaron until halfway through my degree when the lovely Emily brought a selection of macarons to a valentines party. Well myself and the macarons had quite the time, and from then on I began researching how one would construct such delights at home.

I have read many a post, book, article about these and have come to one conclusion: Macarons are some pernickity things to try and cook. To really stress my point, I had two trayfuls of macarons with this mix. I left them for the same amount of time before putting them in the oven. However, due to lack of space I decided to use the two ovens- conventional and fan. Well. The conventional oven produced cracked, anaemic looking horrors of things (I suspect despite my adjusting the oven, it was too cool). The fan oven produced surprisingly decent looking and better tasting examples, although the feet weren’t quite right to me, but I shan’t be too upset.

Then, the next batch that materialised went two different trays. The batch I cooked on a (wilton) cookie sheet with non stick baking paper came out well. The batch I cooked on a (wilton) baking tray were stunted! So very very pernickety!

Now, the next confession is that I took a lovely shortcut and used dulce de leche which I then added some maldon salt instead of making caramel from scratch with the butter and shenanigans. It worked a treat. To whomever discovered salt with caramel, I salute you. I salute you so, so much.

Here’s what I made..

Double chocolate salted caramel macarons

The recipe is one that I’ve been working on for a while. The first few batches were too heavy, so reduced the almonds just a tad. I saw the caster sugar added into the meringue in a recipe and it seems to work well for me, seems to stabilise the egg whites a bit.
I make these at least 1-2 days ahead to give everything time to mesh and for the consistency to be right.

Without further ado

Recipe:
100g egg whites (older is better)
30g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
175g icing sugar
15g cocoa powder
Pinch maldon salt

Salted caramel
Dulce de leche – 1 tin
about 1 tsp sea salt- maldon, or adjust to taste.

Ganache
220g cream
220g chocolate – I use 55%, broken into pieces
60g butter

Method

  • Put about half of your icing sugar and the ground almonds in the food processor and blitz a few times until its quite fine. The icing sugar helps with this process, otherwise the almonds are a bit oily really. Then mix that in with your cocoa (sieved) and the rest of your icing sugar.
  • I use a clean metal or glass bowl to whip the egg whites. I rub this with a cut lemon before adding the whites to remove any trace of oil/grease.
  • Add your egg whites to the bowl and whip until they form soft peaks. Add in the caster sugar and whip until glossy, and the mixture forms stiff peaks.
  • Add in the icing sugar/almond/cocoa mixture in 3-4 parts, folding with a metal spoon until fully incorporated.
  • Add the mixture to an icing bag fitted with a large round nozzle.
  • Pipe the mixture on a flat tray in small circles. As I said, I found the best results with a wilton baking sheet and non stick baking paper.
  • Sprinkle a very small amount of maldon salt on each.
  • Give the tray a few taps on the table or solid work surface to get rid of any air bubbles.
  • Let sit out in your kitchen until the macarons no longer feel sticky ot tacky to touch. This took ages in my home kitchen, but only about 25 mins in the house I’m living in at the minute, so just keep an eye on them.
  • Bake in a preheated oven, 150 degrees (my oven was set to 130 which is usually actually 150 degrees and it worked well, for about 14 minutes. The macaron should come off the paper easily when done, if you find it sticking, it probably needs another minute or two, just be careful not to burn them! (Heartbreaking when that happens)
  • Turn out onto wire tray and cool.

Now you can make your delicious filling.

  • The dulce de leche – I just added it to a pan, warmed it and added the salt to taste.

I described the ganache recipe here, but basically:

  • Heat the cream in a pan until hot but not boiling.
  • Pour over your broken chocolate, give it about 30-45 seconds and start stirring.
  • The heat of the milk should melt the chocolate.
  • Stir in your softened butter.
  • Leave to cool until it reaches a thick consistency, but has not fully set. I pipe this so it needs to be pretty pliable.

