Homemade salted caramel sauce

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

Hello my lovely readers! 

Are we all loving this Autumn weather at the moment or is it just me? Jason and I arrived back to (very) rainy Manchester on Wednesday evening following our week long stay in France. Despite the beautiful weather we had while we were there (I was applying suncream by the bucket load), it’s always nice to come back to England and snuggle down under the extra layers of blankets that I have added to my bed in preparation for the winter months. Maybe I’m just strange though…

However, even if you don’t enjoy the wet and windy weather that most of us will be experiencing in the coming months, you’re sure to find some respite with today’s recipe. Introducing to you, my homemade hot salted caramel sauce.

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

This caramel sauce is the perfect topping for ice cream, but I find it also pairs wonderfully with spiced cake and apples at this time of year. I’m not a huge lover of caramel, I find it a bit too sickly for my taste, but this sauce is perfect on top of a dense ginger cake or similar; and full of Autumn flavours in my opinion!

Even better, this salted caramel sauce requires only four ingredients! It’s super easy to make and super tasty to eat- what could be better, right?

Also, no toffee thermometer required! Pretty good, huh?

If you fancy making your own, find my recipe below!

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

Ingredients (makes approximately 240ml/ 1 cup):

  • 200g (1 cup) granulated sugar
  • 90g (6 tbs) salted butter, room temperature and cubed. (You could also just use unsalted butter if you did not wish to make salted caramel sauce)
  • 120ml (1/2 cup) double/heavy cream, room temperature
  • 1tsp salt

Method:

  1. Begin by heating your sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Make sure you stir constantly in order to prevent your sugar from burning, use a wooden spoon. As your sugar melts it will turn a lovely amber colour. Continue to stir it continuously.
  2. Once all of your sugar has melted, add your cubed butter. (Take care at this step as your mixture will bubble when you add the butter).
  3. Continue to stir your caramel until all of your butter has melted. This will usually take about 3 minutes.
  4. Now you can add your cream. Do this very slowly, drizzling the cream and taking great care as the caramel will bubble as you do so. Once all of your cream is added, bring your mixture to the boil. Let it bubble for one minute before removing from the heat.
  5. Stir in your salt et voila! There you have it, your own homemade caramel sauce. Super easy, right?
  6. Allow your sauce to cool before using. If stored in an airtight container, this sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe today guys! I think caramel sauce is such a great addition to most bakes at this time of year; add it to apple crumble, use it as a cake topping or drizzle it on a cheesecake for an autumnal twist. You could also package it up in jars with some hessian/burlap ribbon for a cute and unique gift idea! 

If you do choose to store your sauce in the fridge, you will have to warm it up in a microwave or on the stove before you serve it in order to allow it to soften. I find 5 second bursts in a microwave work well.

This salted caramel sauce is the perfect accompaniment to all your fall sweet treats! Pair it with apple crumble, cheesecake or on top of cupcakes for the perfect Autumn dessert combo! Best of all, it only uses four ingredients!

Best wishes to you all, I hope you’re having a wonderful day,

Maddie x

Carcassonne Markets- France

Carcassonne markets, fruit and veg stall

Hi guys! As some of you may know, Jason and I are currently holidaying in Carcassonne, the south of France. We are having the most wonderful time; I’d never been to France before this trip, but this beautiful country is turning out to be exactly how I had imagined it. Vineyards for as far as the eye can see and an abundance of cheese, bread, and of course, wine.

Carcassonne is a bustling town, filled with French locals rather than tourists. It provides you with a true, authentic taste of Southern France, without the touristy gimmicks and tacky souvenir shops.

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Carcassonne is also home to some of the greatest food markets that I have ever seen. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, the main square of Carcassonne accommodates stalls upon stalls selling local produce. I have to refrain from buying everything. All the food looks so… well, French. And soooo appetising. The vegetables are some of the biggest that I’ve ever seen, with red peppers at least six inches long and pumpkins that look like something straight out of a Disney tale. And then there’s the fruit, as bright and colourful as a child would draw it. There’s whole stalls selling nothing but juicy oranges and berries; there’s even a whole stall selling nothing but garlic, onions and shallots.

Following visiting this beautiful town I can wholly appreciate why people talk about French food with such fondness; the plenitude of market stalls dedicated to cheese, preserves, olives and oils is somewhat overwhelming. And completely thrilling for a foodie such as myself.

