Bank Holiday Saturday. Working on my write-up and trying to keep my eyes open. I’m not sure why but I’m utterly wiped out at the moment: I’m telling myself that I’m not going to succumb to the nasty bug that’s doing the round in the office, that I’m perhaps just over-tired and could do with a couple of weeks off.
I was hoping it was going to be a bright and sunny weekend and I could take my laptop out into the garden but no, we have sunshine and showers so I’m not risking it. We’re rushing from season to season today – black clouds one moment, lashing rain, high winds, then sudden bright blue skies and scudding clouds. It’s too much. I can’t keep up. So I’ve retired indoors for a spot of baking – Paul Hollywood’s baguettes (to accompany Jef’s Caesar salad for later) and some warm demerara shortbread.
I’m sure there are rules about these things. Certain sugars that work best for certain types of baking – and I think that I’m wrong to use demerera for shortbread. I’ve also never made caramel before. But this seems to have worked well. The shortbread recipe is based on this one, and the caramel on this post.
For the caramel:
- 1 cup demerara sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 20g butter
- 2 tablespoons extra thick double cream
- 1 tsp salt
For the biscuits:
- 50g demerara sugar
- 100g unsalted butter, very soft
- 1 tbsp semolina
- 140g plain flour, sifted
- Make the caramel first: in a large saucepan, mix together the sugar and water.
- Bring to the boil while stirring constantly to dissolve all the sugar crystals.
- Boil for 5 minutes. There will be bubbles.
- After 5 minutes, tip in the butter and cream and whisk hard. Stir in most of the salt.
- Turn out onto a heavy tray lined with silicone parchment. Sprinkle the last few salt crystals over the top. Pop in the fridge to cool until set.
- For the biscuits, measure all the ingredients except the extra demerera into a large bowl.
- Using a kitchen knife, cut the butter into the sugar/flour/semolina until it’s evenly distributed in small pieces.
- Plunge your hands into the bowl, squidge the dough together into a soft, buttery mass.
- Shape into a cylinder and refrigerate for half an hour. Check on the caramel mix – it should be soft-set but not rock hard.
- Pre-heat oven to 200C.
- Slice the dough cylinder into 12 rounds, place the rounds on a baking tray lined with silicone parchment.
- Bake for 10 minutes until slightly darkened. Allow to cool and top with the caramel mix. (Don’t do what I just did, and spread the caramel onto the biscuits while they’re hot. The resulting biscuits will taste lovely, but I wasted too much caramel where it’s melted and dripped away.)
I have another deadline this summer, and that’s to do with writing stories. I’m working on one at the moment which involves the Japanese earthquake/nuclear disaster and I’ve been voraciously reading everything I can get my hands on. I’ve just finished this brilliant book which explores the events and the aftermath from several different perspectives and manages to convey desperation and hope in the face of inevitable natural destruction and preventable human tragedy. My head’s all full at the moment. Full of newly planted cherry blossom trees and mourning families throwing bouquets into the sea. So many brand new, freshly-minted ghost stories. My dreams are going to be uneasy tonight.