Boozy billionaire’s shortbread

While there are certain recipes which I love, are always popular and are fun to bake, it’s very rare that I’ll make the same thing twice as there are just so many other recipes waiting to be tried.

Millionaire’s shortbread is a classic example – almost everyone I know loves it, and I like making it as there are several elements involved which makes it a bit more fun than a simple biscuit or cake – but I’ve done it before, more than once.

Still, when I wanted to bake something for the office a couple of weekends ago, millionaire’s shortbread was the one thing on my mind, and so I decided to turn to the universal solution to almost any problem – add alcohol.

There are quite a few variations on ‘billionaire’s shortbread’ if you search for it – salted caramel, white chocolate and peanut butter all feature – but I think I have come up with a real winning combination that seriously takes the traditional treat to a whole new level.

It starts with a shortbread base, but chocolate rather than plain. Then instead of a regular old caramel, I boozed it up with a salted rum caramel. Oh my – it was good! Then it’s finished off with a milk chocolate topping, with just a little added salt to counter the sweetness.

These are 100% better than the original, and went down very well with my taste testers. The flavour of the rum is most definitely there, but it isn’t overpowering, and ditto with the salt.

I loved these so much that I may even have to break my rule and bake them again, exactly the same…

Boozy billionaire’s shortbread (adapted from here)

For the base:

  • 130g butter
  • 150g flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 55g caster sugar

For the caramel and topping:

  • 400g condensed milk
  • 115g butter
  • 40g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp rum (I used Havana Club Anejo Especial, but any golden or spiced would be good)
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • Salt to taste

For the base, rub the butter into the flour until it reached a breadcrumb-like consistency, then stir in the cocoa powder and sugar. This could also be done in the food processor if you want to speed things up! Press into the base of a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin and bake at 180 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until just starting to crisp up.

While the base cools, make the caramel. Heat the condensed milk, butter and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until it starts to bubble and thicken and turn a lovely golden brown. Once it’s pretty much ready, add the salt and the rum, one 1/2 tbsp at a time until it tastes right to you – I like a fair amount of salt and rum, you might want to go more subtle. Pour the caramel over the base and leave to set.

Finally, melt the chocolate and add a little more salt to taste. Spread this in an even layer over the set caramel, then leave again. Once the chocolate has firmed up, remove from the tin and cut into squares.

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Salted caramel aubergine chocolate torte (GF)

Sorry for the slightly long title, but I really needed to include all the key elements of this cake so you know what we’re talking about.

First up, I lied – it’s not a cake. It it deliciously dense and squidgy, it sinks in the middle – it’s definitely a torte.

It’s chocolate. Super chocolate. But it also has probably the weirdest vegetable I’ve baked with replacing any butter or oil – aubergine.

And then there’s the salted caramel. What dessert isn’t improved by salted caramel?!

This is really a hybrid of two recipes from Green and Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes – Harry Eastwood’s Heartache Cake, which I’ve made before, and a Velvet Salted Caramel Torte.

To make sure the caramel layer would stay in place and not mix in with the cake batter, I tweaked Harry’s recipe to whisk the egg whites separately and fold them into the mix last, so it would hold the weight of the caramel.

It worked – you can’t see too clearly in the photos, but there was a definite layer of caramel, and it took a great chocolate torte to another level – so, so good!

Seriously, don’t be put off by the aubergine, or the hassle of making caramel, it really is worth it – if only I could have another slice now…

Salted caramel aubergine chocolate torte (adapted from the Heartache Cake and Velvet Salted Caramel Torte in Green and Black’s Ultimate Chocolate Recipes)

For the caramel:

  • 90g caster sugar
  • 45ml water
  • 60g butter
  • 60ml double cream
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (or more if you’re a salt fiend like me)

For the cake:

  • 1 medium aubergine (around 220g)
  • 150g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 medium eggs, separated
  • 100g clear honey
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp baking powder

For the caramel, heat the sugar and water in a saucepan stirring until the sugar dissolves, then leave to simmer until the syrup thickens and turns a rich amber colour. Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the butter, cream and salt. Pour into a bowl or jug and set aside to cool.