If you’re anything like me, you will have never visited such a bustling and vibrant market. I have never seen so many people purchasing weighed amounts of spices, or hand selecting their vegetables for the week.

Carcassonne markets, spices stall

The markets here in Carcassonne are simply a food lover’s paradise, offering a multitude of hand picked, local ingredients to inspire you. Jason and I visited on Saturday morning; following a few hours spent browsing the shops and marveling at the local produce on sale, we then had lunch in one of the many restaurants surrounding the square. It was wonderful to relax with some good food and a bottle of wine and oversee the hive of activity that was the market. There is plenty of outdoor seating surrounding the square that emanates European cafe culture and provides a great place to relax and oversee the bustle of busy shoppers.

If you’re visiting the area, I definitely recommend that you pay these markets a visit. Morning on a market day is by far the golden hours for Carcassonne as a town, showcasing the best of what the town itself and the surrounding region of Languedoc has to offer.

Carcassonne markets, cheese stall

In other news, today we are visiting Montpellier, so I cannot wait to tell you all about the city! Jason and I will also be celebrating our four year anniversary of dating tomorrow, so we are heading into a local vineyard for a tour and three course meal with wine tasting! I am so excited and so thankful that I am able to share this wonderful journey with you all.

I wish you all blessed days, wherever you may be in the world!

Maddie x

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out some of my other travel posts? I plan on writing many more over the coming months, so keep your eyes peeled!

Guest post- Decoupage!

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Hi guys! Something a bit different for today: my first guest blogger post! Bringing you today’s post we have the lovely Hannah from over at AverageBlonde.

Hannah is a 21 year old Psychology graduate from York University…and oh yeah, she’s also my big sister 🙂 Hannah had the pleasure of trying out Decoupage for the first time this week, and she has kindly written a blog post all about it for us folks over here at A Little Mad Smith! If you’d like to know about how she got on, carry on reading!

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My position as the less artsy sister means that craft isn’t my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have an appreciation for all of the cute little things Maddie makes (particularly the food) but myself, I have zero creative talent. Actually, that’s a lie. In year seven I did a life drawing of my school shoe which my art teacher pointed out as being the best in the class and my mum hung on the fridge for a number of weeks.

Since then, my creative abilities have been restricted to organising a coloured coded system to my wardrobe and making scrapbooks for ex-boyfriends which will most definitely end up in the bin a few months later.
A week ago, I couldn’t spell decoupage, let alone did I have the foggiest idea what it was. We were in a little craft store in a garden centre and I found some pretty little paper sheets next to a variety of cardboard shapes and told Maddie they had some cute paper mache stuff. She laughed at me. Apparently there’s a difference.

After 10 minutes spent convincing me I would be capable of ripping bits of paper up and gluing them on a pre-made cardboard bird house, I bought some. I bought two different shaped bird houses and two different papers. I used the shiney decoupage glue because you literally just paint it over the entire thing at the end and it leaves it with a nice sheen.
I assume this is the part of the post where Maddie would explain the technique to the craft she is blogging about.

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I’m going to cut this short:

Rip the paper into random pieces and glue them on at random angles. When all of the card is covered, whap a load of glue over the whole thing to secure down any bits of sticky up paper. And voila!
So easy, I could do it. You could probably also manage it if you didn’t have opposable thumbs. Or are 3 years old. Or a dog.

Decoupage – So Easy, Your Dog Could Do It!

Would you like to write a guest post for my blog? If you’ve recently tried a new craft, come up with a tasty recipe or been on some exciting travels, why not let me know! I’d love to start sharing other bloggers posts! 

Thanks for reading guys, I hope you’re all having blessed days,

Maddie x

Huge Hobbycraft Birthday Haul!

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Hi guys! As some of you may know, Friday was my 20th birthday. I had a wonderful day spent with some of my favourite people, and I am so grateful for all of your well wishes and kind words. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve got lots of exciting things going on in my life right now, and I cannot wait to share it all with you!

At the time this post will go up on the blog, I will have landed in Carcassonne, France, with Jason. I am beyond excited to explore this beautiful city and see what it has to offer over the next week- I’m sure I will have plenty to tell you about over the coming days.

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But now to what this post is all about- my Hobbycraft haul! On Monday I was incredibly spoilt by my grandparents and given free reign in Hobbycraft as a birthday treat. For those who don’t know, Hobbycraft is a huge craft store in England. It stocks everything from paints to papercraft to candle making to baking- basically everything a craft addict such as myself could want.

