Those who follow my twitter would know that I was thwarted by macarons yet again – this time, it was the salted caramel variant which is my absolute favourite. I used this recipe and I must have done something terribly wrong, for they did not rise and lacked the much loved ‘feet’ that set macarons apart. Not only were they mushy little things that stuck to my baking mat, my sister added salt to injury when she pointed at the failed batch and asked me if they were the ones that hadn’t been baked in the oven yet.
Oh macarons, why do you evade me so?
So I sulked for a night before going back to the batch of salted caramel which I had whipped up and it had inadvertently set in the bowl that I had left it in. Ah, serves me right. Tasting the caramel, I hummed and hawed before deciding that I shan’t be boring! I absolutely will not let those feet-less macarons get the better of me! I shall be the next Asian Nigella Lawson!
Well, that, or I’ll just make me some dark chocolate coated salted caramels.
Similar to Cadbury Choclairs (a play on chocolate + eclairs, naturally), these chewy salted caramel balls are coated in melted dark chocolate and left to set in the fridge. If you want to leave them outside, these chocolates will ‘bloom’, which is the whitish bits you might see on opened and forgotten chocolate bars (although how on earth people forget opened chocolate bars is beyond me!). That’s why people temper chocolate, by the way. Tempering is tedious, so the good news is if you keep them in the fridge, blooming will not be a problem at all; shame I am only referring to the chocolate, and not our waistlines too. Darn.
And if you’re wondering why there’s a royal blue pastry brush in the picture, there isn’t. You’re imagining it.
… All right, so I did think I’d need it at first but soon enough, I returned it to its rightful place. Okay? Okay!
So, I simply went about this with no recipe. Firstly, I used a spoon to scoop out the caramel, which did take a bit of muscle because it had been left to set overnight, and then roughly fashioned them into unfortunate looking, misshapen balls (which you can see in the previous picture). It’s perfectly fine, because no one will ever see them before biting into them so you can ditch your art skills/pedantic nature at the kitchen door. And yes, this is why I should not sign up for Masterchef. Once that’s done, the difficult part is over and the rest is simply a matter of patience, Padawan.
I used ultra mini cupcake liners (about 1.25 inch diameter; the same types used for Chinese New Year/Hari Raya cookies) and coated the bottom with chocolate, let them set, inserted the caramel and then filled the liners to the top with more melted chocolate. Voila, that’s it. Although it would’ve been much easier, I didn’t use cupcake liners is because they would simply be too large a serving, making it less graceful. I was actually quite proud of my patience in making each and every one slowly, but I was probably spurred on by the melted chocolate I kept eating. For taste-testing, of course. Really. Nothing to do with the fact that I completely love dark chocolate with every ounce of my being (yes, that would make this sentence very significant indeed).
This recipe is made slightly easier by the fact that you can just melt the chocolate in the microwave and it’s ready for use. Melt the chocolate slowly by setting your microwave power to 50%. Usually, it takes me 2 minutes to melt about 200 grams of chocolate and by stirring it, any small bits that haven’t yet melted will do so through the heat distribution (or something equally science-y). The reason why you shouldn’t melt all the chocolate at one go is because the first layer needs time to set and the rest of the melted chocolate will begin to harden – hence why the choclairs at the top part of tray in the picture don’t have smooth tops. Putting it in the microwave again may cause some parts of the chocolate to burn, so I would recommend that you use a clean bowl for every batch of chocolate you melt. Licking the bowl does not count as ‘clean’, but don’t forget to do it anyway. You’re welcome.
As a finishing touch, I topped these choclairs with flecks of sea salt, simply because I was curious to see what this would do to the taste. I thought the salt enhanced it but you should only use one or two grains, or it’d be way too overpowering. Alternatively, if you’re feeling really hardworking, you can drizzle melted white chocolate on top and they’d be pretty as a picture!
Well, pretty as a pretty picture.
I’m guessing that most people will not have salted caramel just lying around so
I’m linking this salted caramel recipe for your reference. The recipe was fine, but be aware that I am completely new to caramel making. If you don’t feel like whipping a batch up, what you can do is to use jersey caramels. Whilst they don’t have the same salty undertone, they will still make caramel lovers happy. These are available in packets from the supermarket confectionery aisle. Jersey caramels typically come in fairly large cubes though, so you may want to cut these down to a suitable size that fits the baking liners.
This recipe is a lot of guesstimates, so you may end up needing more or less chocolate, depending on what level you fill the liners up to (and if you’re anything like me, how much you end up secretly eating). You may also engage in excessive spoon-licking and eat quite a bit of leftover melted chocolate, but that shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, maybe this is where I recommend some sliced strawberries and dare I say it, whipped cream. It’d be an impromptu chocolate fondue party and if you’re lucky, no one will be in the kitchen with you! Being a lone baker is not such a bad idea after all, is it?
550g of dark chocolate
2 tsp vanilla essence
approximately 1 1/4 cups of salted caramel, shaped into 50 mini balls (or replace with 50 mini cubes of jersey caramels)
50 mini baking liners (1.25 inch diameter)
sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
First, open up and separate the mini baking liners onto a tray.
Melt 200g of dark chocolate in the microwave at 50% power for about 2 minutes. Stop at the halfway mark to stir. Once you remove from the microwave, stir and check that the chocolate is melted. Otherwise, microwave for another 10 seconds, and stir again.
Add in vanilla essence and stir evenly.
Pour 1/2 tsp or so of the melted chocolate into all the cupcake liners.
Put the tray into the fridge to set, which should take about 10 minutes.
Once the chocolate is set, remove the tray and add the salted caramel balls into the liners.
Use another bowl to melt the remaining dark chocolate in the microwave.
Stir in 1 tsp of vanilla essence and fill the mini liners to the top with the melted chocolate.
Pat tray gently on the kitchen counter to ensure that the chocolate has melded evenly into the liners.
(Optional step: once slightly set, sprinkle grains of sea salt on top of each choclair)
Place tray into the fridge to set completely.
Leave choclairs in room temperature for 5 minutes before serving. Now that you’ve got 50 choclairs, you may want to share them. Or not!