Putting it all together:

  • I match up the macaron shells so that the size matches – I sometimes get a few that aren’t the exact same size.
  • On one half I pipe a circle of salted caramel.
  • On the other I pipe a decent circle of ganache.
  • Sandwich the two together and there you have it.

Now this is the other trick to macarons. They need time to all fuse and for the filling to melt into the shells. Eating them straight after filling is always a disappointment. However eating them the next day is heaven. So leave them for a day and let them settle, and you won’t regret it. Enjoy!

 

Also, y’all haven’t been introduced to Layla, who we’ve had for over a year now. THIS is Layla and she is adorable.

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PS. I’ve been trying to get this blog up and running for ages, but I have been working an insane amount (See here to get an idea of what is happening these days..). I’m hoping to get a few bits and pieces up over next few weeks though.

Double chocolate chip cookies

Well, it’s been a while. I’ve given up a large amount of my blog time in order to sleep in the last few months (job, exams, life has been taking over), but I have been swearing to myself that I would actually do some baking and manage to take some pictures and write something on this abandoned blog.

Here’s the thing. It is November, and I am firmly of the opinion that (gulp- the C word) Christmas does not begin in August/September/October/November. I have a rule that after The Late Late Toy Show I do enjoy Christmas, but I won’t make the Christmas effort until December! Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore Christmas, but 4 months of jingle bells does not a happy camper make. However, given that I have a few days of annual leave now and I have a ridiculous amount of stuff to get done in December that will likely not include baking/photography for the most part, I’m adding to my Christmas gift giving series. Previous ideas for edible loveliness can be found here.

Part of the reason giving baked goods to extended family/friends works well for me (apart from the complete happiness baking it brings) is that I am quite possibly the worst person for buying presents early for people, being ridiculously excited about them, and then giving them to people 2 days later on the 10th of December. I then have to start the process again, find a different present and try to forget about it. But I love giving people presents. I love getting presents too but that’s a whole other story. Speaking of stories, let’s begin to examine the days of shopping for Christmas presents. These usually go something like this…. (Cue fuzzy dissolve screen to a wet, cold and blustery December day in town)

Part one: The beginning.

The date was December 21st. With a heavy purse (Air. And I.O.Us. And lots of 2c coins) and a light heart I hopped out of the car only to be blown halfway across the carpark and into a rather agitated looking lady with two children anxiously clutching selection boxes for fear they’d be taken away before Christmas eve. Santa was not getting any of these tiny chocolate bars. I sheepishly apologised and managed to struggle against the wind back to my car, ignoring the mittens, papers and odd small child flying around in the gale. Well, I thought to myself, it’s a challenge but at least it feels like Christmas!

The fairy lights were lit, the Christmas music was seeping out of every warmly lit shop window, and a formidable queue of human traffic edged through every small space. The smell of mince pies radiated through the air. The magical edge was somewhat blunted by the screaming children, very grumpy parents and the general war at the tills, not to mention the impressive use of paper shopping bags as battering rams, but oblivious to such things I skipped to the nearest shop, flashing the salesperson a winning smile that implied I would indeed be spending my hard earned pennies in their terrific premises. The smile faded, however, when I realised that it may be a bit late in the day for some decent Christmas shopping. It appeared the once well stocked shelves were now full of bits of tissue paper, quite a significant amount of dust, and a lone DVD, which was quickly pulled away by a rather desperate looking man who hissed at me, threw some money at the disgruntled looking salesperson, and clutching the spoils of his labour quickly exited the shop, muttering something that sounded distinctly like ‘my precious’. I stood for a minute, considered whether my sister would in fact enjoy a piece of tissue paper, but decided against it on the whole. Cutting my losses, I (less eagerly) strolled into the next store, catching one infant mid air and handing it back to a worried looking father who looked slightly disappointed with the return of his child. Well it quickly transpired that I may have been a little too relaxed in my waiting until Christmas week before starting my shopping, for potential presents were disappearing before my eyes. Doing my usual run through Penneys I witnessed a hunger games-esque fight between two girls over a hot water bottle with an admittedly adorable cover that looked like a sheep (oh the things they come up with). It appeared to be the last one, and clearly it was quite the commodity. Backing away slowly in order not to frighten them into turning on me, I decided that the best thing to do would be to pop in to the supermarket pick up a few bits and pieces for baking day…

End of part one. See my next post for the thrilling part 2 of this Christmas baking mini series. I know, I know, it’s more exciting than the finale of breaking bad. In the meantime however, I give you quite possibly one of the easiest and most rewarding recipes I own.