I bought LOADS of exciting goodies and I cannot wait to get busy making all sorts of creations! I’ve grouped this post into sections, for those of you who are just interested in one particular area of craft 🙂

Baking stuff!

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First up, I bought some new baking goodies! I purchased the golden cake board with my birthday cake in mind, and the same goes for the sparklers. I love cake sparklers! They’re such a fun way of jazzing up your cakes for special occasions!

I also got two REALLY pigmented food colourings! These were pricey little guys, but you do get quite a lot in the pot, and I imagine the fact that they are so pigmented will mean that they’ll last a long time. I’m looking forward to seeing how well they colour cake mix and icing!

I’m a sucker for edible glitter, so when I saw it was on 3 for 2 I just HAD to purchase three new colours! I got a red, a gold and an orange, thinking that the red and gold would be perfect for Christmas (the orange was an impulse purchase). I also bought some gold edible stars too because who doesn’t need those in their life? 😉

Continuing with the baking theme, I got some stainless steel piping tips! This is probably the thing that I am most excited about, because up until now I only had one icing tip! (Ever notice that all my bakes had the same style piping on? Lol!). I am dying to try these babies out! Naturally I purchased some disposable piping bags to go with my new nozzles.

I had also run out of cupcake cases thanks to this mad baking spree I’ve been on recently, so I got some jazzy multicoloured ones and a gold pack for Christmas. Incase you couldn’t tell, I’m just starting to get a teeny bit excited for Christmas. I also bought some little gingerbread men decorations. (But I am totally not overly excited…) 🙂

Paper craft!

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Now onto my paper craft stuff (and mainly more Christmas themed stuff… I CAN’T HELP MYSELF). 

I love card marking. I’m nowhere near as good as some of the women I know- Jason’s nan and aunty produce some beautiful cards, as do some of the women I follow on here– but I really enjoy it nevertheless.

I got some beautiful stamps that I’m dying to use! I think the butterfly one is my favourite, but the other two are perfect for Christmas time (see a theme recurring here?). To go with the stamps, I bought three different coloured inks. I already own a lot of golden and bronze shades, so I thought it’d be nice to have some bright ones for a change! 🙂

I also got some twine ( I love using this for my card making), some sparkly festive washi tape and some adorable little hessian stars. I couldn’t help but purchase some glittery Christmas tree stickers and wooden advent numbers to complete my Christmas themed buys!

Candle making!

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I first tried candle making a couple of years ago and loved it. It’s such a fun process; all the colours and scents will have you feeling like a mad professor! As I have already tried candle making before, I own a handful of plastic candle moulds, so I simply stocked up on paraffin wax, dyes, scented oils and wicks.

If you haven’t tried candle making before but fancy giving it a go, you can usually purchase a beginners kit for around a tenner! This will provide you with all you need to get started, and it really is great fun.

Craft kits!

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I also treated myself to two craft kits. I love craft kits, as I’m always passionate about trying out exciting and new crafts! I have tried soap making before, but never beeswax soap, so I am super excited to give this a go!

I have also made bath bombs before, but I am a sucker for anything rose scented. Plus it was a good few years ago when I made my first bath bombs, so I could do with a little refresher before I start making some more.

Well guys, that’s it from my haul! I am sooooo beyond grateful to my grandparents for treating me to all of this stuff, and it’s safe to say they will definitely be receiving plenty of baked goods and homemade crafts to say thank you!

I hope you all enjoyed seeing what I bought- would you be interested in hearing my thoughts on some of the products after I’ve had chance to use them? If there’s an item you’re interested in hearing about, please let me know! 

If you’re interested in buying any of the items featured in this post, check out the Hobbycraft website 🙂

 

Lemon shortbread hearts filled with blackberry jam

These lemon shortbread hearts make a wonderful gift for loved ones! The zesty lemon shortbread accompanied by the tarty blackberry jam is the perfect sweet treat for these Autumn nights.

Hi guys! I am absolutely loving the autumnal weather that’s taken hold of us here in Lancashire over the past few weeks; even though it’s mostly wet and windy, I must admit that I love the evenings growing darker and getting tucked up on the sofa with Jason as it pours it down outside. 🙂

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When the weather’s dark and miserable, I also love baking. One of my fondest memories from high school was being sent home due to the snow, pulling a wooly jumper on and starting baking some mince pies… but I’m getting ahead of myself here! It’s only October!

