GBBO - Caramel SOS

So this week’s ‘Bake Off’ episode was all about everything caramel. And let’s just say for some it certainly turned out to be one real hot and sticky mess. Whether it was too runny, too grainy or just tasted burnt, the first ever ‘Bake Off’ Caramel week certainly proved to be a challenge.

Now if caramel was in a flavour popularity contest, I think it might just come out tops! Anything featuring salted caramel seems to always be a firm favourite. And the fact you can use it for fillings, flavourings, coatings and decorations lends itself to a multiple of culinary extravaganzas!

How to make perfect caramel

In principle making caramel is pretty easy; however in practise it can be a little tricky. Try following these simple rules for perfect results:

First things first: Use a scrupulously clean heavy bottomed saucepan. Any stray remnants in that pan might cause the caramel to crystalize.

Brush the pan down: This is a trick I always use when dissolving sugar as it prevents any burning around the edges and crystals falling into the mix.  Pop all the ingredients into the pan and use a wet pastry brush to paint around the side of the pan; making sure no sugar is on the edges.

A little bit of acid helps: Try adding 1 tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice to every 400g of sugar. This will help prevent crystallization.

And a little bit of Glucose: This will also help to stabilize the caramel. Add 4tbsp of either golden syrup or glucose to every 400g of sugar.

Nice and slow wins the race: Heat on a medium to high heat to dissolve the sugar, then immediately reduce the heat to low until cooked.

Stand away from the spoon!!!! Ok, I know it’s tempting, but as soon as the sugar has fully dissolved, try not to stir the caramel as it can encourage it to crystalize and go grainy. If you see that your heat is distributing unevenly, give the pan a little shake, or if you really need to, one quick little stir.

Stop Cooking!!!! The caramel is ready when it starts to take on a golden tinge and you can ‘just’ start to smell the first whiff of bitterness. Remember that if the caramel is too pale, it will not taste of anything!

Now, because it has been cooking in a hot pan, the pan will continue to cook the caramel when you take it off the heat. To stop this process (and prevent it from burning), submerge the bottom of your pan into iced cold water to chill quickly.

Most important tip….how to clean the pan Now those lucky contestants don’t have to do their own washing up, but as I usually don’t have that luxury let me share with you the most useful tip for making caramel; cleaning the horrendously sticky pan.

Once you’ve finished with your caramel pan, fill it up with water and bring to the boil so that everything dissolves. Pour the water out, and voila! Everything should be a doddle to clean now.

The Recipes: Real and Fake Caramel

Ok, now I know it is slightly crazy for me to include a recipe in an article about Caramel for fake Caramel, but just watching this weeks ‘Bake Off’ had me in a sugar induced coma. So this week I also wanted to include something slightly more health conscious and perfect for those whom have allergies or intolerances.

The Real – Toffee Apples

The Phoney - Vegan Millionaires Shortbread with ‘Fake’ caramel

Makes approximately 10 shortbread. No baking needed!

Biscuit Layer:

  • 150g ground almonds
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 60g castor sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

The Fake Caramel:

  • 200g pitted dates, soaked in boiling water
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp melted coconut oil

Chocolate top:
Vegan chocolate, dark and white

  1. Mix together all of the ingredients for the biscuit base. Spread onto the base of a small square tin or loaf tin. Layover some cling film and gently flatten. Refrigerate to set.
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