Pierce the aubergine with a skewer or sharp knife all over, microwave for about 8 minutes on high, then leave until cool enough to handle. Peel off the skin, then puree the flesh in a food processor until no lumps remain. Stir in the chopped chocolate until melted – you might need to give it another quick blast in the microwave.

Beat the egg yolks, honey, cocoa powder, almonds and baking powder for about a minute, then add the aubergine chocolate mixture and beat again until well combined. Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks in a separate bowl, then fold these into the cake batter a third at a time.

Spread two thirds of the mixture into a greased and lined 6″ round tin. Pour the caramel on top and spread to within 1cm of the edge of the tin. Top with the remaining cake mix and try to spread it as evenly as you can to cover the caramel.

Bake on a low shelf at 180 degrees (160 fan) for about half an hour, until the cake has risen and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool completely – it will sink in the middle, but that’s what you want. Remove from the tin, then slice and serve.

Elvis Sandwich Cake

Sun, sea, cake and coffee – I’m not sure there’s much else you need to make a mid-week day off work basically the best thing ever…

This week I treated myself to said day off, in the name of Clandestine Cake Club. Taking place at the Blue Tomato Cafe in Rock, Cornwall, the theme of course had to be ‘Rock n Roll’.

It took me quite a while to decide what to bake, mainly because I was debating the different between generic rock music, and the much more specific rock n roll. Luckily, I knew exactly who to turn to for advice – the fabulous Miss Charlotte White, of Restoration Cake.

Charlotte (who’s first book, Burlesque Baking, is out now, just in time for my birthday, hint, hint, HINT) suggested going down the Elvis route with a peanut butter, banana and salted caramel cake, in honour of the King’s favourite sandwich, and decorating it to look like a record.

I’m not sure my cake entirely lives up to Charlotte’s vision, but I was pretty happy with it nonetheless. Had it spent any longer than half a day out of the fridge the layers may well have been sliding all over the place, but it held up for long enough to look fairly respectful on the table of delicious cakey delights.

It was a pun-tastic cake club, with a Chuck Berry Bundt, Rock n Roulade, Rocky Road, Mint Aerosmith and my personal favourite, ‘Gums n Roses’ cake, adorned with wine gums and Cadbury’s Roses – brilliant!

We were also treated to some barista training from the lovely Mat, who showed us how to make the perfect coffee, create hearts on top of lattes, and even demonstrated the infamous ’12 inches of Italian pleasure’ – a thick and rich hot chocolate topped with marshmallows, whipped cream, a chocolate flake, giant meringue, more whipped cream and a malteser. Amazing!

I’m not going to write out the whole recipe for this cake – the sponge is exactly the same as this one, only increasing all of the ingredients by 50% to fill three 7″ cake tins instead of baking it in the smaller 6″ tins.

I used the caramel recipe from my Millionaire’s Shortbread, and made a peanut butter cream cheese icing by beating 200g cream cheese, 200g smooth peanut butter and 400g icing sugar together until well combined.

I spread a layer of peanut butter icing on the bottom and middle layers, topped with thin slices of banana, and then spread caramel on top. I stacked the cakes, spread more peanut butter icing all over, and then made the record by rolling out black sugar paste and using the cake tin to cut a circle. The lid of the peanut butter was used to cut a circle from the middle, and to cut another circle out of cream coloured icing, which I decorated with a gold icing pen. Done!

Big thank you to the wonderful Sean for all the good photos on this post – you can see all the other cakes on the round up over on the Clandestine Cake Club website. Can’t wait for the next one!

Festive alfajores

So, for those of you who don’t already know, I’ve gone and entered myself in ANOTHER baking competition. I just can’t stop!

