Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cookies

Well, you don’t really need an excuse to bake when it’s so cold and miserable outside (or ever, in fact) but the Bonfire Night seemed like it needed a little bit of a treat to celebrate. Celebrate what? I don’t really understand why there are so many fireworks and bonfires to remember that someone tried to burn down the Houses of Parliament but failed. No one really does the same for other failed terrorist plots. Maybe it’s just too early, you don’t really want to provoke terrorists too much.

Anyway, poor Guy Fawkes has been burnt so many times that I felt that Bonfire Night deserved some kind of contribution from my part. Not really sure about what kind of food is traditionally made on this day, I just decided to make something I’ve been craving for a while, some kind of cookies with salted caramel.


Salted caramel sounds quite pretentious and it is annoyingly all over the place, having emerged as a food blogger’s favourite. I am not one to steer clear of cliches though and, to be honest, the salty-sweet combination is more common than it appears at first: brie and cranberry, meat and chutney and most of Chinese food are only a few examples! I love all of these and I think the combination of the two tastes manages to bring the best out of both of them. Did I mention Wotsits dipped in melted chocolate? Try it.

If I was a proper “foodie” (how I dislike this word!) I would make my own caramel sweets. But I’m lazy. I came back from the department late and had about 45 mins before the fireworks to make these. I used Cadbury’s caramel bites for that batch, which was not caramelly enough, and fudge bits for the one I made today, which turned out to be too sticky. Next time make your own caramels, foodie.

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cookies (adapted from the Kitchenist who adapted them from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients (makes about 20 cookies)

230 gr dark chocolate
60 gr butter
100 gr flour*
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
150 gr brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup caramel chunks (toffee, caramel bits, homemade caramels etc.)
sea salt

Melt your chocolate with the butter, making sure it doesn’t burn! You can do it on the hob, in the microwave or using a bain-marie. Just do it slowly.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar and the vanilla extract until light and fluffy (in a food processor if you like) and add the melted chocolate. Add the flour mix (flour and baking powder) and mix with a wooden spoon until it’s fully incorporated. Finally, add the caramel chunks.
Place spoonfuls of the mix on baking paper and sprinkle with sea salt on the top. Bake in a preheated oven for 15 mins (maybe less, depending on how big your cookies are) at 170 degrees.

The top looks a lot like the shiny, crackly top of a good brownie and the cookies are chewy and very very chocolaty. They disappeared very quickly. By the way, I didn’t make the fireworks. I got lazy and decided to stay in, eat cookies and get drunk on beer, together with some other lazy people. Fireworks are overrated anyway.

*I made these gluten-free again by substituting the flour by equal parts of gluten-free flour, cocoa powder and ground almond for texture.

Note: I forgot to mention that they turn out better if you chill the dough first. I know many people are in the habit of doing that anyway but I’m quite lazy and impatient so I normally skip it. It really helps here!

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Jamie’s English Onion Soup

OK, I have to confess: Onion Soup sounds like such a great idea but I have never actually had a good one. I’ve had it a few times in our college hall, but there it basically consists of a few bits of onion swimming in some Bisto. To be honest, I enjoyed it at the time, being thankful that it wasn’t their tomato soup: Passata diluted in some hot water with a bit of pepper. Just awful.

It just seems that whenever I go to restaurants that do onion soup there’s always something more exciting to order. For example, Brasserie Gerard apparently does a good one. But they also have a scallop starter. And a baked camembert. And some deep fried whitebait. I just can’t bring myself to order the soup.

Yesterday though, it felt very wintery and, having seen Jamie Oliver making this soup on his show recently, I decided to give it a go. This is the recipe from Jamie’s website and I only made a couple of changes, mainly through necessity.

English Onion Soup (from Jamie Oliver)

Ingredients:

a knob of butter
olive oil
1kg onions (a combination of red and white)
a handful of shallots
2 leeks
1/2 bulb of garlic
2 litres of chicken, beef or vegetable stock
sage
salt and pepper
200gr cheddar
Worcestershire sauce
slices of stale bread

Making it is pretty straightforward. Chop the onions, leeks and shallots. Try not to cry too much. You will probably fail so just go ahead and listen to this and relate:

Next step is to fry the chopped garlic with some sage leaves in the butter and the olive oil and add all the chopped onions, leeks and shallots.

Turn it right down and leave it to cook for about an hour, covered for the first half. They will be very soft at the end of this, and if you want to add some more colour you can just turn the heat up a bit but be careful to stir often so they don’t burn. Add the stock, bring to boil and let it simmer for 15 mins.

Now the fun bit! Toast some bread and put a portion of soup in a bowl. Cover with bits of toasted bread on top until you have a bread lid. Top with grated cheddar and some Worcestershire sauce and pop under the grill until your cheese has melted. Enjoy. Just don’t go on a date afterwards unless it is with someone you’re trying to get rid off. But still, surely there are better ways of doing that.

What I did differently was that I didn’t add the sage because I didn’t have any. I think my onions needed some more caramelising but I had already added the stock when I realised so I had two choices: Add some browning or end up with a pale soup. In the end, I didn’t do either as I spotted a bottle with a bit of “quality” (as in Sainsbury’s Basics, hopefully Jamie will approve) red wine. I actually think it improved the taste and I will definitely use some again next time I make this, but probably before adding the stock.

I was also contemplating swapping the cheddar for some nutty gruyere but then decided to stick to the title and keep it English. I picked a mature cheddar and I have to say it was very tasty, especially with the Worcestershire sauce. I don’t really know what else makes this an English soup rather than a French one and I do hope I haven’t made any francophiles angry! Jamie just made it look too good to resist!