Today’s bake is my lemon shortbread hearts filled with homemade blackberry jam. I’d been trying to settle on a good shortbread recipe for a while, before finally deciding on the one in this post. These shortbreads were the perfect amount of zestiness and crumbliness- and the blackberry jam went so well with them!

Ever so moorish, these shortbreads are the perfect sweet treat to be tucking into while wrapped up on the sofa on these dark Autumn days!

Find the recipe below!

Ingredients (makes approximately 12 shortbread hearts):

  • 250g unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 360g plain flour
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 130g caster sugar
  • Blackberry jam to go in the middle of your biscuits (why not make your own? Find my recipe here)

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Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 150C/
  2. Cream your butter and sugar together. Mix in your lemon zest and juice.
  3. Sift your flour into the mixture and combine. Use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a dough.
  4. Wrap your dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. Once you have done so, remove from the fridge before rolling out your dough on a floured surface. You want it to be about half a centimetre thick, so 5mm.
  5. Cover your rolled out dough in clingfilm and place in the fridge once again for a further 15 minutes.
  6. Remove your dough from the fridge. You can now cut out your love heart shapes. You will need two love heart cookie cutters, one large one and one small one, for this design, though you could use circular cutters or similar to get the same overall effect.
  7. Cut out 24 hearts using your larger cutter. If you don’t have enough dough for 24, or you’ve got way more, no worries! Cut out as many as you wish, simply ensure that it is an even number.
  8. Leave half of your larger hearts as they are. With the other half, use your smaller cutter to cut the middle out. Place your biscuits on a greased and lined baking tray (Silly me had forgotten to buy more greaseproof paper for this project after running out… I had to use tin foil to line my baking trays- I can confirm it works!)
  9. Sprinkle sugar on top of your biscuits before placing in the oven for approximately 14 minutes.
  10. Allow your shortbread biscuits to cool for 5-10 minutes on your baking tray before transferring them onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. When your shortbread are completely cooled, Spread a layer of jam on your full heart shaped biscuits. Place a cut out heart biscuit on top and there you have it! Lemon shortbread jam sandwich biscuits!

These biscuits went down a treat, I only wish that I’d made more! I think this is a great recipe to try your hand at as we lead up to Christmas, and they would make a wonderful gift for a loved one (it’s never too early for Christmas, right?).

What have you been baking recently? You know I’d love to hear about it!

 

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Best wishes to you all on these blustery Autumn days!

Maddie x

 

 

Chocolate and Peanut butter celebration cake- It’s my birthday!

This celebration cake is perfect for the peanut butter lovers in your life!

IT’S MY BIRTHDAY GUYS! 😀 As some of you may know I turned 20 today, so naturally that meant that I spent the entirety of yesterday in the kitchen, baking till I could bake no more! No, seriously, I spent seven hours in there- I was exhausted by the end of it! 

I’d been toying over what type of cake to make for my birthday for a while. My birthday cake is my one big bake of the year; the one when I don’t feel guilty about going completely over the top with the edible glitter and food colouring! I’d originally been considering a rainbow cake, but after a bit more thinking I decided on a peanut butter and chocolate cake creation! 🙂

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I lurrrvvvee chocolate cake. I’m not a big chocolate eater on its own, but somehow in cake form I become obsessed with the stuff. Chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream, chocolate ganache, I love it all.

Unlike my inherent love for chocolate cake, my liking for peanut butter was something that I hadn’t discovered until recently. Like my obsession with old school Taylor Swift, my discovery of peanut butter flavoured confectionary is something that I owe to Jason. (That boy is a hell of a Swiftie, I’ll tell you that much).

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So that was it, I decided to go all out on a chocolate and peanut butter cake. This over the top bake was complete with alternating layers of peanut butter and chocolate buttercream, sandwiched between THREE moist chocolatey sponges; all slathered in a thick layer of homemade peanut butter icing and coated with a milk chocolate ganache. Not to mention topped off with homemade toffee, edible golf stars and Reese’s peanut butter cups. You only turn 20 once, after all.

If you fancy making your own peanut butter and chocolate cake, I’ve written my recipe below!