I’m keeping it local this time though, with the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Christmas Bake Off. I’m representing the company I work for and two rounds into the competition, it seems to be going pretty well…

The way it works is there are four rounds, one per week, each with a different theme – biscuits, bread, pastry and cakes. There are nine bakers in the competition, and after getting a free pass in the first week three will be knocked out in weeks two and three, to leave three for the final.

Week one was biscuits, and for some reason I decided straight away that I wanted to make alfajores, with a festive twist.

Alfajores are an Argentinian/South American biscuit, made with cornflour so they’re quite dry and crumbly, flavoured with Pisco and sandwiched with dulce de leche.

For my version, I changed the flavour to vanilla and cinnamon, and as well as using straight up dulce de leche added a layer of white chocolate caramel. Over the top, me? No…

Add a star shaped cookie cutter, sprinkles and glitter, and you have one festive alfajore.

I didn’t quite manage to get the title of star baker with them, but I came second out of nine which I’m more than happy with! The bread round has also taken place now, but I’ll wait until I blog about the recipe before revealing how it went…

Festive Alfajores (adapted from Chow)

  • 115g cornflour
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp saltt
  • 115g butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

For the filling:

  • 100g white chocolate
  • 60g dulce de leche
  • 1tbsp milk
  • 100g(ish) more dulce de leche to sandwich

Mix together the cornflour, flour, baking powder, bicarb, cinnamon and salt. Beat together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined, then wrap the dough in cling film and chill for half an hour in the fridge.

Roll the chilled dough out to the thickness of a pound coin, then cut out stars, circles, whatever. Re-roll the scraps and cut more shapes until all the dough has been used. Place spaced out on baking sheets lined with baking paper, then bake at 180 degrees (160 fan) for 9-11 minutes, or until just crisp and golden. Leave on the tray for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

You can decorate however you like – I used white royal icing, star and snowflake sprinkles, and white edible glitter for a nice festive sparkle! I only decorated the half that were going to be on top, but you could to top and bottom if you want.

For the filling, melt the white chocolate (microwave is fine if you stir often) then stir in the dulce de leche. You can buy the fancy stuff, or use tinned caramel, both work! The mixture might seize up a bit, but add the milk, stir, and reheat a little, and it should be fine. Leave to cool until thick enough to spread.

Turn the biscuits upside down, and spread the white chocolate caramel onto the undecorated bottom biscuits, and the dulce de leche onto the bake of the decorated tops. Sandwich them together and enjoy 🙂

tea time treats

I think these biscuits would make a great gift this Christmas, and so I’m entering them for the December Tea Time Treats Challenge, hosted (sadly for the last time) by Kate at What Kate Baked (although Karen at Lavender and Lovage will be keeping the challenge going in the new year, yay!

Salted dulce de leche brownies

Salted dulce de leche brownies

So, something a little less fancy than my previous post!

Sometimes simple and easy produces the best results, and this recipe delivers on that both in the making of the brownies themselves, and in the making of the homemade dulce de leche.

A little while ago a friend mentioned that they loved dulce de leche, so when I knew I would be seeing them I decided it was the perfect time to bake something with it.

Sure, you can just buy it by the jar and that would be the ultimate easy option, but it’s kind of expensive for what it is so I decided to have a go at making my own from condensed milk.

I think most people have heard of the boiling the can method of turning condensed milk into caramel, but I’ve never been willing to take the risk of it exploding all over my kitchen.

David Lebovitz suggests baking the milk instead, which sounds far less risky but rather time consuming. I figured that if thee basic principle was ‘condensed milk + heat = caramel’ the same effects could be achieved in the microwave in a much quicker time.

Kind of surprisingly I was right and it worked! Short bursts of heat and frequent stirring produces a golden caramel in under 10 minutes – win! Warning – you need to use a bigger bowl than you think, because it will bubble up a lot, but as long as you do it’s so quick and easy you’ll be wondering why you haven’t used this method forever.

I added salt to the dulce de leche because salted caramel always beats regular, then referred back to David Lebovitz for the actual brownie recipe.

