Friday, 18 January 2019

Mincemeat Shortbread Bars

There's always mincemeat to use up after Christmas, but even with an opened jar in the fridge, I couldn't resist a 'reduced to clear' jar of Bitter Orange and Juniper Mincemeat in Waitrose. So I rolled out my favourite shortbread slice recipe yet again! I've made mincemeat versions of this with various embellishments - marzipan or chopped hazelnuts in the topping, cranberry sauce mixed with the mincemeat - but decided that this time I'd use the mincemeat just as it was, to allow the orange and juniper flavours to shine through. I used about 300g of mincemeat for the filling, but it wouldn't have hurt to add a bit more.

Although the recipe was as good as usual, with crisp, melt in the mouth shortbread layers, I was a little disappointed that the advertised flavours of the mincemeat - bitter orange and juniper - weren't really very strong at all. It didn't seem much different to the basic mincemeat I'd used for my mincepies at Christmas, and in the past I've added better orange flavour by adding freshly grated orange zest to mincemeat.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Salted Caramel Brownies

My second festive bake, aiming to be more versatile. These are great warm, with cream or ice cream, as a dessert, but are also good for coffee breaks and tea times. I was lucky in my choice of salted caramel sauce -  from Sainsbury's Taste the Difference range - as it stayed soft and gooey after baking, even when the brownies were cold. It added an extra touch of decadence to have the caramel oozing out!

I used my usual recipe for the brownies - Melt 140g butter and 140g of 70% plain chocolate together. This can be done in a microwave, but I prefer to do it in a large bowl, over a pan of simmering water. Allow to cool a little if necessary, as you don't want to scramble the eggs, then add 300g light muscovado sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Next, add 3 large eggs, one at a time, beating each one in to give a smooth batter. Sift 160g plain flour and 3 tablespoons of cocoa into the bowl and fold in.

Set aside about 3 tablespoons of the batter, and transfer the rest to a 20cm square shallow tin, lined with baking parchment. Warm 250g salted caramel sauce, if necessary, so that it flows easily, and spread it over the surface of the batter. Dot the reserved batter, a teaspoon at a time, over the caramel then swirl the caramel and brownie mixture together, without going to deeply into the batter.

Bake at 180C for 40 minutes. It's difficult to do a skewer test as the caramel stays liquid and becomes very hot and bubbly, but as the brownies cool, everything settles down. When the brownies are cold, cut into bars or squares. I usually cut into 16 squares.