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Ingredients (makes three 8″ diameter chocolate sponges):

For the cake:

  • 12oz unsalted butter or Stork margarine
  • 12oz caster sugar
  • 10.5 oz self raising flour
  • 1.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 6 medium eggs

For the icing:

  • 14oz icing sugar
  • 7oz Stork margarine or similar
  • 1/2tbs cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 2tbs peanut butter
  • A splash of milk

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/356F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line three 8″ cake tins. (I only own two and so have to do this in two steps, no worries if this is the case! Simply bake two of your sponges and when they are cooling pop your third in).
  2. Cream your butter and sugar together. Beat in your eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each. Sieve in your remaining flour and cocoa powder and combine.
  3. Once your mixture is thoroughly mixed together, distribute it evenly between the three cake tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. When your cake is fully cooked you should be able to stick a knife in the centre and pull it out clean, that is to say, without any cake mix on it.
  4. Leave your cakes to cool in the tins for five minutes before turning out onto a cake rack and letting cool completely.

Now you can make your icing!

  1. Cream your margarine and icing sugar together carefully until you have a smooth buttercream consistency. Add in the milk and combine.
  2. Spoon about 4tbs of your buttercream into a separate bowl. Add in your cocoa powder. This is your chocolate buttercream.
  3. Add the peanut butter to the remaining buttercream.
  4. Begin to construct your cake! Cover the bottom layer of sponge in your chocolate buttercream before sandwiching with another layer of sponge and then a layer of peanut buttercream. Place your final layer of sponge on top.
  5. Cover your cake in a crumb coat of buttercream and refrigerate for ten minutes. Once refrigerated, you can cover your cake completely in peanut buttercream. (Make sure you leave some peanut buttercream to decorate the top of the cake if you wish to do so).
  6. If you wish to cover your cake in chocolate ganache as I did, find my recipe here! Pour your ganache onto the top so that some drips down the sides of your cake.

Decorate your cake as you wish using peanut buttercream, Reese’s peanut butter cups and bits of toffee! Basically, whatever you fancy!

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Notes: A crumb coat is a rough layer of buttercream that you do to catch all the crumbs from your cake and prevent them from ending up in your final layer of buttercream. Your cake doesn’t have to be completely covered in icing, just a thin layer will do the trick.

That’s it for today guys, I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know if you’ve got any questions, I’ll do my best to help! 🙂

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

 

Barcelona Diaries- Day 1

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Hey guys! I noticed the other day that the travel section of my blog seemed to be lacking on content somewhat, so I’ve decided to show it some love and write a series of blog posts about my travels last year to Barcelona.

Barcelona was the first city outside of England that Jason and I had the pleasure to visit just the two of us. We’d previously been on holiday to Spain together twice, though this had been first with friends and then my parents, so we were incredibly excited to have the chance to go away on our own. I also speak Spanish, so I’m always excited when I have the opportunity to visit Spain.

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La Sagrada Familia- Barcelona

First things first, Barcelona is a beautiful city, there is no doubt about that. The influence of the architect Antoni Gaudi can be seen all over the city, with perhaps his most famous work being the great Sagrada Familia, the unfinished cathedral.

Following an uneventful (but very early!) two and a half hour flight, Jason and I arrived at our apartment to drop off our luggage before having a wander around prior to our check in time.

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Las Ramblas- Barcelona

We stayed with MH Apartments Urban for the three night duration of our stay and I couldn’t fault them one bit. The apartment was spotless, modern and stylish, with a perfect central location, no more than a ten minute walk from Las Ramblas. The kitchenette came equipped with a dishwasher, microwave oven and kettle, and we were provided with a dishwasher tablet, soap and washing up liquid on arrival, something we were not expecting for the extremely reasonable price of the apartment.

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Photo courtesy of the MH apartments website-https://www.mhapartments.com/en/barcelona-apartments/mh-urban

There is a wonderful, buzzing city vibe as your walk around the streets of Barcelona. After depositing our luggage, we decided to walk towards the main shopping area of the city, Las Ramblas. We passed uncountable cafes and restaurants on our walk, all within the space of ten minutes. Following a much needed drink in Starbucks and then a bite to eat in one of the local cafes, we had a further look around before heading back to the apartment.

As it had been an incredibly early start that morning (our plane had departed at around 6am), we didn’t fancy doing much else on our first day. On our look around before we had spotted a Dominos only a couple of minutes walk from where we were staying, so we nipped out to grab a couple of pizzas and a bottle of wine, before spending our evening in watching tv and planning what we wanted to do tomorrow.

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Left: Our Domino’s pizza and a much needed glass of wine. Right: Tucking into a sandwich at a local cafe.