Super simple brownie mix, swirl in the dulce de leche, bake, et voila – deep, fudgy brownies bursting with pockets of salted dulce de leche. Simple but delicious.

Salted dulce de leche brownies (recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)

  • 1 400g tin condensed milk
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
  • 170g dark chocolate
  • 115g butter
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 140g plain flour (I reckon this could be reduced to 120g for fudgier brownies though)

To make the dulce de leche, pour the condensed milk into a large bowl, then microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring in between each time, until it thickens and turns a golden caramel colour. Add in the salt a little at a time to your personal taste, then set aside while you make the brownie mixture.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a suacepan, over a low heat. Once the chocolate has melted, take off the heat and beat in the cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, sugar and then flour, scraping down the sides of the pan between each addition.

Pour half the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square tin, then dollop half of the dulce de leche in on top. Spread the rest of the brownie mixture over evenly, then dollop on the rest of the dulce de leche. Swirl it through the mixture with a skewer or knife, being careful not to mix it in too much.

Bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes – the original recipe says 35-40 but mine were done way quicker. Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin, slicing into bars and serving.

tea time treats

I’m entering these into the September Tea Time Treats challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked. This month’s theme, chosen by Karen, is flapjacks, oats, and traybakes – I did have an oaty recipe bookmarked but just haven’t had time to make it, so hopefully brownies will count as a traybake instead!

Bourbon pecan pie cupcakes

Bourbon pecan pie cupcakes

If you like a boozy cake, these cupcakes could be for you.

Even if you don’t, you still might like them – I would never drink straight up bourbon whiskey, but somehow when you add butter and sugar the taste is transformed into something altogether different, and far more pleasant.

I was thinking of different ways of incorporating alcohol into cupcakes, and was originally going down the cocktail route, until a friend suggested whiskey as something different to try.

(On a side note, while writing this I couldn’t decide whether I should be saying whiskey or whisky. I decided to research it, and it turns out that officially it should be whiskey for a bourbon, but whisky for a scotch. Never knew that before!)

My mind-cogs started turning, and soon the idea of bourbon pecan pie came into my head. Whiskey, caramel, pecans – how could it not work?

I decided the cake itself needed pecans, brown sugar and bourbon (Jim Beam, kindly donated from my dad’s ‘not for guests’ alcohol cabinet) and based it on these coffee cupcakes I made a little while ago.

The cakes obviously needed a pecan pie filling, and so I made one based on a Betty Crocker recipe I found online, but omitting the eggs as they seemed like a bit of a strange addition.

For the icing, I was torn between buttercream and cream cheese, but decided to go for cream cheese as there was already  lot of sweetness going on in the cakes, and I thought they could probably do with a bit of a tang to cut through it.

I’m really, really pleased with how the cupcakes turned out – the sponge is light but moist, the filling sweet, sticky and pecan pie-esque, and the cream cheese icing was definitely the right choice.

One of my taste testers at work thought they were a bit too boozy, and you certainly do get a good hit of bourbon, but even though I’m not a whiskey drinker I still enjoyed them. I guess it’s down to personal taste, you can always cut back if you’re worried they’ll be too strong. Either way, they are a ridiculously indulgent treat that I would definitely make again.

Bourbon Pecan Pie Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

  • 40g pecan nuts
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 80g light brown sugar
  • 165g butter
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 2 tbsp bourbon whiskey
  • 165g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling:

  • 50g pecan nuts
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 30g light brown sugar
  • 120g golden syrup
  • 10g cornflour
  • 60g butter
  • 3 tbsp whipping cream
  • 1.5 tbsp bourbon whiskey

For the icing:

  • 50g butter
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 12 pecan halves, to decorate

To make the cupcakes, start by grinding the pecan nuts in a food processor with the caster and light brown sugar, until no large chunks remain.

Beat the butter and pecan sugar mix together for 4-5 minutes, until really light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla bean paste and bourbon whiskey. Sieve together the flour, baking powder and salt, then fold into the cake batter until just combined.

