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Mascarpone Creams and Caramel Sauce with Caramelised Hazelnuts

Rich, luscious mascarpone lightened by yoghurt makes these little velvety creams cool and soothing after a rich main course. The contrast of the dark flavours of the caramel is an extra delight. People tend to get worried about caramel - so here are two things to remember. First, if it sets too hard, just place it over a gentle heat to soften again and, secondly, to clean the saucepan place it over a gentle heat, filled with warm soapy water.

 
 

Method

First prepare the little pots by lining them with clingfilm; this will make turning the creams out later no problem. The easiest way to do this is as follows: using a piece of kitchen paper dabbed in a flavourless oil (such as groundnut), lightly oil the inside of each pot. Then take some clingfilm, about 10 inches (25.5 cm) for each one, and push it inside the pot. Then, using a clean pastry brush, push the clingfilm into the sides and base, making sure it overlaps at the rim. After that you can make the creams. First measure 3 tablespoons of the single cream into a small dish and sprinkle the gelatine into this. Stir it around and leave for 10 minutes until the gelatine has soaked into the cream.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining cream and sugar, very gently, until all the sugar crystals have dissolved (you can see this quite clearly if you coat the back of a wooden spoon). Now add the gelatine to the pan, remove from the heat and whisk until all the gelatine has melted. Leave to cool slightly. Next spoon the mascarpone into a large bowl and whisk it down to soften it, then add the yoghurt and vanilla. Whisk again, and when everything is smooth, pour the cream and gelatine mixture through a sieve into the bowl and mix once more.

Pour the mixture into the pots, filling them to within ½ inch (1 cm) of the top. Cover each with a little extra clingfilm, place them on a tray and leave in the fridge until well chilled and set – at least 3 hours. To make the caramel sauce, put the granulated sugar into a medium frying pan over a very gentle heat. When the sugar has melted and the granules have dissolved, turn the heat up to high so that the liquid begins to bubble and darken. Stir and simmer until the mixture becomes the colour of dark honey. This will probably take 7-8 minutes but watch it carefully as it only takes a few seconds to change from caramel to burnt sugar! Take the pan off the heat and add the 2 tablespoons of hot water. This will make it bubble and splutter but it will die down. Now spoon 2 tablespoons of caramel into a bowl.

Add the cream and vanilla to the remaining caramel in the pan and then pour that into a serving jug for later. Dip the hazelnuts in the bowl containing the caramel a few at a time to get them coated, then spread them on a tray lined with silicone paper and leave them to harden.To serve the creams, remove them from the fridge about half an hour before serving. Remove the top layer of clingfilm, turn out each pot on to individual serving plates and gently pull the edges of the clingfilm. The creams will then flip out, so peel away the remaining film. Then spoon the sauce over and garnish with some nuts.

 

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