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Don't milk it


Caramel is always a popular ingredient

Caramel is always a popular ingredient

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Caramel is always a popular ingredient

About three-quarters of the way through my pregnancy, my midwife reacted with shock to the news that I had yet to book myself in for an antenatal education course.

I was surprised, thinking I had gleaned all I needed to know from the film, Junior, and the series, One Born Every Minute. When I mentioned these to her, she gave me a look that had become all too familiar to me since I had donned the stretchy pants.

The look was reminiscent of my primary-school headmistress, Sister Eileen, and involved a slightly bulging eye fixed on me, with an arched brow. It basically asked: "How old are you?"

I should be grateful. These women think I am younger than I actually am. But it's amazing what constitutes an appropriate comment. When a stranger told me her pregnant friend was older than me and, therefore, more appreciative of her pregnancy, I felt a strong urge to belly-smash her.

Anyway, I got my name down for classes. But due to Himself's working hours, I had to attend the first one without him. At the last minute, I asked Herself to come. I thought this would allay the other women's fears, in case they thought I'd be preying on their partners like a lumbering Lolita.

From the get-go, we were earmarked as trouble. The others didn't seem to know if we were an alternative couple or some kind of surrogacy set-up. Then Herself's heckling began. As the midwife explained the benefits of breastfeeding, Herself kept up a running commentary in my ear (though still audible to everyone else).

She thinks that when the National Socialist Party went kaput, they reformed as the La Leche League. She reserves the same vitriol for supporters of the cause as she does for people who lick their knives at the dinner table.

When one mum-to-be asked about combined feeding, Herself retorted, "Doesn't work", with a derisive snort. According to her, the midwife was glossing over the grittier aspects of breastfeeding. "She's acting like she's never heard of an abscess," she said.

Afterward, Herself cornered me and a few others, and gave us her thoughts on the subject; it was more of an anti-natal education class. "Don't listen to the La Leche lunatics. Breastfeeding is hell, and she's no better for it," she said, jerking her head at me. This, coupled with the word "lunatic", did her no favours. I would have been more popular had I Lolita-ed a few dads.

The breastfeeding debate rages on, but one fact is indisputable – breast milk is tastier than formula, though Himself has declined to taste it, and I nearly put him off these caramel slices when I compared my milk to the condensed milk used in this recipe.

Caramel Crumble Slices

Makes 16 slices.

For the base, you will need:

110g (4oz) butter, plus extra for greasing

200g (7oz) sugar

270g (10oz) flour

50g (2oz) cocoa powder

For the caramel, you will need:

160g (5½oz) butter

110g (4oz) golden syrup

1 tin (14oz) 395g condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 150°C, 300°F, Gas 2, then grease and line a 25cm (10in) cake tin with baking parchment.

In a cake mixer, cream the butter and the sugar for the base. When it is light and creamy, add the flour and the cocoa powder, then beat gently until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, but do not overmix or it will form into a dough. Press two-thirds of this mixture firmly into the tin, bake for 20 minutes, then allow to cool.

Meanwhile, put the butter, the golden syrup and the condensed milk in a saucepan over a medium heat to melt and combine. Stir frequently, until the mixture has thickened slightly, then pour it over the base. Then crumble the remaining one-third of the base mixture over the top.

Bake for another 15-20 minutes – the caramel will thicken further. Allow to stand for four hours, or overnight, before cutting into slices.


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