Cookies and milk

P.S. Lovely board is from M & N design, Sligo based company. Bought it months ago and finally using it. Beautiful. (www.mandnfurnituredesign.com)

Double chocolate chip cookies. Eat with milk for comfort level infinity.

You will need

    115g butter
    1 egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    130g flour
    50g caster sugar
    100g light golden sugar
    30g cocoa
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    170g white chocolate chips/buttons

Makes… quite a few. I can get 20-30 medium sized out of this pretty easily.

    1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees celcius.
    2. Prepare your baking tray/cookie sheet. I really like the non stick mats for this as the sugar tends to make things stick. Otherwise good baking paper does the trick!
    3. Melt the butter. Add your (room temperature) egg and vanilla extract.
    4. Mix the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking soda in a large bowl.
    5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
    6. Stir in your white chocolate chips.
    7. Place small teaspoons of the mixture on your pre prepared baking tray. These spread out significantly so leave plenty of room between. You’ll most likely have 2-4 batches to bake.
    8. Place in oven for 8 minutes. Depending on your oven you may need an extra minute. They will be soft coming out of the oven, that’s ok. No panicking allowed here.
    9. Let the cookies begin to cool on the tray. Once they’ve started to become a bit more solid you can remove them with a spatula to a wire tray to cool.

    Be still my beating heart

    Be still my beating heart

    That is pretty much it, extremely easy recipe and pretty rewarding overall! Happiness is. Enjoy with a glass of milk- and don’t forget to keep some for Santa.

    Anybody have any good Christmas shopping stories?

Growing up in the West of Ireland chronicles: Bonfire night.

Hello there. I’ve been MIA for a while, mainly a result of my working and being a grown up (worse luck). That I won’t bore you with, but I have put into words another wee tale of growing up in the wild west of Ireland.

Bonfire night. Once a year all of the neighbours would convene upon the seashore, where weeks of annual clean outs had produced piles of bric-a-brac that were piled up to enormous heights, mostly teetering dangerously to one side. There was one purpose to this meet up and one purpose alone. There was a bonfire to be lit.

IMG_1872 small

Naturally the night would start in quite a reserved fashion. People would greet each other and chat. Children would approach each other and quietly play around the seashore. A few of the men would start pecking around the pile, rearranging sticks and broken chairs and politely asking each other to catch this or throw that over. Setting the pile into something that could be lit was a task they would undertake with vigour. Once the acceptable standard had been reached (i.e. semi stable) and all small children had been plucked from it, they would proudly stand back and survey their handiwork, pour some lighter fluid or some such on it (Dad managed to dispose of a lot of Mum’s soup this way- it’s actually known to be explosive in large quantities) and wait for it to be lit. Therein lay the problem, as every year without fail nobody thought to bring matches. Well I and some comrades, fresh out of an Enid Blyton book, clearly knew the solution to this conundrum was to find some flint and/or a magnifying glass with which to create a flame, and set about looking for these around the seashore. Naturally this took some effort as we were on a rather wet beach at night, and if we had been lucky enough to find either of aforementioned prizes, they would have been about as much use as a referee at a Dublin/Meath match. The adults, on the other hand, had a slightly more fruitful idea of asking everyone present if they had a lighter or matches. Naturally nobody ever did, and it inevitably led to Dad running back to the car (parked some distance away to save it getting set on fire. Again.) and driving the whole way home to search for matches. Naturally he would be gone a total of 45 seconds when 7 boxes of matches would simultaneously appear. I don’t think Dad ever actually made the lighting of the bonfire as he was always off scouting for something to light it with. Well as soon as it was lit a quiet hush would descend upon the crowd. For 24 seconds. Then the buzz of voices would rise above the crackling and the polite beginnings would descend unto the madness that only a crowd of people around a fire in the west of Ireland can aspire to.

