Millionaire’s Shortbread

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“Millionaire’s Shortbread”, “Caramel Slice”, “Millionaire’s Slice”…call them what you will these caramel laden shortbread bites remain hugely popular from many a childhood memory. Investigation would point to it’s origin’s thanks to our Antipodean friends in the ’70s and as such the initial recipe remains unchanged- buttery shortbread, sweet caramel and luxurious chocolate.

Yes it may seem like such a chore laboring to make each of those individual layers but the end result is surely worth it? None of the intrinsic layers require any great skill in the kitchen, but with some attention and patience a batch of delicious Millionaire’s Shortbread is pretty much a cinch. 

The shortbread layer is first out of the starting block. The pale, crumbly dough that you’ll press into you pan will be baked to a golden, buttery slab of goodness. I mention in the recipe below a handy trick that I’ve used over time and in addition have seen cited in a few other recipes. Using a measuring cup or spoon to compact the freshly baked biscuit layer helps avoid surplus crumbling when slicing the baked shortbread. Simply press the back of the measuring cup (I find 1/3 cup a good size) or spoon gently but firmly on to the shortbread surface in it’s entirety, taking can not to drag it lest you pull some of still-setting crumbs with you. Once this is done you can leave to cool (or pop it in the fridge as I do) and carry on. See- that wasn’t so hard was it? 

And now for the infamous caramel layer! Yes, boiling sugar in a pan and the resulting caramel can sound daunting but with some care and a good candy thermometer on hand those fears will soon be waylaid. I have two pointers here a) constant gentle stirring is a lifesaver in order to avoid the molten mixture catching at the bottom of the pan and charring b) adding in heavy cream to the caramel mixture not only adds a luxurious touch but also keeps the mixture emulsified and avoiding separation which can occur due to heating the condensed milk. The last thing you want ruining your hard work is a gluey, grainy approximation of caramel. 

As for the final finishing chocolate layer, the one that always gets me salivating, there is one common pitfall. One that I can admit to making more than a few times. Don’t forget to add butter to your chocolate for the finishing coating. Practice has taught me that just melting the chocolate and slathering it on in it’s virgin state leads to a brittle layer that frustratingly cracks at every cut and bite. Including the butter incorporates enough yield into the final set surface that you can achieve those insta-worthy cut pieces and decedent mouthfuls without covering yourself in chocolate splinters.

If you do venture to make these you’ll see (and taste) just why they have proven so popular again and again, and indeed traveled the world over. Just remember to share!

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Ingredients

Shortbread Base

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks salted butter, melted

Caramel Filling

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup golden corn syrup
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Chocolate Topping

  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter

Method

Shortbread Base

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 325°F. Grease and line a 13×9″ baking pan with parchment paper leaving some hanging over edges of pan to lift out after baking
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, and kosher salt. Add melted butter and stir until flour is mixed and dough is crumbly
  3. Transfer to your prepared baking pan and press evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using fork, pierce dough at regular intervals all over. Bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and firm to touch
  4. Remove from oven. While still warm, use a the back of a measuring cup and press surface of shortbread slightly to compress. Although this part is optional it helps when cutting later. Set aside until needed later

Caramel Filling

  1. Combine the caramel ingredients together in large saucepan. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring frequently to avoid any scorching on bottom for 20 minutes, or until mixture reaches 240°F (Soft Ball stage on candy thermometer)
  2. Carefully pour over shortbread while hot and spread to even thickness. Let cool completely for 1 1/2 hours, or until caramel is firm to the touch

Chocolate Topping

  1. In a small microwave safe bowl melt the chocolate and butter in microwave for 30 second intervals on high, stirring in between until melted. Stir to incorporate the butter until smooth. I find that 2 blasts in the microwave is usually enough
  2. Pour the chocolate over the cooled caramel layer and tilt pan to cover to edges and look smooth or use a spatula or knife and spread back and forth across the surface. Refrigerate the finished shortbread for a couple of hours or until the chocolate topping is set
  3. Lift out of pan using parchment overhang onto a cutting board. Slice into bars*. For the size of tin I use here, I cut so I have 3 by 8 rectangular “bars” (2 cuts x 7)

