they’re probably drinking coffee, and smoking big cigars

Some late nights, some perfectly nice food that I ate too fast to photograph or just didn’t care to, a couple of evenings where I didn’t feel well, some nights where I was brain-tired from work, lots of very nondescript things like that are the reason I haven’t blogged in a while. I really wanted to! So badly! If only I could freeze time for a bit so I could get everything done that I need to, then pick up where I left off. But then I’d probably end up making, say, 9pm on a Thursday or 6.30am on a Monday morning last for years, and then no-one would get anything done while I end up all Dorian Grey or something, so it’s probably good that I don’t have this power (this power that’s so improbable that I don’t even know why I’m worrying about it in the first place.)

Now that I’ve torn myself away from repeatedly watching the Beyonce videos that I’d promised myself I’d danced to once I finish this post, I probably oughta try make it good. Like a snake eating its own tail but instagramming the process and taking notes on the taste, I do love blogging so much even though it seems like I never have enough time and energy for it. (I don’t actually know if that allegory quite quite works but I cracked myself up when I thought about it, so.) So: the food. I had a dream the other night about caramel slice with coffee in it, and unlike many of my better dreams, I had a good chance of making this one true.

It tastes excellent, but I mean, it’s low-key stuff. This really is just the same caramel slice that it ever was – biscuit base, condensed milk filling – with some instant coffee added to it. I mixed the base ingredients together in the tin I was baking them in. I sort of burnt the condensed milk. I wasn’t even awake when I thought the recipe up. And yet – so delicious. With that in mind, you can definitely achieve it too.

coffee caramel slice

Did I invent this recipe? In my dreams…

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (pack it in, y’know?)
  • 125g melted butter
  • 1 tin condensed milk (if you can, look for the stuff that just has milk and sugar in the ingredients, not milk, sugar, and water)
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 50g more butter
  • 2 tablespoons of instant coffee (espresso style gives the best flavour)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate buttons or similar

Set your oven to 180 C/350 F. Mix together the flour, melted butter, and brown sugar and once it comes together in a kind of crumbly, damp, sandy way, press it into the base of a baking tin, the sort you might make brownies in – about 25cm square, or thereabouts. Bake it for fifteen minutes.

Once the base is out of the oven, heat the condensed milk, golden syrup, 60g butter and coffee powder together in a pan until it’s bubbling and thick – stir it lots as it heats to prevent it sticking and burning, and also remove it from the heat as soon as it bubbles. Spread it evenly across the biscuit base, and refrigerate for an hour or two. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle it over the top, refrigerate again till it’s set, and then cut into squares. Or whatever shape you like, don’t let me hold you back from your star-shaped caramel slice fantasies.

Of course caramel is wonderful on its own. But instant coffee powder – so flavourless in a cup with hot water! – blasts it with smoky caffeinated depth, making it just a little more fascinating than regular caramel already is. You still get the depth of almost-burnt sugar and the rich butteriness of uh, the butter, but it has a pleasing aggressive roasted and slightly bitter undertone. I’d like to add that until about five years ago instant coffee was all I even made myself at home if I wanted a coffee, so I’m not wanting to sound judgey. It’s just that these days the coffee I drink makes instant taste sort of watery and bleak in comparison. But I give instant espresso powder a gold star for how great it is in flavouring baking. Particularly this sticky candy-sweet confection, full of friendly sugar granules that just can’t wait to make friends with your teeth.

I don’t have any particularly life-changing news to report to you from the time when I last blogged till now, but I am excited about one thing: my friend Tash has opened a second branch of her Holland Road Yarn Company right in town (Wellington right-in-town that is, apologies if you don’t live here) and it’s so lovely and full of beautiful yarn and I already have two new projects lined up to knit and I can occupy myself for a good, oh, twenty minutes by just doing laps of the shop and patting the balls of wool and deciding which ones are my favourite colours.

Oh and I got my sideburns shaved off, having hyped it up to many people beforehand as some kind of “Laura’s summer of rebellious hair and expressing one’s self through stuff” thing, and it turned out so ridiculously subtle and imperceptible that I’m a little red-faced. And now there’s slightly more of my face to get red.

What’s that? Just playing the world’s smallest violin for the world’s smallest buzzcut. (Also: I never understood that “world’s smallest violin” joke until very recently, but it was used at least once in Baby-sitters Club books so I always liked to imagine I could just drop it casually into conversation like I knew what I was talking about. I also feel this way about the phrases “false economy” and “load-bearing wall”.) (Oh and I like my haircut.)

title from: Johnny Cash, Folsom Prison Blues. Voice like thunder, face like thunder, legs like thunder, oh wait sorry I’m describing thunder by mistake. Uh, but for real I love this song and Johnny Cash and his deep voice.

music lately:

Haim, The Wire. Yes. I, too, adore this song.

Laura Marling, Master Hunter. Aggressively dreamy.

Uzo Aduba, By My Side. This wonderful actor from Orange Is The New Black, well she was also on Broadway in Godspell, being incredible while singing this sad, weird song.

next time: I won’t make you wait so long. I’m pretty sure I say this a lot, to be fair. But I always mean it!


5 thoughts on “they’re probably drinking coffee, and smoking big cigars

  1. Gem Wilder says:

    I want to make this. Nah, not really. I just want to eat this.
    And thanks for the reminder that I've been wanting to drop “self fulfilling prophesy” into a conversation for some years now.


  2. Joanne says:

    I get distracted all too easily also, but it's usually less with blog stuff and more with real work stuff lol.

    I so want a square of this slice!! Oo that caramel yum!


  3. Emma says:

    Oh dear but these look delicious. I have plenty of espresso powder sitting in my cupboard just waiting to be mixed up with some slightly-burnt condensed milk. I will get to it!

    Any phrase with the word economy in it is pretty much lost on me.


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