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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Coconut & Fruit Flapjacks

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First of all let’s clear up the looming misunderstanding. In this recipe my use of the term “Flapjack” is as used in the UK and Ireland, as opposed to it’s North American connotation. So if you were expecting another pancake recipe you may want to move along.

I must stress the “may” part though. If you find yourself unfamiliar with Flapjacks as they appear here well then you’re in for a treat. Defined as “a sweet, tray-baked oat bar, most commonly made from rolled oats, butter, brown sugar and golden syrup“- growing up they were the stuff of school-time treats. Like so many other bakes with a traditional heritage, a love of these oaty morsels falls into two distinct camps- soft & chewy or crunchy & crumbly. Both however offer comforting butteriness and sweetness with each rustic bite. At the end of the day it’s all a matter of time and taste.

The easiest way to describe a flapjack is to think of it as a granola bar. Like it’s pseudo-healthy breakfast cousin it’s basis is in the “slick ‘ em and stick ’em” method of ingredients. Here it’s the butter providing the “slick ’em” element with the “stick ’em” being provided by the amalgamation of sugar, corn & maple syrups, and molasses. The aforementioned ingredients and oats are the basic building blocks, carrying any number of preferred add-ins. Dried fruit, chocolate chips, caramel are all fair game here.

Having mentioned the flapjacks featured ingredient, the humble rolled oat, I feel it fair to offer a sliver of insight here. Flapjacks can be made using just the one type of oats- Rolled Oats (sometimes known as Jumbo Oats). I have found, however, that by using a mix of rolled oats and quick oats a sturdier, less crumbly flapjack is the end result, the latter oats providing a finer grain to act as an infill to the voids between the larger oat flakes.

Above all the flapjack is a bake that is easily tweaked to personal preference for taste and texture proving a lasting favorite that has stood the test of time. Once you have the essential slick ’em, stick ’em and oats in place the Flapjack World is your oyster!

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Ingredients

  • 2 2/3 sticks salted butter
  • 3/8 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon golden corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fancy molasses
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups jumbo rolled oats
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 1/4 cup dried fruit slices, chopped (I’ve used a mix of apple, pear, apricot and mango)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (350 degrees F for a crunchier flapjack). Line and grease a 9′ X 12′ baking tin with baking parchment
  2. In a large bowl combine the oats, coconut and dried fruit. Stir well to mix and break up any fruit clumps. Set aside for now
  3. In a medium pan melt the butter with the sugar, syrup, vanilla extract and salt. Stir well to combine until sugar has dissolved.
  4. Pout the butter mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to ensure all the dry ingredients are coated
  5. Tip the flapjack mixture into your prepared tin and press evenly for a flat surface
  6. Bake in your preheated oven, middle shelf,  for 25 minutes for chewy, 30 minutes for crunchy, until set and golden
  7. Remove from the oven and gently score the flapjacks, not going the full way through. For the size of tin I use here, I cut so I have 3 by 4 “square” pieces (2 cuts x 3)
  8. Allow to cool completely in the tin. When fully cooled re-score where you’ve previously cut this time going the full way through
  9. If you want to lend an extra decadent touch, drizzle over some melted chocolate

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#Recipe Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars (2)
Nanaimo Bars

Last year my husband and I went to Canada for the first time. We spent a week in Toronto and I absolutely fell in love with the place. The food…the people….the food…you get the picture I’m sure? I won’t wax lyrical about it (if you want that you can read all about my Canuck adventures here). The food is something I definitely never run out of things to say about. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried poutine, and then there’s Nova Scotia Lobster! But the point of this post is to share my love of yet another Canadian foodstuff (albeit not a native of the East Coast) – the Nanaimo Bar. Yes, I’ll admit it does sound like a character from a Disney movie but believe me it’s worth getting used to the name.

It’s basically a layered fridge cake made up of a crumb base layer, a buttercream-style middle layer (traditionally custard flavoured), then topped with a chocolate layer. Yes- they are a rich as they sound. Trust me, no matter how much your eyes tell you, one will be enough (okay- maybe two!) Originating in the district of Nanaimo, British Columbia it’s so popular that it’s been declared a national treasure. And like all good national treasures there are many recipes and many takes on how to  make the bars- and they’re all the “proper” way. This is however is my way and how I like them best.

