A little slice of heaven
It is only on rare occasions that I would cook a sweet such as this. It is both nostalgic and delicious, and a very indulgent thing to eat.
Caramel shortbread, which also goes by the name millionaire’s shortbread, is essentially a layered slice. The base is a cooked shortbread, the middle a gooey caramel, and the top a layer of chocolate.
Most of us have probably eaten or seen a version of this sweet, usually found in milk bars, delis or bakeries. I have had versions that contained gum-numbing quantities of sugar. Very few sweets with this amount of sugar get my attention. But the balance of shortbread to sweetness in this recipe is spot on.
The three elements are so delicious together, each bringing a unique contribution to the finished treat. Not just in flavour but complementing textures.
The shortbread base needs to be short and buttery without being too flaky. It needs to be firm enough to hold the weight of the two toppings.
The middle caramel layer is the most important. It needs enough caramelising to flavour the slice and enough colour to set the caramel.
The chocolate layer is dictated by how much you choose to spend on quality couverture chocolate.
An afternoon spent baking is not everyone’s cup of tea but this recipe is a good opportunity to learn a few basic skills. It is not an impossible recipe. What I like about it is that it covers some ground on cooking with sugar, the different components covering three very different techniques that are all important in the world of pastry.
The stages in this recipe are not all hard work. But it does require a bit of patience and time for each layer to cook and set before the next layer can be started. Don’t let my ramblings deter you: the rewards certainly outweigh the energy spent assembling this recipe. I would suggest it is best eaten mid-afternoon with a strong cup of coffee and the company of a good book.
– 200g plain flour
– 100g fine semolina
– 100g sugar
– pinch salt
– 200g butter, cut into cubes
– 175g butter
– 175g sugar
– 60ml golden syrup
– 395g tin condensed milk
– ½ tsp salt
– 250g dark chocolate
Butter a 20-centimetre x 30-centimetre slice tray and line it with baking paper.
Put the flour and semolina into a bowl with the sugar and salt and mix well. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips, and mix to form a dough.
Press the dough into the prepared tin and prick it all over with a fork. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
Heat your oven to 180ºC.
Bake the shortbread for about 25 minutes, until golden. Allow to cool.
For the topping, put all the ingredients except the chocolate into a wide, heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring to melt the butter.
Bring the mixture to a simmer then turn the heat to low. Stir the mixture constantly as it easily catches and burns on the bottom of the saucepan.
Cook the topping for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is caramel coloured and thick. Pour it over the cooled shortbread base and return the tray to the fridge to set.
When the caramel has set, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and spread the chocolate evenly over the caramel.
Leave the chocolate to set then turn the shortbread out of the tray and cut into squares.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Oct 1, 2016 as "Millionaire’s shortbread". Subscribe here.