Divide the mixture between 10-12 cupcake cases in a muffin tin, filling each with about 60g of batter, then bake at 170 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until risen, golden, and a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the tin after 10 minutes and place on a wire rack to cool.

To make the filling, add both sugars, the golden syrup, butter and cornflour to a medium saucepan, and warm over a medium heat, stirring until the butter melts and all the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer, then add the bourbon whiskey. Keep stirring until the liquid becomes a thick syrup, then remove from the heat and whisk in the cream. Stir in the pecans and leave to cool completely.

For the icing, beat the butter and 50g sugar until well mixed, then gradually add the rest of the sugar, beating constantly (if it seems like it’s too dry and won’t come together, add a little of the cream cheese). Once all the sugar has been mixed in, add 2 tbsp of caramel from the filling (without any pecans in) and the cream cheese, then beat for 3-4 minutes until light and creamy. Chill in the fridge for half an hour, or until thick enough to pipe.

To assemble the cupcakes, cut a round hole in the centre of each cake, about 1.5cm diameter, going down to 1cm away from the bottom of the cake. Remove the centres, then spoon the pecan caramel filling into the holes, dividing equally between all of the cupcakes.

Take the centres you removed from the cakes and cut them in half horizontally, then place the top half back on top of the filling – it should be level with the top and look like a normal cupcake again.

Fit a piping bag with a large star nozzle and fill with the cream cheese icing. Pipe in swirls on top of the cupcakes, then finish by decorating with a pecan half on top.

Salted carmelitas

Carmelitas

I first came across carmelitas absolutely ages ago, and although I can’t for the life of me remember where I remember thinking that they looked amazing but I was put off from baking them by the fact the recipe called for wrapped caramels – I didn’t know whether this meant soft or hard, or what type to buy, and I didn’t like being confused so I didn’t save the recipe or attempt to make them.

Thanks to Pinterest, carmelitas were recently brought to my attention again, specifically through a recipe posted on Cooking Classy. This version had added salt, and the combination of salted caramel, chocolate, oats and brown sugar was just too much for me to resist.

For those of you who aren’t in the know, carmelitas are a sort of oaty cookie bar, with a layer of chocolate and caramel in the middle that is deliciously gooey when warm and stays just a little soft and squidgy when cool.

I still don’t know what type of caramels you’re supposed to use, but I decided to improvise and use half a can of leftover Carnation caramel that I had sitting in the fridge, which I figured would have a similar consistency to the melted caramels and cream used in the recipe.

The other change I made was to use milk chocolate with chopped hazelnuts instead of regular milk chocolate, which was mainly because the bar was on offer but also added an extra element of flavour and texture which I thought worked well.

Carmelitas are super sweet and a calorific nightmare, but they are also very addictive, so I highly recommend having a hungry pony on hand if you decide to make them…

Salted Carmelitas (recipe adapted from Cooking Classy)

  • 120g plain flour
  • 110g rolled oats
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 100g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g ready made caramel
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 75g milk chocolate (with or without nuts), chopped
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped

Stir together the flour, oats, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave, and add to the dry mixture with the vanilla, stirring until all the dry ingredients are completely coated. Press between half and two thirds of the mixture into a greased and lined 8×8″ square baking tin, and bake at 180 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until just starting to firm up.

Heat the caramel in the microwave to make it easier to spread, and stir in the second tsp of vanilla and the sea salt – use more or less depending on how salty you like it. Spread the caramel over the oat base, then sprinkle both chopped chocolates in an even layer on top.

Crumble the remaining oat mixture between your fingers and lightly press down on top of the chocolate and caramel layer, then return to the oven to bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes, until the top is golden and the caramel is just starting to bubble around the edges. Leave to cool completely before slicing into bars.

L’Artisan du Chocolat – review

Earlier in the month, I was contacted by a website I’d never heard of before, the Handpicked Foodstore, to ask if I would like to try any of their products for a review.