The boxes full of penguin bars, coke, orange and no fewer than 147 bags of crisps would appear. Jim (Peter’s dad) would start setting up a pile of bricks to turn into a barbecue and suddenly 14 boxes of burgers, 35 packets of sausages and one lonely veggie burger would materialise. They set about cooking them like pros. Within a half hour, children would be running around with plastic cups filled with something fizzy, turning them from somewhat manageable if bratty beings into something that resembled the worst of super nanny. Naturally nobody cared because you just left them to it. Mothers were happy in the knowledge that they’d reappear in the next few days (weeks if you broke out the sherbet), soft drink hangover present and most likely somewhat hungry after surviving on seaweed in their sugar filled psychoses. They would usher them in the direction of the growing crowd of other children, who were clambering on the famous rock that was for jumping off, and bask in the luxury of chatting to the other neighbours.

The rock was the natural assembly point, being the place that was the highest point, with the exception of the burning pyre, which most had a fair idea not to climb onto. It was the guts of 15 foot high, or so it seemed when you were 5. In actual fact it comes up to my knee now, but at the time clambering onto that rock and jumping off it seemed like something MacGyver would hardly have attempted. Each year the first few children would stand around, hands in pocket, blade of grass in their mouth. ‘I don’t know now Jimmy, it certainly seems like a risky operation’. ‘Well it is Michael, but let’s face it, it’s a rock that was made for jumping off’ ‘Do you know Jimmy, you’re right there, can’t be helped really. And sure I’ve been watching Captain Planet and they’re forever jumping off things, not to mention those ninja turtles’. They’d roll back their sleeves, let out an almighty roar and gallop towards it at a speed Shergar couldn’t have matched. A less than orderly line would form. With bated breath we’d peer down from the top of it, terrified to take the leap – ‘Don’t rush me!’ But jump off it we did, with an affinity for jumping off things as only children who grew up in the nineties had.

Eventually our adventures at the rock would progress to an innocent wander over towards the mucky realms of the water’s edge. When the tide was out, it was a sloppy muddy swamp that would envelop your foot with a satisfying shluuuup, taking wellies prisoner and eating the runners of the poor kid whose mother forgot the wellies. He was to stay shoeless for 2 and a half weeks, until there was ‘a sale on at Cordners, I can’t afford to be buying you new shoes if you’re not going to look after them. Sure what did you need to go stamping around in the muck for anyway!’ Our faltering nervously on the brink of the muddy bank would eventually escalate into outwardly pushing kids into the muck, normally limited to the boys but often a somewhat less manic girl would be unfortunately caught in the crossfire and unwittingly end up amidst the pile of mud covered ruffians who had already met their doom. Every so often an adult would be startled by the sudden appearance of a pair of eyes in front of the barbecue, the rest of their mud coloured unrecogniseable faces blending into the dusk, would quickly deposit a burger or sausage in an outstretched hand, and like a flash (only slower and less dramatic) the child (presumably) would disappear.

As the night drew on, the more exhausted families would grab what they thought to be the correct children as they zoomed by, and holding them by the feet at arms length, would attempt to deposit them into the car. A meeting point would be agreed upon to redistribute the mix ups after they were hosed down the next day and it became clearer who was who, but as long as you had the right amount of children in tow it all seemed to work out pretty well. Except, of course, for that one child who was still stuck in the mud, but generally somebody tossed him a burger and he had a wee snooze until it got light again and a slightly worse for wear parent showed up embarrassedly the following morning. For years a number of children believed this was a treat called camping, and had never heard of a tent until they became old enough to go to Oxygen.

