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2011 Cooking Club Week 39: Caramel Squares

  • #1
    Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 30,036 mod Faith


    Edit 20/09/14: If you're using a tin that's larger than 9"x9", consider doubling the recipe. I just made them in a 13x9 tin, and they look SO SCABBY (they still taste great, though).

    Caramel squares have a million different names, so I'm never sure what to actually call them. Millionaire's Shortbread, Wellington Squares, Caramel Slices... But I'm sure you get what I mean. These are kind of my signature dish - they're what I make when I want to impress someone. They look much more complicated than they really are. It's baking, but without the precision that goes with a lot of recipes. Anyone can make these, no matter what your cooking level is. And I can speak from experience as a child, children love helping with them (especially sampling the caramel!).

    When I rediscovered my interest in baking, I'd lost my original recipe for these. I scoured the internet, but none seemed satisfactory. So I ended up putting my own recipe together, and it's pretty damn good! I prefer a thin biscuit base, thick caramel layer, and decent amount of chocolate. I find a thick biscuit base makes them boring, but each to their own! Any of the quantities can be doubled to your preference.

    Ingredients:


    Base:

    200g plain flour
    150g butter
    75g caster sugar

    Caramel:

    1 tin condensed milk
    2 tablespoons golden syrup
    110g soft brown sugar
    110g butter

    Chocolate:

    200g milk or dark chocolate.

    Method:

    1. First, prepare a baking tray. I typically use a 28cm x 18cm tin (NOTE: In the pictures, I've used an 8 inch x 8 inch tin. I use a tin this size when I want a smaller batch with REALLY thick caramel. I halve the base and chocolate quantities, but leave the caramel one the same). Cover it with parchment and leave aside. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

    2. Cream the butter and sugar. Rub in flour until it almost resembles breadcrumbs. You can either do this by hand, or use a food processor.

    IMG_0123.jpg

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    3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared tin. Sometimes it can take a little work to get it distributed evenly, and into all the corners, but work at it!

    IMG_0138.jpg

    4. Pop base into a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for about 20 minutes, or until lightly brown. Once done, remove from the oven and leave to cool.

    5. While the base is cooling, melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat and add the condensed milk, sugar and syrup. Stir continuously and well (it'll burn and stick otherwise). Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5 - 10 minutes. To test if it's done, put a dollop onto a plate and leave for a few minutes to check if it sets, and keep tasting it. This step seems to be catching people out, so I'll add a bit more: The caramel should be cooked over a medium heat at most - don't put it up high and then turn it down. Keep the heat consistent throughout - it should only reach a very gentle boil and should stay at that level. Stir the ENTIRE pot - alternate circles of decreasing and increasing size, making sure to get the very edges of the pot, and figure of eights to ensure the whole mixture is moving. It'll be a rich, thick, smooth, medium-brown when it's done.

    I think the key is that the sugar needs to be completely dissolved - if it stays a bit granular, you'll have a fudge-like texture, but if it dissolves completely, it'll be smooth caramel. You'll be able to tell this when you put a bit on a plate to test - make sure you eat the test bit (helpful and tasty :D). You need a slightly higher temperature for caramel than fudge, but it's more important that you yourself judge how hot your stove runs and how non-stick your pans are so that it doesn't burn. Don't get caught up in second-guessing yourself here - just take it handy, test it a few times, keep it moving and you'll be fine :). If you think you're making fudge by accident, turn up the temperature marginally but make sure not to let it burn!

    Also, nothing works as a substitute for golden syrup in this recipe. Trust me, I've tried with both honey and treacle and neither of them work!

    IMG_0143.jpg

    6. Spread caramel over the base and leave to cool.

    7. When the caramel is set, melt your chocolate and spread on top. There are two easy ways to melt chocolate: Either use a bain marie, or do it in the microwave. To do it on the stove, get a pot with some boiling water in it. Keep the water simmering, and place a bowl over the water, but not allowing it to touch the water. Break the chocolate up and slowly melt. Otherwise, do it in the microwave, but only zap it for 20-30 second intervals at a time. After each round, stir it before going again to prevent burning.

    8. Leave to cool and set in the fridge.

    9. Cut up into pieces and enjoy!

    IMG_0161.jpg


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Comments



  • Faith wrote: »
    When I rediscovered my interest in baking, I'd lost my original recipe for these. I scoured the internet,

    Really :eek:

    Every tin of Carnation Condensed Milk has a Millionaire Slices recipe on it! :D

    These are smashing by the way, extremely more-ish




  • Des wrote: »
    Really :eek:

    Every tin of Carnation Condensed Milk has a Millionaire Slices recipe on it! :D

    These are smashing by the way, extremely more-ish

    Some misguided recipe writers seem to think that a layer of caramel as thin as paper, on top of a thick wedge of dry, crumbly biscuit qualifies it as a millionaire slice. It's just not cricket. I wanna see Enid Blyton-style LASHINGS of caramel! Right on Faith. Fight the good fight.




