Monday, 13 April 2009

Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies

In Delicious. this month there is a was an advert for a coffee machine which came with an recipe for cappuccino thumbprint cookies. This got me thinking, and I suddenly became obsessed with adapting the recipe to make salted caramel mochas.

I followed the dough recipe pretty closely, only making a couple of changes to the method. It was the filling that really took time and experimentation. I wanted to make a creamy caramel, much like you get inside a Twix or a Mars bar. Using Leiths, and various online recipes, I made four batches of caramel. All of them were rubbish. The first couple burned, even though I was using a sugar thermometer. The second two I was much more careful with, and took them off the heat well before they were anywhere near burning point. I tried stopping one with cream, but instead it just turned in to a giant lump of hard sugar and some slightly dubious looking brown cream. The next batch I used a combination of milk and butter. This had a better consistency, but was a very dark brown and instead of being smooth and creamy, had a weirdly grainy mouthfeel.

4 attempts at caramel meant that I had run out of sugar, clean saucepans and dairy products. My fingers were covered in tiny burns from boiling, spitting sugar, and I was getting frustrated. Why was boiling some sugar so difficult? I was being attentive, monitoring the temperature, and not stirring too much. The part of me that thinks I am a good cook suggested that it was a combination of a dodgy electric hob and a cheap, thin saucepan. The part of me that wants to be a good cook thought I was probably stirring too early, heating too quickly, and getting distracted too easily.

While searching online, I found a recipe for millionaire's shortbread. Looking at the picture, it seemed that was exactly the type of caramel I was looking for. A baking community I posted on also suggested a similar recipe. I noted down the ingredients, and went to bed. That night I dreamt of caramel. All of my dreams featured it in some way. I dreamt of bubbling sugar, liquid in the pan but solid on the counter. I was surrounded by vast containers of dark, burnt toffee, with curdled cream and butter floating on top. Finally, I dreamt of the millionaire's shortbread, and the promise of a perfect, mellow, soft caramel, interspersed with the crunch of vanilla sea-salt.

The next morning, I couldn't wait to get out of bed. This is a very rare feeling for me! I went off to the supermarket, stocked up on sugar, butter and condensed milk. I was going to crack this today.

I mixed up the ingredients in a pan, playing slightly with the quantities. I stirred as the butter melted, then stirred as I added the sugar and the golden syrup. I kept stirring as I added the condensed milk. And stirred, and stirred. Slowly the texture began to thicken, and the taste became more caramelised. Then some brown lumps appeared. The baking community had warned that it would catch easily. NOOOOOOOOOO!

I whipped it off the heat, and strained it in to a new pan. Luckily, there were only one or two burnt specks, which got caught in the sieve. I turned the hob down to the lowest heat and stirred some more. I stirred for a full 30 minutes. I wasn't even convinced the mixture was thickening properly, and the colour didn't appear to be changing either. Still stirring, I reached over to the sink to get the sieve and the used pan. Only then did I realise how brown my mixture was! The old saucepan was a eggy yellow, but the one I was currently stirring was the colour of tanned skin after a good day at the beach (not my skin though, then it would have been a violent red).

Doing a little victory dance (but still stirring) I poured the caramel in to a bowl. While warm, it was fairly liquid, when cooled it was almost solid, but still pliable. Perfect.

Maybe when I have a kitchen with natural light I will be able to take good photos.

Salted Caramel Mocha Cookies.
Makes 40

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Mix 285g plain flour, 100g cocoa powder, and 2tsp of sea salt in bowl, with 2tbsp ground coffee.

In another bowl, cream 225g unsalted butter with 285g caster sugar. Mix in 2 egg yolks and 2 tbsp cream. Once combined, add in the flour cocoa mixture. Stir gently until combined, then turn out on to a work surface and knead until you have a smooth dough.

Divide the mixture in to 4, and then make 10 small balls from each of your quarters. If you don't want to make the 40 cookies, you can keep the dough in the fridge for a week, or the freezer for a month. Put the balls in the fridge for 2 hours to harden up. If you try to bake them straight away they will spread too much and break up.

Form each of the balls into a shape like a pie shell. You want the edges to be fairly thin, but not so thin that they will crack in the oven. About 5mm is ok.

Bake in the oven for 10 mins, and then cool on a rack. If any of the holes for the filling have risen, then push them down while still soft. While the shells are cooling, make the caramel.

Melt 180g unsalted butter in a saucepan over a low heat. When melted, add 75g caster sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add 2 tbsp golden syrup, and stir until combined. Finally, add in a can (397g) condensed milk, and stir continuously. When the mixture is golden and thick (and tastes caramelly) remove from the heat into a clean bowl. Stir in sea salt to taste. I used about 30g of vanilla sea salt, but I like my caramel SALTY.

Filling the shells

Once the caramel has cooled slightly (but is still liquid enough to pour easily) and the biscuit shells have hardened, fill the shells with caramel. Mine took about a tablespoon of caramel per biscuit.

Lots of filled shells

Finally, melt 200g white chocolate and spoon this over the caramel, smoothing out the edges so the caramel is hidden. Make it pretty with a dusting of cocoa powder.


April said...

I really enjoyed your description of your kitchen adventures! The end product looks yummy.

Jenny said...

Thanks, it's good that I can talk about it on here instead of boring my flatmates! They are pretty delicious, although I'm sure the recipe could be refined a bit more to make them even better...

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Oh I SO know what you went through. I went through the same with making fudge. I was determined to finally make one that set. I don't think a lot of people realise how hard and temperamental and idiosyncratic working with sugar is. It's such a fussy ingredient when used as the primary item! Well done your cookies look marvellous and worth the effort :)

Jenny said...

We should start a "sugar-angst" club!

Holler said...

Oh wow, these look good :)

Holler said...

Oh wow, these look good :)

Anonymous said...

Jenny, these look so ridiculously good. Well done on cracking it.

I am learning a lot from your baking prowess. I've never been a baker (my brother is the sweet chef of the household) as I don't have much of a sweet tooth. You might turn me though!