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As the crowd diminished, and the spare pile of kindling grew smaller, pallets and tyres would become seats, everyone would gravitate towards the fire, and in a semi circle, people would sit and bask in the warmth. Then, with Jim brandishing a guitar, someone would begin to hum, and without any warning Marion would produce a keyboard from some magical bag, and Padraig would whip out a bodhran. Without fail the group would launch into a lively rendition of ‘Oh when the saints’, to be followed of course by ‘The rattlin’ bog’ which lasted for at least 45 minutes if not an hour. While most people sang, Dad graced others with jokes. I use the term lightly considering he had some issues with remembering the punchlines, a trait he’s famous for in these parts. This would continue well into the wee hours until the voices or the drink or the fire ran out, whichever two came first. Then the annual torch search would begin fruitlessly, and in the end we’d just give up and walk home in the early morning light, the youngest getting a piggy back ride and the older kids fuelled on by the dregs of the fizzy drinks. Despite some fuzzy heads on the older (Mostly. Well, let’s say 12+) attendees, we’d all manage to meet up the next day and participate in a good clean up of the shore. Dad would have a 4th attempt at telling the same joke and occasionally even make it to the end without forgetting the punchline, and we’d be happy in the knowledge that we had a whole year to learn more than the same three songs for around the fire. Life was good.

Sweet Sugar Waffles for dessert… (book eats 3)

Also probably The book eats 3!

Growing up in Ireland, where to the Irish person waffles are the infamous potato waffles, I didn’t get much exposure to the american or belgian style waffles. I had, of course, read and heard about them for years due to my obsession with reading as a child, and my local library’s supply of babysitter’s club and sweet valley books. Despite their ‘athletic build’ they seemed to live on a diet of waffles and pot roast, both of which I was unfamiliar with. So I thought it was high time to do something about the lack of waffles in my life and after a number of attempts, this is the one that I’m sticking with! Now one of the things that had put me off making waffles was this awkward process of separating and beating egg whites until peaked (not to mention I didn’t have the patience for proving with the yeast types) and such, however, recently OXO sent me out a whisk to try out. Remember those old fashioned contraptions there you turn a wee wheel and two beaters whizz around, getting stuck every so often but that your granny insisted was the best thing to whip the cream for the trifle? Yes, that type. Only they’re really quite fabulous. It’s a really smooth mechanism and it whips those egg whites into soft peaks before you can say ‘bloody whisk’ and throw it across the room.


On to the recipe.

4 large eggs, separated. Make sure no yolk gets in the white!
250g flour (I use cream
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
50g sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
60g butter (unsalted pref) melted
500mls milk at room temp or even slightly warm (otherwise the butter will solidify when you mix them)

1. Turn on your waffle maker to medium high
2. Mix your dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, salt
3. Beat your egg yolks with all but 1 tbsp of the sugar until pale and creamy.
4. Add the vanilla, butter and milk and whisk well.
5. Add the flour mixture to this and mix nicely until there are no big lumps. A few wee ones are ok.
6. Beat your egg whites until they start to hold a shape. Then sprinkle over your last tbsp of sugar and beat again until they form soft peaks.
7. Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then add the rest of your egg whites and carefully fold in until just mixed. Don’t overmix or the pancakes will end up super flat and rather disappointing.

Cooking the waffles
A. Make sure your waffle iron is preheated
B. Take some oil spray or non stick spray (use melted butter or oil if you have none) and lightly spritz your 2 sides of your waffle iron.
C. Put spoonfuls of the mix onto your waffle iron and close. I’d go less rather than more until you figure out the right amount to avoid major spillages.
D. A good way to tell if the waffles are done is if the steam coming out has reduced a lot. My waffle maker doesn’t have an ‘I’m done’ signal. Sin e!


Serve with syrup, lashings of nutella, sliced fruit and/or ice cream.