  • Des wrote: »
    Really :eek:

    Every tin of Carnation Condensed Milk has a Millionaire Slices recipe on it! :D

    These are smashing by the way, extremely more-ish
    Faith wrote: »
    When I rediscovered my interest in baking, I'd lost my original recipe for these. I scoured the internet, but none seemed satisfactory.

    :pac:

    I'm very picky. I found no end of recipes, but none were what I was looking for. A lot of them you could tell would produce those manky-looking (IMO) mass-produced ones that you see in supermarkets and the like. I want a recipe that is almost a heart attack in a square :D




  • Oh my god - you READ my MIND!! I was only talking about these with my partner last night. He got extremely excited when I told him I was gonna make them this week!:D And hey presto - then appears your recipe. Thanks Faith.;)




  • Ooh they look fantastic. I've made caramel slices a few times, but I'm definitely going to give these a shot when I get a chance.


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  • That's my monday evening laid out :D




  • Biscuit bases in the oven... (I didn't have an 18x24 tin, so I've doubled up and I'm using two 14x24cm tins and an 18x18 tin. Don't be daft, no such thing as too much when it's caramel squares).




  • Holy carp, but boiling condensed milk's finicky. I stopped stirring for 30 seconds - and wound up spending ten minutes straining out the burnt bits and starting over...

    Still. Biscuit bases covered in caramel (and a sprinkle of salt) and they're chilling in the fridge waiting for the chocolate...




  • Yours look way better than these! :D




  • Hm. Biscuit - brilliant. Caramel - yummy. Chocolate... er. Maybe 85% cocoa, some cream and some butter doesn't make for a very spreadable chocolate. It tastes a wee bit dark. Nice, but not very I-could-eat-all-of-this tasty :D


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  • Sparks wrote: »
    Holy carp, but boiling condensed milk's finicky. I stopped stirring for 30 seconds - and wound up spending ten minutes straining out the burnt bits and starting over...
    You can buy tin of caramel condensed milk thats doesn't need to be boiled. It's a lot less finicky if you're in a hurry. It's defo better than burnt bits ;)
    I've used it before for banoffi in a hurry




  • They're even better the next morning...
    ...but my chocolate topping's even worse. Bleugh. Way too rich and heavy. I fear I may need to strip off the chocolate and redo it :(




  • Sparks wrote: »
    They're even better the next morning...
    ...but my chocolate topping's even worse. Bleugh. Way too rich and heavy. I fear I may need to strip off the chocolate and redo it :(

    Yeah, the entire thing is INCREDIBLY rich, so adding cream and butter to the chocolate would make it nearly inedible I'd say. I'd rarely use anything more than 50% cocoa chocolate as well, but that could be more to do with my dislike of dark chocolate. But I feel it works better with a lighter chocolate.




  • Cut the dark chocolate topping off. Added some salt over the caramel and then a milk chocolate topping (slightly thicker than in the photos at the top of the thread). Herself and Bump now think they're possibly the greatest foodstuff on the planet :D Nice one Faith!




  • I just made these. Me and the husband unit are waiting greedily for the chocolate to set.

    I had a caramel failure first time though. I had no golden syrup so I used honey. Bad mistake. It burnt horribly as I was heating it, despite frantic stirring. I scrapped that batch and made it again, this time with freshly-fetched golden syrup.

    However the caramel did seem to be separating a little 6 mins into the simmer. I took it off the heat and tested it as you suggested Faith with a dollop on a plate, and it did set, so I poured it on the biscuit base.

    Fingers crossed it's all good.




  • I am all over these bad boys on saturday. oh yes!! Thanx Faith :D




  • 2hpqddg.jpg

    I gotta say, this recipe didn't really work for me. The base was crumbly and cakey rather than biscuity and the caramel was more fudgy than gooey, despite only simmering for 6 minutes. Having said that, they're not bad, but they took a hell of a lot of effort (especially considering my honey blunder) and probably won't make them again.

    Still - looks good, dunnit? :)




  • That's a shame, NP. Judging by your picture, the caramel could probably have done with a little longer cooking. Mine is usually a much darker colour. It's a sensitive thing though - after a while you just learn when it's ready.

    Thanks for trying them anyway!




  • they took a hell of a lot of effort
    Er, what now?
    Biscuit base took about two minutes using a food processor.
    Caramel took about ten minutes (though, like yourself, I had a whoopsie the first time).
    Chocolate took about four minutes the first time and about ten the second (six of which was spent cutting off the chocolate from the first time because dark chocolate doesn't really work for this recipe :D)

    Even with my two whoopsies, this struck me as being one of the easiest dessert recipes I've ever done. The only things I've done that were easier were things like eton mess, which really shouldn't be called cooking so much as gathering...


    (ps. I found leaving them in the fridge overnight really helps with the caramel, and a bit of salt sprinkled under the chocolate on top of the caramel is really really nice)




  • I am making these this evening.. I expect great things! (or else!!!) :)


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  • Made these and made a total bollix of them. Im gutted!