When the first words I saw on the site were ‘smoked salmon’ my heart sank a little – a shop full of fish is kind of my worst nightmare – but I was relieved to see that there were also pages for artisan cheeses, condiments and spices, and best of all luxury chocolates.

I left it in the hands of their marketing team to decide which products to send me, as I was really spoiled for choice with chocolate from Rococo, Montezuma’s and L’Artiscan du Chocolat, all handpicked as the website name suggests by a panel of foodie experts looking for the finest British produce.

I was delighted when a box arrived containing a little round tub of L’Artisan du Chocolat No.1 Sea Salted Caramels and a selection of their ‘fusion’ range of chocolate bars, and immediately set about formally taste testing with the pony and our next door neighbour Jo.

Whether or not the caramels really are the original salted caramel I don’t know, but I do know that they are pretty special – the chocolate is dark and crisp and the dusting of cocoa slightly bitter; the caramel a complete texture and taste contrast with both the caramel and salt coming through strongly.

All three of us enjoyed them, but I’d say they’re probably not for your average Dairy Milk chocolate eater – the pony thought the salt was bordering on too strong and Jo thought the caramel tasted almost burnt – but as an after dinner treat with a cup of coffee I thought they were perfect.

The four chocolate bars I received were sugar free milk, caffe latte, gianduja and gingerbread cookie. By far my favourite was the gingerbread cookie ,a creamy white chocolate with gingerbread cookie crumbs that not only combines two of my favourite flavours but is also a combination I haven’t come across before.

The caffe latte at first was a bit of a shock, I think as I’ve only ever tried coffee flavoured dark chocolate so in a milk chocolate it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I certainly don’t mean that in a bad way. The gianduja was like taking everything that’s good about Nutella but somehow transforming into something classy and refined, and the sugar free milk was really good too (I ate some after eating regular milk chocolate and much preferred the sugar free).

The bars all have tasting notes on the wrappers which is a nice touch, and I was especially pleased to have been sent them in addition to the caramels as it meant I could do some baking as well as just scoffing chocolate. I made a cake last night involving the caffe latte bar, and it is seriously good – stay tuned for the recipe!

Big thanks to the Handpicked Foodstore for sending me the chocolate to try – obviously they were sent to me for free, but my opinions aren’t swayed by that in the slightest!

Caramel apple and almond tart

Caramel apple and almond tart

As soon as I saw this tart posted over on Apple & Spice, I knew it had to be baked.

How could apples, caramel and frangipane ever be a bad combination?!

As I suspected, the three made very happy companions in their sweet pastry case; so much so that the pony devoured the tart at record speed and I barely got a look in.

The tiny sliver of this I did manage to steal wasn’t anywhere near enough,  and I will definitely have to make it again in the near future so I can have a proper slice.

I changed Katie’s pasty recipe to my usual sweet shortcrust as I didn’t need it to be gluten free, but if you are on a GF diet I would definitely give hers a go. I also left out the peanut brittle, just because I didn’t have any, but to be honest I think the tart is special enough without.

Served warm it’s definitely more of a winter dessert, but I think it would also work well cold as we finally move into spring – either way it’s a winner!

Caramel apple and almond tart (adapted from Apple & Spice)

For the pastry:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 65g butter

For the filling:

  • 150g tinned caramel (about half a tin of Carnation)
  • 3 granny smith apples
  • 55g butter
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 55g ground almonds
  • 10g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

To make the pastry, rub together the butter and flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar. Add cold water a teaspoonful at a time, cutting through the mixture with a knife, adding more water until it starts to clump together. Use your hands to squash the dough into a ball, then chill in the fridge for half an hour. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a fluted flan dish – I think mine is about 10″ which makes quite a shallow tart.

Chill the pastry for another half hour, then blind bake at 180 degrees for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and paper and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Take out of the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then spread the caramel in an even layer all over the bottom.