(As a note I prefer them kept in the fridge once they’re made as keeping them at room temperature causes the buttercream and chocolate layers to soften too much)

Ingredients

Base layer:

½ cup unsalted butter 

¼ cup sugar

5 tbsp. cocoa

1 egg beaten

1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup coconut

For the filling:

½ cup unsalted butter

2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream

2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder

2 cups icing sugar

For the topping:

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

– Lined 9″ x 9″ tray (1 ½ inch high) or silicone baking tray

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Method

To make the base:

  • Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa in a small pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat.
  • In a separate bowl combine the crumbs, coconut and walnut pieces.
  • Add the beaten egg to chocolate mixture and mix well to combine and thicken. The mixture may appear to separate but continue whisking vigorously and it’ll come back together to a shiny, thick consistency. Pour chocolate mixture over the crumb mixture and mix well to combine.
  • Press mixture into the lined tin and level the surface. Chill for 30mins to 1 hour.

To make the filling:

  • Add the butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together in a stand mixer.
  • Cream well at a high-speed until fluffy and smooth
  • Spread this over the biscuit base and chill for at least 3 hours until set firm.

To make the topping:

  • Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.
  • Allow to cool for a few mins then spread it over the filling.
  • Return to the fridge and leave until set (at least 1 hour).
  • Cut in to bars and serve.

Nanaimo Bars (3)

Living in the Black

If you follow my social media feeds (Twitter; Facebook and Instagram) you’ve probably noticed I’ve been posting a lot of recipes lately featuring the little known ingredient that is Black Garlic. Whilst it might conjure up not so pleasing images (and not to mention smells!) believe me it’s completely unfounded.
Courtesy of the team at Balsajo Original Black Garlic I’ve been experimenting on both the sweet and savoury fronts with some very tasty results indeed.

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If you haven’t heard of Black Garlic yet please, please don’ tbe put off by the name. Yes- it is garlic “…but not as we know it Jim“. Forget the hard, pungent, opalescent nuggets that give us one of the cornerstones of cooking. Black Garlic is instead a case of Kitchen Alchemy made true. By process of heat and humidity (and probably some trade secret) familar white garlic bulbs are transformed into dark, fragrant, nuggets of molasses-like jelly. Again I say stick with me here! Whilst some people might be quick lable it shrivelled and black (well I guess it is black- there’s no fighting nature there!) what you can do with this is practically limitless. I’ve tried using it as an ingredient in sweet and savory dishes (and some in between). Thus far it’s prooved to be a very versatile ingredient indeed. Soft and jelly-like in texture with a flavour which brings to mind treacle, molasses, truffle, and balsamic I definitely recommend getting some of this into your kitchen. Its available in some selected supermarkets and artisan food stores. The guys over at Balsajo Black Garlic have included a handy stockist locator on their website. 

I’ve been wanting to experiment with Black Garlic for a while in order to test the full breadth of it’s uses and here’s what I came up with:

Fennel Seed & Black Garlic Toffee

Originally this came about as some Twitter banter between myself and the wonderful Miss Kitty Hope (yes indeed, she of Hope and Greenwood – purveyors of all things fantastical and sweet!)- but more about that later. We nattered about bacon in sweets/ bakes and somehow ended up challenging each other to creating something with a none-too-common ingredient and so black garlic was suggested. The resulting Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee is a sweet, creamy toffee with a subtle hint of anise from the Fennel Seed and the treacley flavour of the black garlic adding to the creaminess. Surprisingly moreish- even if I do say so myself!

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Blueberry, Balck Garlic & Corriander Traybake

I needed to try the dark beauty of black garlic in a bake. Well- I wouldn’t be Mr. Mom’s without baking something now would I? Blueberry and corriander is a little known combo that works really well. The citrus notes of corriander seed boosting the flavour of the fruity blueberries. Topping the traybake with a limoncello buttercream frosting added an indulgent alcoholic kick (okay I’ll admit it I thought they were sounding just a little too healthy!). The addition of some chopped black garlic baked into the sponge mellows what otherwise might have been citrus overload and layers in nicley with the graduation from mellow to citrus kick.