Chocolate Mousse

Hello you…

Going from being a broke student to a broke jobholder has it’s perks. For one, I have slightly more disposable income. I mean slightly, you’d all have heartattacks if you knew how much my student loans add up to, and that means more work for me, so I won’t tell you. So on my first week of holidays, as tempting as it was to just spend the entire time sleeping, I decided I’d go visit Paris instead. I’ve always wanted to go, and it worked out pretty reasonable heading over midweek, so off I trotted with my tiny handluggage and went walkabouts around Paris. It was lovely weather and I just had a really nice time wandering around eating pastries until the cows came home*.

Anywho, one of the desserts (yes, *one* of) I treated myself to was a chocolate mousse. And it was rather fantastic, and so I started searching for a recipe for me to make my own infinite supply of yummy chocolate mousse. Now usually I’d turn to Ms. Julia Child for these things, but her book was upstairs, and I’m nothing if not lazyarsed, so a quick search led me to David Lebovitz’s version of Julia Child’s mousse. Hello, perfect recipe. I decided to give it a try, and lo and behold, it went down a treat. Even my mother ate some, which in itself is the all encompassing proof that this recipe is a keeper. A few work colleagues (Lisa being one, naturally) also had some with good feedback, and I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty sure it cured one person of manflu (Lisa’s OH). Seriously. I could actually be on to something here. I didn’t change much of the recipe, but I liked how mine came out- the original is from here, and fabulous, and you should try this one. Now. Also, if you put a tiny bit of orange zest in, you may just melt altogether.

Couldn’t resist

170g 70% chocolate
170g unsalted butter
60mls coffee
4 large eggs, separated
170g sugar + 1 tbsp
1/2 tbsp rum
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

What to do:
1. Melt the chocolate, butter and coffee in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
2. Prepare a large bowl full of ice water
3. In another bowl, which fits on that saucepan up there of barely simmmering water, add your egg yolks, sugar (minus the tbsp), rum and water. Whisk this over the heat until it gets thick (described as runny mayo in the original). Then pop it off the heat and into your bowl of ice water. Beat it until cool and thick. Add vanilla.
4. Add the chocolate mixture to the yolk mixture and fold in until just incorporated.
5. In a separate, clean bowl, make sure there’s no dirt, grease or an egg yolk in sight, whip the egg whites and salt until frothy. Then sprinkle in your sugar and beat until glossy and thick- but not quite to stiff peaks.
6. Add 1/3 of egg whites to the chocolatey yolky mixture to lighten it.
7. Very carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites until JUST mixed. Be gentle, we want bubbly mousse.
8. Transfer into serving glasses or jars. I made 5 little jars and 6 serving glasses with the amount this makes. Yummy.
9. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. I left them overnight as it hadn’t quite set in the 4 hours to be honest!

Bubbles. Delectable.


Eat. Enjoy. It’s yummilicious!

*Note- the only cow I saw was on a plate. And it was delicious.

Salted Caramels – The Book Eats 2 and a very well received gift.

I’m not going to lie. These are my new pride and joy. Well, they may be neck in neck with the brownies. And the devils food cake. And the cookies. Hmmm. I see what’s happening here. Oh dear. Well I do like cooking. Anywho, so as you all know, my blog is much neglected in the last few months. I *have* been cooking the odd time, but I had camera issues first, and then I got into a run of call and was basically completely wrecked and airheaded for the last 8 weeks, as Lisa could tell you (Lisa is a mad GAA fan and dochtúir I work{ed:(} with, and the best craic ever. She has also been chief sampler of all treats brought to work. Hi Lisa!). Actually we both had our days. I have also discovered that my talents do not extend to working out people’s ages based on their date of birth. I just cannot do it. Mental block. Or just plain thick. On the other hand Lisa did repeatedly attempt to exit a door by pressing a light switch… Heh.