For the filling, beat together the butter and sugar, then add the egg and almond extract. Fold in the almonds and flour, then spread this on top of the caramel. Peel, core and slice the apples, then arrange in a fanned out pattern on top of the tart. Katie’s top tip is to keep the apples in a bowl of iced water with a drop of lemon juice in to stop them going brown while you’re chopping the rest – it works well!

Sprinkle the tablespoon of caster sugar over the top of the tart, then bake at 180 degrees for 30-40 minutes – check it’s done by poking a knife into one of the apple slices, if it’s cooked it will slide through with no resistance. Serve warm or cold, up to you!

Peanut butter banana muffins with salted caramel filling

Peanut butter banana muffins with salted caramel filling

It’s funny how tastes change. When I was younger, I never really considered myself to be a picky eater, but looking back now I can see that actually, I must have been a bit of a pain for my dad to feed!

The list of vegetables I liked was a short one – broccoli was my favourite, I liked peppers, and would eat cabbage with a roast at a push, but that was kind of it. ‘Traditional’ British veg like carrots, peas, green beans and parsnips were despised, and more ‘exotic’ vegetables like squash, aubergine, kale and sweet potatoes never made an appearance in my house.

I hated all beans (probably because everyone seems to think a child’s meal isn’t complete without baked beans sloshed on all over it, and as far as I’m concerned the sauce baked beans comes in is the work of the devil), pulses were never on the menu, and to be honest if I had been a vegetarian then I think I would have been a severely under-nourished one!

Now, near enough any vegetable you put in front of me I will eat, I love using beans in everything from chilli to burgers, and there’s nothing I love more than experimenting with new ingredients.

My feelings when it comes to sweet foods are kind of similar and I’m definitely branching out with flavours I used to hate. I’ve always found caramel too sickly sweet to really enjoy, but the discovery of salted caramel has completely changed my mind – now I can’t get enough of it.

I never used to understand why anyone liked peanut butter, but this could well be because I never had it paired with chocolate or banana and, although I still wouldn’t want it in a sandwich, I love using it in baking.

Anyway, the point of this all is that peanut butter, banana and caramel is most definitely not a combination I would have been keen to try a few years ago, but now I can’t think of three better friends to be baked into a muffin.

I needed to bake something fairly quick and simple using ingredients I had on hand, so I loosely based these on a recipe for peanut butter banana cupcakes but made a simple glaze instead of fancy icing, and made the caramel filling from some Cadbury’s eclairs leftover from a tin of Miniature Heroes.

I actually didn’t get to eat one of the finished muffins, as by the time I returned from a weekend away the pony had devoured them, but I did sample each of the components as I was making them and I’m pretty confident it’s a winning recipe – I’ll just have to make another batch to prove it…

Peanut butter banana muffins with salted caramel filling (loosely adapted from Perfect Cupcakes, Cookies and Muffins)

Makes 6

For the muffins:

  • 90g light brown sugar
  • 70g peanut butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 1 medium banana (90g), mashed
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 10 individual Cadbury’s eclairs, or other caramel sweet (about 100g at a guess)
  • 1-2 tbsp milk
  • sea salt flakes to taste

For the glaze:

  • 25g peanut butter
  • 20g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk

Beat the peanut butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add in the egg and mashed banana and beat until well combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in lightly, then dive the mixture between 6 medium muffin cases. Bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 170 and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the muffins are risen and golden, and a skewer comes out clean.

When cool, use an apple corer to cut the tops out of each muffin. Melt the caramels with the milk, stirring until smooth, then add in a pinch of sea salt flakes – taste and add extra if you like. Spoon the caramel into the centres of the muffins, then replace the tops you took out.

Make the glaze by heating the peanut butter and icing sugar in the microwave, then adding the milk slowly until it reaches a pourable consistency. Pour and spread over the tops of the muffins – if it drips down the side I think it looks pretty, so don’t worry about being too neat!

These are especially good served warm as the caramel is extra gooey. Enjoy!