Chocolate Covered Caramels

My dear choc-addicts, this post is dedicated to you!

Over a month ago I posted a photo of  Chocolate Caramels on my Facebook page announcing that the recipe for it would shortly follow… As it often is, life got in the way and a good 5 weeks later…here it is!

I’m sorry I let you down, but I promise you, the wait will be worth it…

For the Caramel layer

1 cup of unsalted butter

1 can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup of firmly packed brown sugar

pinch of salt

For the chocolate layer

250 gr (8 oz)of dark chocolate)

2 tablespoons butter

How to

Put butter, brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk in a pot over medium heat.

Stirring continuously, melt the sugar and the butter with the milk and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and keep stirring with a wooden spoon for about 7-10 minutes, or until the caramel appears thicker and golden brown and its intoxicating scent has you in convulsions…

Add a pinch of salt and, off the heat, whisk the caramel vigorously for 2 minutes.

(Please, be very mindful never to leave to the stove whist the caramel is on. Keep stirring, sing your favorite song twice and the job will be done without casualties. Leave the stove to chase your baby who has decided to take his first crawl today, and you will end up with burnt caramel and a burnt pot… Ask me how I know!)

Pour the caramel in a container lined with baking paper and allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour.

In the meantime, make your chocolate topping,

Melt the dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a double boiler.

Once melted, stir for a couple of minutes with a rubber spoon to bring down the temperature slightly. If you are feeling adventurous and you wish to temper your chocolate, proceed like so.

Take the caramel out of the fridge, pour the chocolate over it and spread it into one smooth layer. Add toasted almond flakes if you wish to add a crunchy texture.

Allow to set in the fridge before slicing.

Cut into large chunks and individually wrapped in baking paper, they make a lovely edible gift.

I like to serve them cut into small squares with a hot espresso coffee.

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Italian Spiced X’Mas Slice, with figs, cranberries and roasted hazelnut

I had a pretty disastrous couple of days in the kitchen.

First, I charcoaled the left-over potato bake, then I dropped-and shattered-the just-bought, very extravagant jar of designer-worthy vanilla paste.

On the same day, as I was unstacking the dishwasher, I managed to snap the stem off two-two!- champagne flutes.

And so it was only  a natural course of event that I should burn the caramel (once again!) for my chocolate-covered caramel bites!

I didn’t even cry when it happened.  There were no more cook’s tears left in me…

But somehow I had to turn the week around and start fresh again.

And I had all that amazing 70% chocolate waiting to be used and, hopefully, not burnt…

A no-bake something or another was the safest way to go…

And, well, it looks like I may have just redeemed myself!

This easy-peasy chocolate slice makes the perfect Xmas edible gift, so make sure you have enough for yourself as well as your lucky recipients.

INGREDIENTS

200 gr (7 oz)of 70% dark chocolate, melted with 1 tablespoon of butter (in a double boiler or in the microwave, whichever suits you)

a handful of whole roasted hazelnuts, skin removed (roast your nuts for 10 minutes in a medium oven then rub them in a kitchen towel to ease the skin off)

2 tablespoons of ground hazelnut (hazelnut meal)

a handful of dried cranberries (or sour cherries)

three table-spoons of chopped up semi-dried figs

1 scant table-spoon of cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

a pinch of nutmeg

In a large bowl, mix together the nuts with the dried fruits, the spices, the cocoa and the ground hazelnut.

Add the melted chocolate white still hot and combine well.

Pour the decadent paste into an oven dish lined with baking paper.

Flatten with the back of a spoon and allow to set in the fridge for 1 hour before cutting it into rustic chuncks.

Serve with Grappa or Rum, or simply with espresso coffee, if you want to feel very Italiano!

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Crispy Calamari with Peroni-battered Zucchini Fries

It’s the first day of Summer in the Southern hemisphere!

What better way to celebrate than a platter of golden calamari rings and crunchy zucchini fries? And Peroni, of course!

As it happens most years, it’s a cloudy, windy and slightly chilly day today, nevertheless it is summer indeed and I can see that in the abundance of berry-red hibiscus and creamy frangipani flowers, blooming and claiming their spot in the (pale!) sun.

So, slap on your sun-block, your designer shades and your bikini or budgie-smugglers*(..on second thoughts, better with board-shorts) and enjoy the long-awaited summer season!

INGREDIENTS , for the Calamari

3 medium, fresh, squids (thawed squid will yield a rubbery calamari ring, don’t go there)

1 cup of plain flour well seasoned with salt and black pepper

2 cups of sunflower oil for deep-frying.

Get your fish-monger to clean the squid for you, if you can. All you need for this recipe are the tentacles and the tubes.

If your fish-monger can’t be asked (this is the case if you live in Sydney…), follow these simple steps here to D.I.Y (do it yourself!).

Rinse your tubes and tentacles, dry them in kitchen paper and, using a very sharp knife, cut the tubes into rings. Toss the rings and the tentacles into the seasoned flour.

Heat up the oil and gently toss in the squid. Cook for about 2 minutes, then drain on kitchen paper.

Season with salt and a squeeze of lemon and serve with a caper and garlic Aioli.

INGREDIENTS for the zucchini fries

3 medium-sized zucchini

1 330ml bottle/can of beer (I used Peroni, but you can use whatever blond beer you get your hands on)

1 cup of self-raising flour

Oil for deep-frying

Cut the zucchini into strips and dry with kitchen paper.

In a large bowl mix the flour and the beer, leaving some lumps and making sure to have a “pancake batter” consistency, not too liquid, not too stiff.

Drop your zucchini strips in the batter and then in the hot oil, deep-fry until golden, drain on kitchen paper and serve while still hot.

*Term used to describe the very brief swimming brieves worn by male swimming athletes, but, alas, unfortunately, also occasionally employed by all male shapes and sizes at Australian surf beaches…

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