The new season of the Great British Bake-off starts tomorrow here in England and I’m jazzed. I’m ready to sit down with a cuppa and little treat and cheer those bakers on! To continue our celebration of British bakes we’re making these Millionaire’s Shortbread today! They’re kind of like a grown up Twix bar–crumbly cookie, smooth caramel and rich chocolate. Yum.
This pretty little dessert bar is found all over the UK, but we’re not really sure when or where the Millionaire’s Shortbread was invented or got its name. Shortbread as we know it probably originated in Scotland, but no one is sure where, or when, the Millionaire’s Shortbread came about. Some say it’s what the wealthier class did (adding more expensive caramel & chocolate) to fancy-up a regular old shortbread and that’s why it’s called ‘millionaire’s shortbread’, but who knows with these old folk tales. In any case, it’s very popular here (and Australia, which is also where some say that the recipe originated). Nevertheless, it’s been featured several times on the Great British Bake Off, the true metric of a British bake in my humble opinion. Questions of origins aside, I’ve included it in this collection of British Bakes that I’ll be posting over the next few weeks.
Traditionally, this treat is comprised of a crumbly classic shortbread base, a silky caramel-y middle, and a snappy chocolate top. The traditional version is just too sweet for me (surprise!). I’ve taken the sugar sweet factor down a bit, as I’m prone to do. To do that in this Millionaire’s shortbread recipe, I made a caramel layer that’s a bit saltier and used dark chocolate instead of the traditional milk chocolate.
To make the bars, we start by baking up a simple shortbread base in an 8″x 8″ cake pan. After the cookie base cools, start on the caramel middle.
You want the caramel in these millionaire’s bars to be perfect–soft and gooey, but still a little chewy–just not so much that you’re picking caramel out of your teeth for days. No caramel is worth that. Use a candy thermometer to get that perfect caramel middle. I know it’s annoying to have another gadget lying around your kitchen, but it is nearly impossible to get the perfect consistency of caramel without a thermometer. Don’t worry, they’re pretty inexpensive, and you can use it for all sorts of things. So go forth, buy a thermometer, and make all sorts of caramels and jams and even candies. But first make this millionaire’s shortbread.
Once you’ve got all the ingredients for the salted caramel in a heavy bottomed pan with a thermometer clipped to the side, turn up the heat and stir the pretty swirly caramel until the temperature reaches 236 degrees Fahrenheit. The silky caramel then gets poured and smoothed over the shortbread base.
After the caramel cools completely, you’re ready for the final layer. Smooth a thin layer of silky dark chocolate over the set salted caramel. The chocolate balances perfectly with the buttery cookie and salty caramel. Note that the dark chocolate makes the bars quite rich. If you’d prefer a little less intensity, just use a bittersweet chocolate. Either way, it’s important to use a chopped chocolate bar rather than chips. Chocolate chips tend to be a bit waxier than bars and don’t melt the same way. Sure chips have their place, but I almost always opt for a chopped bar.
Finally, all you have to do is wait. Pop the pan in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to speed up the setting of the chocolate. Once you’re ready to serve the Millionaire’s Shortbread, slice ’em up and give them the final touch–a little sprinkle of fat, crunchy sea salt.
I’ll be back next week with another British bake. If there’s a particular recipe you’d like to see here, leave it in the comments for me. I’d love to share some British bakes that you’re dying to make!
If you like this recipe for Millionaire’s Shortbread, you might also like:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (you can use bittersweet if you'd like)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line an 8"x8" square cake pan with foil. Make sure the foil hang over the pan so that you can pop the bars out of the pan later.
For the Shortbread:
First make the shortbread layer. Combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Pour the butter into the dry mixture and store to combine with a wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Tip the dough into the foil lined pan and press it into the pan with your fingers. Make sure it evenly covers the pan and that you press it into the corners. Poke the shortbread with a fork all over, spacing your pokes about a inch apart.
Bake in preheated oven 25-30 mins until golden brown around the edges, rotating the pan half-way through baking. Remove from oven and cool completely on a cooling rack.
For the Caramel:
When the shortbread is cool, make the caramel. You're going to want to use a candy thermometer to watch the temperature. Combine all the ingredients for the caramel in a medium sized heavy-bottomed pot and heat over medium-low heat. Stir the mixture frequently and cook until it reaches 236 degrees Fahrenheit. This took about 20 minutes for me. It might take a little more or less for you, just watch for 236.
Once the mixture reaches 236 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the heat, pour it over the shortbread, and spread it quickly and evenly over the cookie base.
Let the caramel cool completely. This will take at least an hour and a half.
For the Chocolate Layer:
Once the caramel is completely cooled and set, prepare the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl, over a simmering pot of water. It's important that the bowl fits in the pot but doesn't touch the simmering water. Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it's all melted. Pour the chocolate over the caramel layer and spread it evenly.
Refrigerate the shortbread until the chocolate is set, about 10-15 minutes.
Once the chocolate is set, remove the shortbread from the pan, using the overhanging foil to lift the shortbread from the pan. Use a serrated knife to cut the shortbread into 20 pieces. I usually slice them in half and then slice each half across into 10, 4 inch, finger-like pieces. Sprinkle with crunchy sea salt and enjoy!