Sunday, October 12, 2014

Millionaire's shortbread

I've been trying to branch out a little in the world of British baking, and I settled on millionaire's shortbread as my first target.  It is one of those classics, sold near the check out line of almost every grocery store in the UK, and something I had never really thought to try in the states.  I chose a Mary Berry recipe for my first attempt at it (she is as British as it gets right?), and while I found her shortbread lovely, I really struggled with the caramel.  Most of the recipes I found used condensed milk for the caramel base, and I tried it at least 3 times and could not get it right.  It seems to take longer to cook then expected, and then burns very easily.  I'm not the biggest fan of the flavor of condensed milk anyways, so I went back to one of my classic caramel recipes, and got a great result.  For both the shortbread and caramel I replaced some of the white sugar with brown sugar, and was very happy with the resulting taste.

Millionaire's shortbread is all about the textures and flavors - a crumbly crunchy short bread, topped with a chewy caramel, and a thin layer of crisp chocolate on top to fill it out.  While its hard to go wrong with chewy caramel and chocolate, I have to say, this is pretty delicious.  And the simple shortbread base, with just 3 ingredients is great on its own too!

This caramel does require a candy thermometer to make from scratch.  However, a few times I made it and cooked it a little too long, and while the it came out firmer than ideal, it was still devoured and heavily complemented (and delicious).  So I'd say don't be scared of candy making!  Give it a go, and if you are nervous, keep the temperature lower so it comes to temperature slower.  As in my previous caramel recipes, if you are in the US you could melt down kraft caramels with heavy cream for this layer, follow this link for those instructions.

Crumbly dough!
It comes together nicely with some kneading.
shortbread adapted from Mary Berry

- 175 grams butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar

- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 113 grams (1/2 cup) butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla

- 200 grams milk or bittersweet (72%) chocolate coarsely chopped.  Choose the one you like the taste of!

To Bake:
Make the shortbread: Preheat the oven to 180c/350f.
  1. If you don't have parchment paper, lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Mix in the flour just until it begins to form together into a ball of dough.  Then use your hands to knead it all together. (It will start of crumbly)
  3. Place the shortbread dough on a piece of parchment paper, and use a rolling pin to roll it to an approximately 9x13 inch rectangle.  Then lay the dough (still on the parchment paper) into your pan, and use a knife to trim the long edges and patch any short edges.  Or if you are not using parchment paper, then transfer the dough to the greased pan.
  4. Prick the top lightly with a fork, and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and firm to the touch.  Cool in the tin.
Make the caramel:
  1. Place everything but the vanilla in a heavy saucepan (at least 2 quarts).  Stir and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and the mixture starts to boil, this step may take about 10 minutes.
  2. Place a candy thermometer in your pot, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a temperature of 244 f (borderline between the soft ball and firm ball stage).  This should take a good 25-30 minutes to reach temperature.  If you are unsure, place a small drop of the caramel liquid into a glass of ice water, if it spreads out, it is not ready.  At 244f, it should form a firmish ball, you can squeeze between your fingers.  (Below 230f, it will not hold together well in the ice water).
  3. Remove from heat, mix in vanilla, and pour into the prepared pan.  Leave it to cool overnight, or place in the fridge to speed up the process.
Melt the chocolate:

  1. Place the coarsely chopped chocolate in a bowl over a pot of lightly simmering water.  Melt it gently until it is 3/4 melted, then pull it off the heat and stir till smooth.  If you are patient, temper your chocolate for best results, otherwise just poor it over the caramel and let it cool.
  2. If you used parchment paper to line your pan, lift the entire tray out of the pan, then use a large sharp knife to cut it into squares.


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