    Used gluten free flour and the base tasted amazing.

    Chocolate was grand aswell.

    But the caramel!!!:mad: It burned on me. The arm was broken off me stirring like a maniac... so I don't know how this happened. I brought it to the boil (it wasn't overly boiling, just bubbling a bit), then immediately reduced to a simmer. I dont get it...:confused:




  • It should be slowly brought to the boil, and never more than a very gentle boil - literally just a few bubbles here and there. Don't have it higher than a medium heat either. Did you melt your butter first and then add the rest of the ingredients? Also, you need to make sure you're stirring the WHOLE saucepan - alternate with circles of decreasing size and figure of eights, to make sure there's no bit left to burn.

    People seem to be really struggling with the caramel :confused::(. I'll update my method a little bit there.




  • Faith wrote: »
    It should be slowly brought to the boil, and never more than a very gentle boil - literally just a few bubbles here and there. Don't have it higher than a medium heat either. Did you melt your butter first and then add the rest of the ingredients? Also, you need to make sure you're stirring the WHOLE saucepan - alternate with circles of decreasing size and figure of eights, to make sure there's no bit left to burn.

    People seem to be really struggling with the caramel :confused::(. I'll update my method a little bit there.

    Yeah. feck it. I think I had it on about 3 but then read the recipe and it said to boil it so I thought i'd better put it up to 5 for a min or so.. And then distaster happened. I was doing figures of 8's, the star of david, the brigid's cross! Nothing worked. ha ha

    I still went ahead and made them though. They're setting in the fridge. I'm gonna eat them anyway. I don't care! ;)




  • How badly did it burn? It might still be perfectly fine, taste-wise. I've had a few black bits in mine on occasion and it still tastes great. Fingers crossed it works out for you!




  • Faith wrote: »
    How badly did it burn? It might still be perfectly fine, taste-wise. I've had a few black bits in mine on occasion and it still tastes great. Fingers crossed it works out for you!

    It was pretty speckled with burnt bits.. The arse of the pan is destroyed. ha ha. Maybe the chocolate and the base will save it. I mean, it won't taste too awful.. But yeah, it's pretty burned...

    I bought enough ingredients to make two batches. So i'm gonna make them again at the weekend and try the method again down to a tee. If they're photo worthy, i'll post one up.

    Thanks for all your hard work on this recipe though. I'm looking forward to trying again.;) x




  • Thanks faith brilliant recipe!




  • Faith wrote: »
    That's a shame, NP. Judging by your picture, the caramel could probably have done with a little longer cooking. Mine is usually a much darker colour. It's a sensitive thing though - after a while you just learn when it's ready.

    Thanks for trying them anyway!

    I was going for your lovely dark-looking caramel, but like I say, it started to separate at 6 minutes on the simmer. The butter began to rise to the top, kind of like how a ganache can separate. I don't know what I could have done differently. :(

    Sparks...it was the most difficult dessert I've made in ages! I suppose because I felt stressed out with the first failure and then anxious when it began to separate. Also as Trí said, the arm was falling off me with the stirring!

    Still, nobody eating them today has had any complaints. :)




  • Very glently boiling the caramel works well. I melted my butter first then added Condensed Milk, mixed... then added sugar slowly and and syrup.. barely let it bubble then simmered at a very low heat. tested some on a plate and it didnt move..




  • I was going for your lovely dark-looking caramel, but like I say, it started to separate at 6 minutes on the simmer. The butter began to rise to the top, kind of like how a ganache can separate. I don't know what I could have done differently. :(

    Sparks...it was the most difficult dessert I've made in ages! I suppose because I felt stressed out with the first failure and then anxious when it began to separate. Also as Trí said, the arm was falling off me with the stirring!

    Still, nobody eating them today has had any complaints. :)

    To be honest, my caramel in the picture is probably slightly darker than usual because of a slight alteration in ingredients on that batch. But I've never seen the butter separate. I've no idea what might have happened there! Once the butter is melted, and the condensed milk is added, it takes a bit of stirring to get it uniform but after that, it shouldn't split at all.

    Also, I stir lazily but non-stop. I wouldn't beat the mixture like mad while stirring. The best word for how I do it is languid :). I don't know if that makes a difference, or if I'm just lazy :D
    Very glently boiling the caramel works well. I melted my butter first then added Condensed Milk, mixed... then added sugar slowly and and syrup.. barely let it bubble then simmered at a very low heat. tested some on a plate and it didnt move..

    Hurray! Here's hoping you enjoy them :).


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  • If people are having trouble with the caramel, i'd seriouly reccomend a tin of the carnation caramel I mentioned. I know doing it your self is more satisfying, but buying some stufff pre boiled by carnation is better than separated or burnt stuff in your own pot.

    Nestle-Carnation-Caramel-CARCAR_b_0.JPG


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