Peanut, Chocolate and Caramel Baklava

IMG_2839

I’ve been wanting to try to make baklava for a while – I love it. However, I know that my family are not overly keen, they find it to sickly and sweet.

Anyway, the other day i had some filo pastry left over from dinner and decided some experimentation was in order. I am the biggest peanut and chocolate fan, whether it be snickers, peanut butter m and ms, the peanut kitkat, I love them all.

I decided that I would try to incorporate this into a baklava. I looked up a recipe on Jamie Oliver’s website and used it as the basis for my version.

A traditional baklava is normally made by baking chopped nuts (often pistachios) in between layers of filo pastry and then pouring a honey/sugar syrup over the top to make it stick together.
I decided that instead of pistachios I was going to put a mixture of chopped roasted peanuts and chocolate. Instead of using a honey syrup, which I thought might be a bit too floral for the peanut/chocolate combination, I made a runny caramel and used this to sandwich it all together.

IMG_2835

My recipe was as follows:

1x 270g pack filo pastry (normally 6 sheets)
150g roasted unsalted peanuts
50g chocolate, chopped
100g butter, melted

For the caramel:
250g Sugar
125ml mixture of cream and milk
50g butter

First, to make the caramel:
Melt the sugar in a heavy based saucepan
When it is melted and golden brown in colour, remove off the heat and stir in the butter
Add the cream/milk mixture slowly, beating after each addition.
Set the caramel aside to cool.

Then make the baklava:
Put the nuts into a food processor and whiz them until coarsely chopped then mix in the chocolate pieces
wpid-20150418_140953.jpg
Cut the 6 sheets of pastry in half so you have 12 pieces
Find a tin roughly the same shape as your pastry pieces and butter it with some of the melted butter
Lay a layer of filo pastry into the tin and then brush it with melted butter
Add another layer of filo pastry onto the first one and butter it again
Repeat this until you have four layers of filo

wpid-20150418_140855.jpg

Sprinkle half the peanut and chocolate mix over the fourth layer of filo pastry

wpid-20150418_141423.jpg
Repeat the layers of filo pastry and butter on top of the peanut mixture so that you have another four
Sprinkle over the remaining peanut and chocolate and then layer up the remaining four pieces of filo
Make sure you brush the top layer with butter
Cut the baklava into pieces before you bake it. Make sure that you cut all the way through to the bottom.

wpid-20150418_142010.jpg
Bake at 170 degrees for 30 mins or until golden brown.

While the baklava is baking, check on your cooled caramel. If it is incredibly thick then thin it with some milk. It needs to be of a syrupy consistency that can be spooned over the baklava and seep down to the bottom.

When the baklava is cooked pour/spoon over half of the caramel, let it rest for five minutes then spoon over the other half.
When the baklava is completely cool you can take it out of the tin and tuck in!

IMG_2830IMG_2836

Chocolate and…

I came back from university a few weeks ago and as soon as I got home I was inundated with messages from friends about how they really wanted to come round and make cake after spending all term drooling over the pictures I have been posting on Facebook (oh the joys of social networking, I have been so cruel tantalising people :p ).

So, I invited them round this weekend to make our famous (or will be one day, fingers crossed) cupcakes. The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we went on a virtuous walk first in an effort to counteract the effect that the vast quantity of cake might otherwise have had…

WP_000488

I decided that we were not just going to make any old vanilla, chocolate or other such ordinary cupcakes so decided on the theme Chocolate and… The idea was that we would make a few combinations of chocolate with something else, some were traditional, others – not so much. After much deliberation and discussion about what would work best (you could tell we were students, we almost got the mind maps out), we decided on three combinations: Chocolate and Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Caramel and lastly, Chocolate and Chilli.

WP_000496

For all the cupcakes we used the Basic Cupcake recipe as a base and added to it.

For the Peanut Butter Cupcakes we added two tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter to the mixture. Both Ruth and I are very keen on having fillings inside the cupcakes so I decided that they would have to feature somewhere in the recipes. In order to make the Peanut Butter Cupcakes have some chocolate element that wasn’t just the buttercream, we filled them with a chocolate fudge icing. I taught my friends how to scoop out the middle of the cupcakes as we did on for the Cocktail ones so that they could be filled with a nice amount of chocolatey goodness.

WP_000497

The filling we used was a scaled down version of Mary Berry’s Chocolate Fudge Icing, we did less than half but if you have too much, it is delicious warmed up as a chocolate sauce on fruit (especially strawberries) or alternatively you can just lick out the pan! If you are short on time, Betty Crocker’s Fudge Icing in a pot is a good alternative although rather stiff so you may need to warm it slightly to make it easier to fill the cupcake.

For the Caramel Cupcakes we added two tablespoons of Cocoa Powder to the Basic Cupcake Recipe and filled them with a beautiful salted caramel bought all the way back from Brittany by Ruth. As I am fully aware, this is not something that is normally in everyone’s store cupboard but there are plenty of alternatives out there. If you are really adventurous you can try making it yourself, it is difficult but perfectly achievable. However you will save yourself a lot of stressful batches of burnt caramel (I speak from experience) if you buy tinned caramel (such as Carnations) and add salt to it if you desire.

WP_000490

Now for the more unusual Chocolate and Chilli Cupcakes. We did the same as for the caramel ones and added 2 tbsp of cocoa powder to the Basic Cupcake recipe, however, we also added a few drops of Tabasco sauce. After trying the batter, the spiciness did not hit us so we added quite a lot more. To my surprise, the spice still didn’t really come through, I think it must be because there is so much dairy in a cake batter that it acts as a coolant. We decided to change tactic and started adding chilli powder, I would advise doing this bit by bit and keep tasting the batter (what a shame) as everyone’s chilli powder is different. Ours was hot so we probably didn’t use as much as if it had been a milder one. After deciding that the batter was sufficiently spicy, I added a few extra shakes for good luck (I was convinced that cooking would reduce the chilli kick) and whacked them in the oven.

To ice, we used a chocolate buttercream on them all so that they looked uniform. We made this by replacing 50g of the icing sugar from the Basic Buttercream recipe with cocoa powder.

WP_000495

For the chilli cupcakes, we cut up half a fresh chilli and added it to the buttercream, just for good luck.

We all enjoyed piping the cupcakes, i still have much improving to do but did manage to hand out a few tips and the feedback from my friends was all good.

WP_000492

The chilli cupcakes, definitely did have a kick and the flavour was not cooked out as I expected them to be. My mum and sister thought they were delicious as did the girls.

WP_000499

Other potential ideas could be chocolate and coffee, chocolate and orange, chocolate and raspberry, chocolate and mint, chocolate and ginger…. experiment away!!!

Lizzy 🙂