Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Millionaire shortbread

Personally, this is without a doubt my most, most favourite baked good to eat. The layers of shortbread, gooey caramel and chocolate go together so well that I want to meet whoever first came up with the idea and give them a big hug. But this is quite a tricky recipe to make from scratch. The shortbread and chocolate layers are easy enough, but the caramel can often fail to set properly. There's also a lot of waiting around for layers to cool, or for caramel to boil, or for things to come out of the oven - what I'm saying is, attempt this with a lot of patience! So let's do this one layer at a time...

Makes enough to fill a 10in x 7.5in pan - about 24 squares, depending on how big you cut them.

Gather your equipment
Essential equipment:  Scales, lined tin (10in by 7.5in), mixing bowl, fork, saucepan, wooden spoon, microwave-safe bowl, mixing spoon
  • Use a saucepan with a long handle as the caramel will get very hot and you'll want to be able to hold the pan and move it around. Also use a wooden spoon with a long handle.
Gather your ingredients
For the shortbread layer: 175g butter/margarine, 80g caster sugar, 240g plain flour, 1tsp vanilla extract
For the caramel layer: 397g tin of condensed milk, 3tsp golden syrup, 55g caster sugar, 115g butter/margarine
For the chocolate layer: 170g chocolate, 1tsp butter (optional)
  • Use dark or milk chocolate for the topping, or a mix of both
Prepare to bake your shortbread base
Preheat oven to 180°C, line your tin, and weigh out your sugar, butter and flour.
Make your shortbread dough
First roughly mix the ingredients together with a fork - add the vanilla extract, then get your hands dirty and rub the mixture together with your fingers, to form a big ball of dough.
Shape your shortbread and prick with a forkPress the dough into the bottom of your lined tin. Squish it right into the corners - this is easiest done using your knuckles. Then prick all over using a fork.
Bake the shortbread
Bake at 180°C for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 150°C and bake for a further 35-45 minutes until golden brown. The exact time you leave it in will depend on your oven, and on how 'doughy' you want your base to be. Set aside to cool slightly as you make the caramel (leave it cooling in the tin).
Prepare to make your caramel
Weigh out your sugar and butter, add the golden syrup, then pour the whole tin of condensed milk into the saucepan on top of everything else.
Gently heat until everything melts together
This first step is simple - keep the saucepan over a gentle heat, continuously stir everything - first to mix, and then to stop the mixture 'catching' on the bottom of the saucepan. Heat until all the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved (you can check this by tasting the caramel - if the texture is grainy, the sugar needs to dissolve some more - but be VERY careful as the mixture gets very hot).
Continue to heat gently and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the caramel is thick and golden in colour
This step is where most mistakes happen when making caramel! Most commonly, people do not boil the caramel for long enough, so it does not set properly and ends up far too runny. This gets better with practice, but here are some hopefully helpful tips:
  • Make sure you stir continuously, and that you are catching all the edges and the bottom of the pan
  • As the mixture boils, it will bubble up the sides of the pan. If you are using a small saucepan (as I usually do) you may find it helps to occasionally take the pan off the heat, and stir until the level returns to normal
  • As the mixture continues to boil, you may see little golden brown flecks appear - continue to stir past this stage! Eventually the entire mix will turn that same golden brown; this does not mean the caramel is burning
  • The exact time you should boil your caramel for varies - for me, the entire process usually takes about 20 minutes (from the time I start heating my ingredients until the time I turn the heat off)
How to tell when your caramel is done
After making caramel a few times, you'll be able to tell exactly when it's ready. It should be a deep golden colour (I have tried my best display this in an ugly flash picture, above) and it should be thick - but slightly runnier than set caramel. There is something called the "soft ball method" but I have never succeeded in making fudge/caramel this way - it is far better to go by instinct (and besides, who wants to waste good caramel by chucking spoonfuls of it into cold water).
Pour caramel over shortbread
Take the caramel off the heat as soon as it is ready and pour over the prepared shortbread. Quickly spread into the corners as it will begin to set. Set aside to cool a little while you prepare the next layer.
Melt chocolate (and butter)
Weigh out your chocolate, and butter if using. Microwave in short 20 second bursts, stirring each time, until smooth and runny.
Pour over the shortbread and caramel
Pour the chocolate over the prepared shortbread and caramel, and once more, spread into the corners. Leave to cool for at least 3 hours - it does not have to be in the fridge, but it should be kept fairly cool.
Cut into squares
Once hardened and cooled, chop into slices and then squares of whichever size you choose, using a sharp knife.

And here they are in all their glory...
If you keep them in the fridge, the caramel will be considerably more 'chewy'.

Feel free to adjust the ratio of different layers - for example, if you prefer a thinner shortbread base, or a thicker chocolate topping.

Millionaire Shortbread: - makes 20-24 squares

Shortbread layer:
175g butter/margarine
80g caster sugar
240g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract

Caramel layer:
397g tin of condensed milk
3tsp golden syrup
55g caster sugar
115g butter/margarine

Chocolate layer:
170g chocolate
1tsp butter (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Place all the ingredients for the shortbread layer in a mixing bowl. Roughly mix, then rub together with your fingers to make a dough
  3. Press into a lined 10in x 7.5in tin and prick all over using a fork
  4. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 150°C and bake for a further 35-45 minutes until golden brown all over, then set aside
  5. Place caramel ingredients in a saucepan over gentle heat
  6. Stirring constantly, allow the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve. Bring to the boil very gently, still continuing to stir well. Boil for several minutes until you have a thick, golden caramel
  7. Pour over the prepared shortbread and set aside
  8. Melt the chocolate (and butter, if using), then pour over the caramel and set aside to cool
  9. Slice into squares once completely cooled

Recipe originally from: a series of trials and errors!

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