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The adapted recipe in cupcake form was featured in my stint on the Mel & Sue show and you can find the recipe here.

Mel & Sue Cupcakes

Black Garlic & Chilli Oatcakes

So enough with the sweet things I thought. How about a savoury bake? My husband and I are chalk and cheese; oil and water; Yin and Yang when it comes to tastes. Whilst I am a complete an utter sweet-tooth advocate, he’s marches firmly to be beat of the Umami drum. I’ll have pudding and he’ll have cheese. Ah hah! And so I had my next experimental idea for black garlic. The treacley earthiness of the black garlic combines well with the mellow oatiness of these biscuits, before a subtle kick of heat comes in from the chilli. I tried them with a fabulous Epoisses  cheese, while my other half couldn’t get enough of them with a mature cheddar. They’ve definitely been added to my “Must Bake Again” list!

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Black Garlic & Matcha Green Tea Cupcakes

As I mentioned earlier on, this trip through the looking glass into the Land of Black Garlic happened because of some rather impromptu Twitter banter between myself and my new BFF Miss Kitty Hope. We challenged each other (I rather foolhardily) to create a bake, or sweet….or something (?) with  an unusual ingredient. I threw black garlic into the ring and Miss Hope picked up the gauntlet. The “competition” was facilitated by the team at Taste PR and kindly judged by the incredible Lily Jones (of Lily Vanilli). My black garlic & Matcha green tea cupcakes draw inspiration from the Asian background of black garlic and combine a number of Oriental flavours. The complete offering was a Matcha green tea & black garlic sponge, with Plum Wine spiked frosting, topped with a Matcha green tea, black garlic & black sesame seed marshmallow, and a candied black garlic clove “dart”. Rather incredibly (and very much to my surprise!) Lily decided on my cupcakes as a winner. I do however have to give kudos to Miss Kitty for providing some rather excellent and challenging competition (not to mention some hilarious Twitter “reading”!)

BG Cupcakes

 

So enough preaching the wonders of black garlic. As they say, “The proof is in the pudding”…or rather in this case- the toffee. I in no way intend to compete with the skilful mastery of confection that Hope & Greenwood have but I will freely admit to Miss Kitty Hope being the inspiration behind my Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee. After all without her initial challenge in my Twit-stream I’d never have ventured into the realm of boiled sugar at all. So if you’re feeling up for it and fancy a little black garlic experimentation why not try you’re hand at making…

Black Garlic & Fennel Seed Toffee (aka Miss Kitty’s Challenge)

Ingredients:

500g caster sugar

125g salted butter

1 tbsp treacle

3 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

397g tin condensed milk 90ml water

1 tbsp fennel seeds

5 cloves black garlic, chopped

 

You’ll need:

A deep sided pan

A sugar thermometer

A silicone tray, or a baking parchment lined & greased tray

 

Method:

– In a deep pan, place the butter, sugar, treacle, golden syrup and water into a pan and heat, stirring constantly.

– Once all the ingredients are well mixed and melted, add the condensed milk slowly, stirring occasionally until it boils.

– Continue at a steady boil until the mixture reaches the “Hard crack” stage on a sugar thermometer, again stirring occasionally. Test that the toffee is ready by dropping a spoonful into cold water – if it turns solid, it is ready.

– Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the fennel seeds and black garlic. (Note: The black garlic may clump together as it’s quite sticky. Separate into smaller pieces as you as you add to the toffee mixture.)

– Pour into the prepared tray.  Allow to cool for about 6-7 minutes then score into regular sized pieces with a sharp knife.

– Once fully cooled break along the score lines into pieces.

– The toffee can be wrapped in baking parchment or greaseproof paper and stored in an air-tight container.

 

If you try my toffee recipe I do hope you enjoy and meantime,

“Remember Mom’s the word- that’s Mr. Mom’s!”