This year – along with the rest of the country – I was completely and unashamedly gripped by the Great British Bake Off. I spent the summer wondering if anyone other than Richard would win star baker, worrying whether Martha would pass her A-levels and recovering from the baked-alaska scandal. And when, surrounded by friends and family (hers not mine), Nancy was crowned star baker, I admit to shedding a tear…or two.
So, with my GBBO obsession in full swing, deciding to host my very own bake-off seemed like a no-brainer. Contestants were instructed to bring over their most showstopping creation with the chance of being crowned star-baker. Now all I had to do was choose what to make and after little success trawling the internet and various cook books for inspiration I ended up making something I’ve had my eye on for years, Ottolenghi’s caramel and macadamia cheesecake (I’ve included a pic above!) Why, you may ask, has it taken me 6 years to try this out, well, cos making caramel is scary guys, and this recipe requires two different types!
Despite my initial trepidation, I found that mastering caramel is actually pretty easy – so long as you follow the right guidelines – and have since gone on to tackle a whole host of recipes, my favourite being the salted peanut brittle that you can find the recipe for below. I thought this addictive treat would make the perfect DIY Christmas/Chanukah present…Enjoy!
Makes two large slabs of about 15cm x 15cm.
250g caster sugar // 200g salted peanuts // 150g dark chocolate; broken into pieces
Start by lining a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Next, pour the sugar into a thick-bottomed saucepan/frying pan and shake so you have an even layer. I did this recipe in two batches (you’ll see why when you get to tip 2!)
TIP 1 | It helps to use a light coloured pan so you can see the colour of the caramel and catch it at just the right time.
TIP 2 | You want an even layer of sugar no higher than 3mm (I don’t know why – something to do with the way the sugar crystallizes – but that’s what Ottolenghi says and who am I to argue with him!)
Gently heat the pan and DO NOT STIR. Simply wait for the sugar to melt and turn into a golden caramel, this took around 10-15min so don’t panic if it takes a while.
Once the caramel is a lovely golden brown quickly take off the heat, tip in the peanuts, stir to coat and pour out onto the lined baking tray. Shape into a loose rectangle with a silicone spatula and flatten down into a slab. This process has to be done fairly quickly as the caramel seems to harden pretty fast.
Once your caramel has hardened and cooled, melt the dark chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a simmering pan of water. Take off the heat, flip the peanut brittle over and brush the smooth side with melted chocolate. If you don’t have a silicone brush I’m sure you could just pour the chocolate over.
Leave to cool, chocolate side up, and then, using a sharp knife, cut into shards of brittle.
For other DIY gift ideas check out the dark chocolate, cherry & ginger cookies I gave to my family last year.