*I’ve found the best way to slice the shortbread so that you get neat, clean bars is as so- Remove the fully cooled shortbread traybake from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before you want to slice. Fill a tall heat-proof jug full of boiling water so that it covers the blade of a sharp knife. Let the knife stand in the jug for 2 minutes. CAREFULLY wipe the knife off of any water and make your cut into your shortbread. Slice once- quickly and smoothly, then stand the knife back in the jug of boiling again. You don’t need to leave it for long this time, a simple full plunge of the blade will do. Again CAREFULLY wipe the blade clean of any water or chocolate residue. Carry on cutting, plunging and wiping until all the traybake is cut to your required size. Leave for a few minutes so the cur bar edges firm up then serve.

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Easy Pantry Recipes

 

 

I struggled for what to write here as anything I first attempted sounded flippant and vapid, making light of the situation and circumstances that each and every one of us are living through at the moment. What I wanted to do was…well to do “something“. I firmly believe in the calming and therapeutic powers of being in the kitchen. At the best of times baking for me offers a respite from daily chores and frantic everyday life, a place to get my headspace and mentally “breathe”.

My baking activity has definitely had an upsurge of late. In the uncertain circumstances of the world today I find there is a calming certainty in knowing that if I mix a certain bundle of ingredients together a known result will be achieved. Focusing on the task at hand helps to redirect my attention and anxiety away from the unnerving headlines and statistics we’re being bombarded with- a calm in the eye of the storm, no matter how briefly. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here-  pass on these moments of calm to you in some small way. 

The recipes here offer little moments of indulgence and respite with minimal ingredients and skill needed. Hopefully most of the ingredients called for are already staples in your pantry or, failing that, will prove easy to get hold of. I hope you enjoy taking some time out and baking them.

Stay safe out there folks, see you on the other side.

You can find some further information on mental health considerations during COVID-19 Outbreak here

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Shown here served with crème anglaise

Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 4

Ingredients

• 2 cups chocolate hazelnut spread (I use Nutella – surprise!)

• 5 eggs

Method

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
  2. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place into two separate bowls
  3.  
  4. Mix the chocolate hazelnut spread into the bowl with the egg yolks
  5. In the second bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form
  6.  
  7. Fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate/egg yolk mixture until fully incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture and fold gently, but thoroughly, until the mixture is smooth
  8. Pour the mixture into the greased ramekins and bake for 15-17 minutes until risen
  9. Serve immediately
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Shown here served with crème anglaise

 


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Shown here served w/ Blueberry, Rosemary & Juniper berry conserve

Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk*

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Line a tray with baking parchment and dust lightly with flour. Set aside until needed
  3. In a large bowl combine the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Whisk to combine and break down lumps. Make a well in the centre
  4. Pour in most of the buttermilk
  5. Using one hand stir the flour into the liquid from the outside of the bowl, turning the bowl as you do. Continue until the mixture comes together in a soft dough that is not too wet or sticky (you may need the remainder of the buttermilk here)
  6. Turn the dough out into a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for a few seconds. Don’t over-knead here- you just want to do it enough so that it holds it shape. Don’t do it to the extent that you would with standard bread dough!
  7. Using your hands, lightly floured, pat the dough into a round shape about 2 inches thick. Transfer to the floured baking sheet
  8. With a knife (I use a bench scraper) score a cross into the top of the loaf, so that it goes almost all the way through the thickness and over the sides of the loaf
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 15mins then reduce the heat to 400°F and continue baking for an additional 20mins until cooked. The baked loaf will be deep golden in color and sound hollow when the bottom of it is tapped
  10. Remove and cool on a wire rack
  11. This type of loaf will cool with a hard, crispy crust. If a softer crust is desired wrap a clean kitchen towel around the hot loaf and allow it to cool

*If you don’t have buttermilk to hand you can make your own by combining 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon squeezed lemon juice or distilled white vinegar in a jug. Stir to combine and leave to sit for 15 mins. After 15 mins the liquid will have thickened slightly and small curds can be seen. Use in the recipe as required. Any remaining milk can be stored in the fridge.

