Bank Balance Be Damned

I may not be a millionaire, but I know a delicious caramel shortbread when I see one. This millionaire’s shortbread is the epitome of luxury. Crumbly, golden shortbread topped with the smoothest of caramels and, if that weren’t enough already, a layer of milk chocolate to finish it all off. To deny yourself, or anyone else for that matter, of these utterly decadent treats, should be a cardinal sin. So put on your finest black-tie attire and let’s get baking.

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Starting with a classic shortbread base of butter, flour, and sugar, the resulting dough can only be described as… short. The fact that three simple ingredients can come together to make a biscuit base so irresistibly indulgent never fails to astound me, and it’s the crumbliness of the base which gives the millionaire’s shortbread its distinctive variety of textures. After beating together the butter and sugar, the flour is added until a soft, pliable dough is formed. Take care not to overwork the dough while spreading it into the corners of the tray, as this may result in the base becoming gummy and dense, and generally not so delicious. Though the original recipe doesn’t say to prick the base with a fork, I did so a few times anyway as I think it results in a more even rising of the base.

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On to the caramel; the part I believe to be the most challenging. I have halved the amount of caramel in the original recipe because I prefer a thinner layer, but if you would like to go heavy on the caramel, simply double up on the ingredients. The consistency of the caramel is so important because if it is too runny, it will simply never set enough, but too sticky and you may risk glueing your mouth shut. I use a method, similar to jam making, to check my consistency and make sure I am convinced that it’s ready to be used. Taking a cold plate from the fridge, dollop a small amount of the caramel on top and it should set up within a minute or so. If this gives you the green light, then I would say you’re good to go.

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Lastly, the final layer: chocolate. It’s a personal preference, but I would say that dark or milk are your best bet. I would suggest a whole layer of white chocolate to only those with a severe sweet tooth, as the amount of sweetness already coming from the shortbread and the caramel needs something to balance it out. A chocolate with around 70% cocoa solids would be ideal, but any chocolate you have in the house would do the trick just fine. After melting and pouring on the final layer, the only thing left to do it the decoration. Maltesers, Oreo crumbs or even crushed peanuts would all bring another dimension of flavour and texture to this glorious dessert.

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THE RECIPE

Ingredients

For the Shortbread

  • 185g Butter
  • 75g Caster sugar
  • 250g Plain flour

For the Caramel Filling

  • 93g Butter
  • 38g Caster sugar
  • 1½ tbsp Golden syrup
  • 150g Sweetened, condensed milk

For the chocolate topping

  • 150g Chocolate (preferred type), chopped

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c/350 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 4 and line a 23x23cm (9x9in) square tin with nonstick baking paper.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in the flour until it forms a soft dough, and then press the mixture evenly into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes until pale golden.
  5. For the caramel: Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk into a large pan over a medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved.
  6. Then turn up the heat and boil for 5-7 minutes, stirring all the time to ensure the mixture doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan (the mixture is ready when it turns a deep golden colour and has thickened to a soft fudge consistency).
  7. Pour the caramel over the shortbread and leave to set for an hour or until chewy.
  8. Put the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water to melt. Once melted, pour over the caramel layer and then leave in a cool place to set.
  9. Cut into squares and serve.

Notes: Adapted from the Tesco Salted Caramel Shortbread recipe

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