Millionaire’s Shortbread

img_5688

“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!

c79e439e-b05d-4385-b31a-9a5eb4a4658e

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.

img_5683

#Recipe Rum Salted Caramel Stardust

 

all-change

It seems a lifetime ago that I posted my last post bidding you all farewell before I flew off into the maple colored sunsets of Toronto. So here I am, almost 2 months to the day of that post, typing amidst the glow of christmas tree lights and festive smells of cinnamon  & maple, typing from my kitchen in Toronto. As is typical of this time of year (and no doubt like so many others amongst you) I get to reflecting on how MUCH has actually happened in 2016. It’s pretty much like we’ve well and truly stepped through the looking glass. I mean serioulsy….WTF has happened!?!?

Let’s face it folks this past year has hardly been note-worthy for the right reasons. I can’t exactly see Richard Curtis penning his next movie as an ode to this past time. But I’m not going to sit here though and drag up all the mishaps, tragedies and losses of 2016- we’re all well aware of them. Christmas as well as a time of reflection is also a time of giving, in whatever shape or form.

 

As part of last year’s festivities I decided to try out the whole “Homemade Gifts” approach to the festive season.This went from filling stockings to bundle boxes to arranging hampers all with the common theme -any of the foodie gifts enclosed were made by  my own fair hands in Mr. Mom’s Kitchen. The Christmas season has a way of side-blinding me with a hearty dose of nostalgia. One waft of pine, or shimmer of tinsel and it’s “Hey-ho, here we go down Memory Lane”, a sucker punch from the Ghost of Christmas Past indeed! Amongst the goodies made last year were my (by now) family favourite Christmas Cookies, laced with sweet heady spices and spritzed with orange water; a deeply rich and moist cake combining the flavours of festive fruit, chocolate and Port; mincemeat laced with port, rum and studded with almonds and pecans. Last, but by no means least, I also included bottles of rum-spiked salted caramel sauce, in which edible gold stars floated, winking enticingly from the sweet, velvety liquor.

All of these evoked a certain memory of the festive season for me, from childhood days to feature occasions of later years, each a sensory landmark in my Yuletide roadmap. The last of those mentioned, otherwise known as my “Rum Salted Caramel Stardust”, is an homage to a particularly potent chewy caramel sweet from the Christmas sweet boxes of  my childhood. It an absolute doddle to make, taking no time at all and the effects and beaming smiles will linger long after it’s been scoffed, licked and spooned.

rum-salted-caramel-sauce

Rum Salted Caramel Stardust

200g brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark rum

50g salted butter

200ml double cream

100ml single cream

1/2 tsp- 1 tsp Maldon sea-salt (to taste)

Edible star glitter, Wilton

You’ll also need up to 6 x 250ml “retro” milk bottles (clean these in a hot cycle in your dishwasher first to ensure sterilisation)

caramel-sauce

  • Combine the double and single creams in a jug and set aside for later.
  • In a heavybase saucepan combine the brown sugar and rum and heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Increase the heat and allow the sugar mixture to deepen to an amber color.
  • *Excercise care in these next few steps!
  • Remove the saucepan with the melted sugar from the heat and add in the salted butter. Whisk briskly and carefully so that it melts and becomes incorporated into the sugar mixture. It may hiss and spit so please take care.
  • Next add in he combined creams and stir to fully incorporate. Again take care at this point.
  • Stir in the sea-salt, to taste.
  • Finally stir in a couple of teaspoons of edible stars. The amount is to your personal preference for the final look.
  • Pour into the individual milk bottles and seal with the caps. 
  • And that’s it! The final caramel sauce will keep for up to 2 weeks in your refrigerator. I find it’s best if removed from the fridge about 30 minutes before serving to allow it the return to full “saucy goodness”.  Serve it over ice-cream, brownies, pecan pies…you name it!

 

This post came about from reflection and giving and so there would seem no better way to wrap it up than with this…

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

And with that I’d like to wish you all a very warm, safe, and Merry Christmas.

Recipe- Chilled Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Caramel Cheesecake

2015-08-28 17.53.15

Cheesecake- the dessert that can divide a nation. “Should it be chilled or baked?” is a question that could have come from the lips of Hamlet himself. After watching the “Desserts” episode of The Great British Bake Off I was throughly enthussed to try baked cheesecake. To be honest there has always been something about baked cheesecake that never hit the spot for me. Maybe I just never had a good one – they’ve ranged from custard tart-like to downright chalky and as a result my allegience and affections have always belonged to it’s cooler, and in my opinion, more sublime counter part- the chilled cheesecake. And here’s the result with my signature ubiquitious twist. Rich and chocolatey with a hint of peanut this is a thoroughly grow-up dessert. Little and often is the way ahead…little and often!

Chilled Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Caramel Cheesecake

200g digestive biscuits

90g  butter, cubed

110g caster sugar

150ml double cream

150g  dark chocolate, melted and cooled

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

560g cream cheese

4 tablespoons smooth peanut butter

200g Carnation tinned caramel

75g cocoa nibs

Chocolate curls, optional

2015-08-28 17.53.20

Method

– To make the base, blitz the biscuits in a food processor to make rough crumbs and then add the butter and 1 tablespoon of cocoa. Blitz again until it clumps together  and then spread them into a 23cm springform tin. Press the biscuit crumbs into the bottom of the tin to make an even base and refrigerate while you carry on making the filling.

– Carefully melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water. Make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the hot water. When melted, remove and leave to cool slightly.

– Whip cream until soft peak stage. Add cooled melted chocolate, then the cocoa powder. Mix well and set aside.

– In a stand mixer beat the cream cheese and sugar together for about 10 mins. Continue beating until there ae no sugar grains. Add in the peanut butter and mix until well combined.

– Fold in cream/chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly.

– Spread half the cheese filling on top of crushed biscuit base.

– Dot tablespoon size blobs of the caramel over the cheesecake filling. Once all the caramel has been used, spread the remaining cheese mix over this so the caramel it is completely covered.

– Decorate the top of the cheesecake with the cocoa nibs and the chocolate curls, if using.

– Place in refrigerate for minimum 3 hours, or overnight.

– Slice, serve and enjoy!