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White Bread Bloomer

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons quick action yeast
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 Olive oil
  • 1 1/4cups warm water

Method

  1. Lightly oil a large bowl and set aside for the dough later
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the flour, salt (to one side), yeast (to opposite side) and brown sugar
  3. Add in olive oil and 250ml warm water and mix on low setting to combine the ingredients. Add in remaining water, if needed, to achieve a soft, slightly sticky dough. Continue to knead in the machine for a total of 7 minutes. Proceed to Step 4.(If you’re mixing the traditional way, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and shaping you hand into a “claw shape”, with fingers slightly spaced, mix by hand until all the ingredients come together in a ball. Tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and continue to knead for 10 mins until the dough is soft and slightly sticky)
  4. Tip the dough from the mixer bowl into the prepared oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling-wrap and set aside to proof for at least 45 minutes, or until doubled in size
  5. Once the dough has finished proofing, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface. Punch down the dough to knock bar the air and reduce it in size
  6. You can either leave it as one large load or divide into two for 2 smaller standard sized loafs
  7. Once the dough has been knocked back use oiled hands to shape into an oval shape and transfer to a large flour dusted baking sheet
  8. Cover with oiled cling wrap, set aside and leave to double inside for apx 30-40mins
  9. Whilst the dough is having it second proof, preheat your oven to 425°F
  10. Once the dough has proofed and risen, bake in the preheated oven for 15mins, after which reduce the temperature to 390°F and bake for further 10-15mins until deep golden in color and the base of the loaves sound hollow when tapped
  11. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool on a rack
  12. Baked loaves can easily be frozen and saved for later. Wrap in cling wrap, place in plastic bag, seal and place in freezer. Defrost for a few hours when needed

PB & J Oat Bars

Ingredients

  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, plus extra for the tin
  • 1 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 8 tablespoons grape jelly (or favourite fruit flavour)
  • 1/2cup light brown soft sugar, packed
  • 2 cups rolled oats

Method

 

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F . Butter and line the base and sides of a 9” square cake tin with baking parchment
  2. Set aside 3 tablespoons each of the peanut butter and jam in separate bowls for later. Combine the remaining peanut butter, jam, butter and sugar into a pan over a medium heat and stir until everything has melted together. Quickly stir in the rolled oats, then leave to cool for 5 mins
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and gently press down with a small measuring cup
  4. Dot over the reserved peanut butter and jam, then bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then turn out onto a board and cut into bars (2 x6)
  5. Bars are best kept refrigerated in a sealed container for 2-3 days


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Easy Shortbread Cookies

 

  • 1 cup salted butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degree
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) oe using an electric hand-mixer beat the butter and icing sugar together well.
  3. Slowly add in the flour (I use 1/4 cup increments) until it has all been added in. Once it all in, crank up the speed on you machine and whip it for 6 minutes. The mixture will become light and exceptionally fluffy
  4. Using a small cookie scoop (size about 1- 1/2 tablespoon) scoop the dough out onto the prepared  baking sheets
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 minutes until bottoms of the cookies are browned.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays. Transfer to a rack to cool complely
  7. Baked cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week 

In the photographs shown I put a cherry on top of each prior to baking. The pre-baked cookies can be left plain or topped with whatever you like from your pantry such as chocolate chunks; nuts; candy pieces…whatever you have to hand in your pantry.

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Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes 18-20

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 Egg

 

Method

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree. Line 2 cookie sheets with baking parchment
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or a hand-held electric mixer, mix the ingredients together until well blended
  3. Using a small cookie scoop (about 1-1/2 tablespoon size) scoop doughballs on to ungreased cookie sheet
  4. Using a fork press down in one direction and then press again from the other side to form a criss-cross pattern on top
  5. Bake for 12 minutes
  6. Allow them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
  7. Baked cookies will keep for 3-4 days at room temperature in a sealed container

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Homemade Butter

I posted the recipe for this a couple of years ago. It such an easy thing to do but a lot of people think of it as a daunting task. You can find the recipe/method here