It probably won't come as news to anyone that this weekend, we were 'celebrating' the Queen's diamond jubilee.
I say 'celebrating' because my participation in the events was somewhat questionable.
I am not really one for national outpourings of emotion. Especially an outpouring of emotion related to the monarchy, an institution about which I am, at best, ambivalent. I had planned on letting the whole thing pass me by until a colleague pointed out that this was an event of historical importance and which we would never experience again. And I realised that I had to make something of an effort.
Not least because if my future children ask what I did to celebrate, I didn't really want to have to answer 'Well your father spent all day playing a game on his iPad where you have to destroy the world with a plague and I spent all day watching Diagnosis Murder'. Presuming, of course, that said children are a product of my current boyfriend. Otherwise I would have to gloss over his role in proceedings.
The highlight of the weekend's celebrations was the Thames pageant, a flotilla of a thousand boats including the Queen on a big gold boat (see below). In typical fashion, it was pouring with rain but that didn't seem to dampen the spirits. Or at least it didn't seem to be dampening them in the 10 minutes that I spent outside, snapping a couple of photos before retreating to my parents' flat with its river view where some friends joined me for an afternoon of quiche, cake and the odd glass of fizz.
I wasn't planning to make anything in particular for the Sunday but on Saturday evening, I had an attack of baking guilt. Based on a quick survey of my cupboards, I decided that a caramel shortbread was the way to go. A version that I posted a year ago with salted caramel and white chocolate is still one of the most popular posts on this site - people seem to love the combination of buttery biscuit, smooth caramel and rich chocolate. It also has the benefit of being much easier than it looks nothing more complicated than rubbing together some flour, sugar and butter for the base or heating the ingredients for the caramel in a small pan.
I had no confidence at all in my ability to make pretty swirls on top but I was very pleased with how they turned out. If I can do it, anyone can and it makes the shortbread look far more impressive than the effort warrants. That's my kind of baking.
Adapted from my billionaire's shortbread
Yield: 16 squares
Yield: 16 squares
For the biscuit layer:
- 250g (2 cups + 1 level tablespoon) plain/all purpose flour
- 75g (1/3 cup) caster/granulated sugar
- 175g (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
- 397g (1 can) condensed milk
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 115g (1/2 cup) caster/granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup (or equivalent)
- A generous pinch of sea salt
- 150g (6 oz) dark chocolate
- 50g (2 oz) white chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Grease a baking tin approx 23cm square.
- To make the shortbread layer, combine the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor or rub together with your hands until it resembles breadcrumbs. Press it into the base of the tin and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.
- To make the caramel layer, melt the milk, butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring continuously, until thick and golden brown. It's important to keep stirring as it can catch very easily. When thick, stir in the salt and pour it over the shortbread and chill until set (about an hour or so).
- When the caramel layer has set, melt the dark chocolate and white chocolate in separate bowls. Pour the dark chocolate over the caramel layer and flatten out so it covers the whole surface. Drop teaspoons of white chocolate onto the dark chocolate and gently swirl with a knife.
- Chill until firm before slicing into squares with a sharp knife.