My husband has always enjoyed the flavour of caramel more than chocolate, so last year when we went to Brest in Brittany, France, he was delighted to discover that caramel was also the preferred flavour in that region. On our first night in Brest we had the great pleasure to dine at a traditional Brittany restaurant with our friends and hosts.
Of course crepes were the main item on the menu, and both Mark and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I forget what I had for dessert because it paled in comparison to the confection that Mark accidentally ordered. When he ordered a bowl of caramel icecream for dessert he had no idea that there would be anything else in the bowl other than icecream. Imagine his surprise (and my utter envy) when the waiter placed a massive bowl of caramel and vanilla icecream covered with delicious, hot, runny, buttery caramel sauce, topped with whipped cream? Mark’s eyes nearly popped out of his head!
In fact, it wasn’t just caramel that was so important to the people of Brittany – it was also butter. They put butter in everything! On the crepes, on the vegetables, all over the bread – they’re mad for butter. And since caramel is based on butter, naturally they love that as well.
Unfortunately for me, the diet in France was far too rich and my stomach put severe restrictions on what I could and couldn’t eat. Annoying, since it had taken me 11 years to get back to France after my first visit. I would have been happy if the waiter had brought me Mark’s dessert, only leave out the icecream and the whipped cream – a whole bowl of that caramel would have been heaven to me!
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup of water
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup self raising flour
¾ cup plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
75g chopped walnuts
12 unbroken walnut halves.
1. Pre-heat you oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
2. Place the chopped dates and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add butter and stir until melted. Allow to cool.
3. Add sugar, egg, flour, bicarb soda, spice and walnuts and mix until combined. Do not beat!
4. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with confeta cups and drop icecream scoopfuls of mix into each. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Tops will remain soft and squidgy so do not touch!
5. Cool on a wire rack. Makes about 15 cupcakes.
½ cup brown sugar, tightly packed
2 tblsp milk
175g salt reduced butter
1kg icing sugar mixture
1. Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir until combined.
Slowly bring to boil and simmer until sugar is melted. Do not over heat or you’ll get hard lumps in your mixture.
2. Warm 2 tablespoons of milk in microwave so it comes to room temperature. Add to butter and sugar mix and stir until combined. Set aside to cool completely (or make this the day before you need it if you have time).
3. Put 175g butter, icing sugar and milk into the large bowl of a mixer. Combine on low speed until all ingredients are wet. Increase speed to medium-high and beat buttercream until it’s light and fluffy.
4. Add caramel mixture and beat until well combined. For a deeper caramel colour add ¼ teaspoon of Parisian Browning Essence if desired.
5. Top cool Date & Walnut cakes with caramel buttercream and decorate with half a walnut.