But back to the main point. I have been working 3 months. THREE! It honestly seems like 3 weeks. But every 3 months we are forced out of our current job that we have just settled into and thrown into a new job where we have to learn everything new. SIGH. Well at least I don’t have to move county- there are a few jobs where you have to up and move house every 3 months. That would drive me completely mad. I’ve been exceptionally lucky though, I’ve had the nicest team ever to work with, I’ve learned LOADS, and I’ve had a really nice time! So on my last day I had to bring in something extra special, and as I’ve said I’ve been thinking of doing more of my ‘Book Eats‘ series. My love for Enid Blyton’s Faraway tree stories is well documented on this blog. It may have had a large part to play in my infatuation with toffee, although there is most certainly some genetic influence there, given that my mother has a tendency to physically attack anybody that comes within an arse’s roar of her toffee supply. But it seemed that the children were quite adept at making toffee in the book, which they then gifted to Moonface and Silky. Well, I thought that it would be rather lovely to bring in to all of my co-workers on my last day as a wee thank you, and so I set to work to find a recipe I hadn’t already tried and failed miserably at. Spurred on by that fact that children were apparently able to whip up a batch at a moments notice, I threw myself into the task. The recipe I based this on was from my most beloved of cookbooks- Darina Allen’s Forgotten skills of cooking, but I’ve edited it quite a bit to make it a tad more to my liking. WIthout further ado, I give you my newest favourite sweet treat:

The sun was setting when I was taking pictures and all of a sudden the light just changed and it was so pretty!

Salted Caramels
You will need:

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tin of condensed milk (14oz)
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon salt
  • 300g chocolate (55% but go 70% if that’s what you prefer!)
  • 1 tbsp maldon salt for sprinkling
  • What to do:
    1. Grease and line a tin with silicone paper or another non stick substance. I used a large swiss roll tin which fills about perfectly.
    2. Melt the butter over medium heat.
    3. Add the sugar, 1/2 tsp of maldon salt, and golden syrup and stir well until mixed.
    4. Add the tin of condensed milk and stir.
    5. Continue stirring over a medium heat until it begins to bubble and turn a glorious browny caramel colour. Don’t stop stirring until you are pouring it into your tin!
    6. Now. When is it done. In the book it says when it reaches a hard crack stage. However, my trusty thermometer has been put back on the shelf for this particular recipe. I’ve been using colour and the ice water test as a guide. The ice water test- fill a bowl with ice cold water and when you think your caramel/toffee is getting near the done stage, drop a spoonful into the water. Give it a second and test it for consistency. For this recipe I went with a semi soft type of consistency- chewy but squishy, if you get me. It’s not quite toffee like, but if it got much longer it would be!
    7. Pour into your prepared tin and leave to set.
    TIP: To clean saucepan you need hot water. I usually fill it up with warm soapy water and pop it back on the hob for a few mins until the caramel scrapings soften up and are easily wiped off. Saves a lot of elbow grease.
    8. When your toffee is set (could take a few hours), turn it out onto a chopping board, cut it up as you wish- I use a ruler and pizza cutter (oiled) to do the lenthwise cuts, and a scissors to cut each length into little bits of lovely caramel heaven.

    This is the colour you should get to. You can see a few wee bits where I didn’t stir well enough, oops. No harm!



    9. Melt your chocolate (I use a bowl over simmering water).
    10. The tedious part. Dip each of your sweets in chocolate and leave on a non stick mat or wire tray to set. It takes me 3 trays to fit them all! Before any of them set – I do this in batches, crush up your maldon salt flakes and sprinkle a little on each chocolate. This is really important as you can barely taste the salt we added to the actual caramel, and this way, I feel, works much better for taste!

    Leave to set (If you can), and pack them into little gift bags or boxes. This is a really nice Christmas present idea for those of you that tend to give the homemade variety of gifts, and is very cost effective too!

    Hello you…


    Try not to eat them all. It is difficult. SO difficult. So good. I’m off to.. eh.. test a few now, see how well they hold up after a day. Seeing as my first batch didn’t last for the day at all!

    Enjoy these ones, they’re a wee bit special I think!