Spiced Caramels – Recipe

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Salted caramel is ubiquitous these days, but here the addition of garam masala gives a subtle spice. Easy to make and there is scope for other flavourings – these would lend themselves well to Christmassy spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. You will need a sugar thermometer. Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 2 hours for chilling. Makes about 50 squares.

Ingredients

  • 240ml extra thick cream
  • 70g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped (keep the pod for infusion)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 120ml honey
  • 280g granulated sugar
  • Sea salt flakes for sprinkling

Directions

Line a loaf pan with parchment or foil and grease. In a medium saucepan, bring to boil cream, butter, vanilla pod and seeds, salt and garam masala. Remove from heat as soon as it boils, and fish out and discard the vanilla pod. In a large saucepan, heat the honey and sugar over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 138°C, stirring only at the beginning with a heatproof spatula. When the sugar mixture reaches138°C, strain the cream mixture into it. Be careful as the mixture will bubble furiously. Continue to cook until it reaches 121°C. Remove from heat, stir and pour into prepared loaf tin. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before refrigerating uncovered for 2 hours. Transfer the hardened caramel to a cutting board, sprinkle with sea salt flakes and cut as desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks (though they’re too delicious to last that long) Adapted from Aliya LeeKong via Leite’s Culinaria

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Chai Spiced Banana Walnut Bread – Recipe

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This is a light and fragrant tea loaf with flavours of spiced chai. Reminiscent of my travels in India and a good way to use up overripe bananas.

ingredients

113g unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
225g plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 ripe mashed bananas
135g sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
50g chopped walnuts

Instructions

Preheat oven to 175C degrees. Grease a loaf tin with non-stick cooking spray (I use Dr Oetker). Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat gently until just combined. Add bananas, sour cream and vanilla and mix on low speed until just combined. Gently stir in nuts. Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake until deep golden brown and cake tester inserted into center comes out clean, 60-70 minutes. Let rest in pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack to cool completely.

Nanaimo Bars – Recipe

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I’d never heard of these rich and delicious no-bake layered confections until my boyfriend mentioned he’d eaten them as a student in Canada. Originating from the City of Nanaimo, BC, the first Nanaimo Bar recipe appeared in the 1950s. There are now countless flavours and variations and even a Nanaimo Bar Trail – a self-guided city tour where one can sample everything from spring-roll and bacon-topped Nanaimo Bars to Nanaimo Bar cocktails, lattes and even pedicures. This recipe is the traditional original variety which I’ve adapted from Joy of Baking and Joyce Hardcastle. Preparation time: 45 minutes. Makes about 25 squares.

Ingredients

Bottom Layer:

113g unsalted butter, room temperature
50g granulated white sugar
30g unsweetened cocoa powder
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g crushed Digestive Biscuits (the original calls for Graham Cracker crumbs, which can be bought online)
65g sweetened or unsweetened coconut (desiccated or flaked)
50g walnuts coarsely chopped

Middle Layer:

113g unsalted butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons custard powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
230g icing sugar

Top Layer:

120g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Directions

Grease a 9 x 9 inch (23 x 23 cm) baking tin. Alternatively, line the baking tin with foil so that the sides overhang. Use the foil handles to remove the chilled mixture before cutting.

Bottom Layer: In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 – 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, digestive biscuit crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (about half an hour).

Middle Layer: Beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth. If the mixture is too thick to spread, add a little more cream. Spread the filling over the bottom layer, cover, and refrigerate until firm (about  half an hour).

Top Layer: Chop the chocolate into small pieces. Then, in a heatproof bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the filling and refrigerate for about 10 minutes or just until the chocolate has set.

Cutting the Bars: Place two knives into hot water and alternate them to cut the bars without cracking the chocolate topping, replacing each knife in the hot water between cuts.