It’s caramel week tonight and there’s sugar, sugar everywhere! This is the first time on The Great British Bake Off that the bakers are tackling the tasty creation.
'It’s a beautiful thing but it will destroy you'
‘It’s a beautiful thing but it will destroy you’ said two-time star baker Steven in last week's teaser. And if he’s saying it, we know it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
From Dutch caramel waffles to showstopping caramel creations using spun sugar, and a signature bake of caramel shortbread, the bakers have their work cut out for them this week.
Luckily for us, caramel shortbread happens to be one of our favourite bakes, so with the help of our food editor Gregor McMaster, we’ve lined up a few top tips so you can avoid any potential caramel-related pitfalls when making yours at home.
1. Get your timing right
'Always make sure you leave enough time to make caramel shortbread,' Gregor tells us. 'Each section needs properly cooling before you load up the next layer.' Our recipe takes just over 2 hours, so this isn't a creation you can just quickly whip together when you've got a spare 45 minutes. Caramel needs some TLC.
2. press down the biscuit very firmly
Gregor says, 'I'd suggest using the back of a wooden spoon to make sure you can push down the biscuit and get a solid, hard and firm base. Nobody wants a crumbly bottom!'
3. Don’t burn your caramel
'If you’re making your caramel from scratch (like the bakers will be doing), you do this by heating sugar and water together to create a caramel,' Gregor says. 'But, beware; caramel burns very quickly so always make sure you cook it on the lowest possible heat.'
4. If your caramel is about to burn
Gregor says, 'Don't panic - but move very quickly! Partially fill the sink with ice water so that if your caramel is about to scorch, you can immediately set the pan bottom in the ice water which will stop the cooking process.'
5. If that's too late
'There's no coming back from burnt caramel, so bin it' Gregor tells us. 'Just make sure you add water to the pan and let it simmer which will make the pan easier to clean!'
6. Use a large pan for your caramel
Gregor says: 'Later in the cooking process the sugar may bubble up and you don’t want it overflowing.' Health and safety first!
7. Don't be tempted to touch it
'When you’re heating sugar in the pan, don’t be tempted to touch it or stir it, just let it be until it starts turning to liquid. When it does start to melt, you can give your pan a shake to help it along. Stir until the sugar crystals have dissolved.'
8. Get creative with your toppings
9. Don't get too heavy handed with the chocolate topping
'If you create a thick chocolate layer it will be very difficult to cut through at the end,' Gregor added.
10. Dark chocolate is the way forward
'Our recipe states you can use any colour of chocolate to your taste, but we think dark really is the best option,' Gregor says. 'It’s the least sweet, as you get more than enough sweetness from the caramel and the biscuit.'
11. When it comes to cutting
'There are a couple of ways of avoiding "squish" when cutting up your caramel shortbread,' Gregor tell us. 'Dip your sharp knife into hot water, then dry on a kitchen towel before cutting through the chocolate. It will make it much easier. Or, try flipping the shortbread out the tin so the biscuit is facing up. Cut this way so you cut through the harder chocolate layer last.'