My first encounter with Millionaire’s Shortbread is actually a chocolate inspired by it called “Billionaire’s shortbread” by Hotel Chocolat. (you know, it is even better than the millionaire version!) It is one of the shop I always manage to drop too much for whenever I go to England.
They make pretty chocolates that are fun flavours like their series of desserts inspired ones. Anyway, yes. I liked the idea of chocolate and caramel sandwiched together, though I wasn’t sure about the shortbread. Also, three layers of things seem like a lot of work so I’ve never felt super motivated to make millionaire’s shortbread.
UNTIL BAKE OFF.
Seriously, I think Bake Off has been the most inspirational and motivational show for me as a person who goes from can’t bake to bake a little too much. I tried so many different things because I saw them in the show and they look very doable. (sometimes it is a lie of course) So this year when they did Caramel Week and did millionaire’s shortbread as a challenge, I knew I had to do it.
Originally I was gonna try my boy Liam’s recipe (I mean it has been a while and Bake Off is over even but HE WAS ROBBED THAT WEEK!). But it looks like a lot of work making your own peanut butter and all. I know, you don’t have to make your own peanut butter but my concern is that a store bought one can be too sweet and hence making the whole thing too sweet, since it is aleady so rich. Also I have no idea where to buy liquid glucose. So I have decided to try to make my own somehow.
Let’s break down to the elements of this bake since there are three and they are a little bit independent of each other. You can make the shortbread in one day, caramel the next and then chocolate 2 days later or make them all in one go.
This one is simple. It is just a basic shortbread and it is even easier than usual because you don’t even have to form a dough. You just take your messy breadcrumbs and press into the tin. And like a regular shortbread you can add whatever flavour you like! I added some finely chopped pecans because I believe this is where nuts belong, with chocolate and caramel.
I had a lot of trouble with this. Majority of the recipes I managed to find included a condensed milk caramel. Which, you cook condensed milk + golden syrup + sugar + butter together till it turns the right colour. I like condensed milk like anyone else, especially in my Vietnamese Coffee. However I find the caramel cooked from condensed milk leaves a distinct aftertaste of powdered milk for me. I hate powdered milk, it makes me gag. It also lacks the burnt-sugar-slightly-bitter-toffee note in the caramel. I also didn’t find it any easier to make. I still had oil separation when cooking the caramel, it still took a long time.
I’d say for the flavours you get in the end, go with an actual caramel that starts with sugar. I used the dry sugar method, so just pour your sugar into the pan and melt it instead of using water-sugar mix. The advantage is that it is less likely to crystalize whilst you cook it, the disadvantage is that it takes longer. … which is completely fine for me. Once it is the right colour you want, add the cream in …. though no one told me the cream needs to be quite warm.
So as soon as I pour the cream in the caramel seized up and turned into a solid piece. I was quite upset after all those work it was all ruined. Though upon some more research apparently that’s fine, all you have to do is keep cooking. The sugar will melt again and your caramel will be fine, again, just more time. In order for it to set properly, it will have to be cooked till 116°c aka the softball stage. You will need a candy thermometer, you can’t eyeball it.
On Bake off they required the chocolate to be tempered. I have never actually tempered chocolate before, I didn’t even know what that means. Most recipes didn’t actually call for the chocolate to be tempered, so they are gooey to the touch. Or you need to keep them in the fridge.
I had absolutely zero idea what I did here, the chocolate did set in room temperature, it snaps, but it didn’t look smooth. But it isn’t exactly blooming like I have found on the net. Or maybe it is a different kind of blooming, I don’t know. So before I made a second attempt, I youtubed this shit up. Thankfully I found this wonderful video by How to Cook That which explained everything you need to know to on the why and how on chocolate tempering. Do check it out if you ever want to work with chocolate.
Makes a gigantic slab in a 23cm x 23cm tin (9″)
For the Shortbread base:
100g Butter, cubed and cold
50g Granulated Sugar
120g All Purpose Flour
35g Pecans, chopped or ground
For the Caramel:
240g Granulated Sugar
225g Heavy Cream
2g Kosher Salt
200g Chocolate, semi sweet + bitter sweet
To make the Shortbread:
1. Preheat oven to 175°c/350°f
2. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and flour.
3. With your fingertips, rub the cubed butter into the flour mixture until you have something that looks kinda like breadcrumbs.
4. Mix the chopped nuts into the mixture. You can decide how fine you want the nuts, if you want just the flavour but not the crunchy texture, ground it finer. If you want to actually add a crunch to the shortbread, leave it a bit coarser.
6. Line your baking tin with some parchment paper, and tip your bowl of crumbs into the tin. Press the crumbs into the tin tightly until you have a nice base. Take a fork and pierce the surface of the shortbread like you would on a pie lining so it won’t rise for no reason.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes. Or until the edge are slightly brown. Watch carefully!
To make the Caramel:
1. Use a taller pan because hot sugar burn is painful. Use a larger pan than you’d normally go for. Use a stockpot instead of a saucepan. Put your sugar in the pan and melt it all over low-medium heat.
2. It is going to take a while but the sugar will slowly melt into liquid. Keep your stirring to minimum. Only stir to make sure the sugar is being heated evenly. If lumps are present , just give it time. It will all melt. So cook it till the colour you want, sort of golden amber brown. You should also smell that burnt sugar smell at that point. From then on it could easily goes from amazing to amazingly burnt. So pay attention!!
3. While the sugar is melting, warm your cream in a saucepan. Just bring it up to about body temperature so it isn’t cold.
4. Once the caramel is the right colour, pour half of the cream into the caramel. Wear something over your arm and be very careful! IT WILL SIZZLE! IT WILL BUBBLE! IT WILL GO INSANE!!! Or it could seize up like mine. It is all fine. Throw in the vanilla and rest of the cream, continue to cook until the temperature reach 116°c/240°f, or whatever it says on your thermometer as “Soft Ball”.
If you do not cook it till soft ball stage it will not set properly!!! If you are making a caramel sauce you can stop being soft ball and it’d remain pouring consistency. … though that isn’t what we want. So make sure you softball it!
5. Let it cool a bit , and pour it on top of your shortbread base.
6. Let the caramel layer cool down before tackling your chocolate layer. If caramel is still hot while you pour chocolate on, it will fuck everything up.
For the chocolate:
1. Watch this youtube video if you want to temper your chocolate.
2. If you can’t be bothered and you don’t mind having gooey chocolate, just melt your chocolate over double boiler, pour it over your caramel layer and call it a day!
3. Once everything is set, take out the slab and cut into whatever size you want to serve them. You can eat the whole slab if you want, it is your life after all. Don’t let anyone tell you how to enjoy your chocolate caramel treat.