So with an essay deadline looming for my postgrad studies, I decided the time was right for a bit of baking. Although I’ve been using cooking as a way to distract myself or avoid the work, writing up the blog posts must psychologically feel a bit too similar so I’ve not been too great at posting things up recently. It’s started to turn into a fortnightly recipe with a blog post another fortnight later. But it’s officially December and this is the closest I’ve ever been to keeping my new year’s resolution with my fortnightly recipe so that’s pretty exciting! This is the baking post I promised recently and I think you’re going to like it. They seemed to go down pretty well at work anyway!
These beauties are another one from my favourite baking blog, Jane’s Patisserie. Now I have to confession to make. I’ve already confessed to being a perfectionist on the blog (and probably a few too many times in life, people on my course have been pointing this out to me in a way that makes me feel I should probably be keeping this little personality trait of mine on the down low a bit more!). So I actually tried making these for the first time when baking some goodies on my last day in my old job a few months but I had a bit of a disaster and didn’t post it. It looked beautiful until I cut into it and discovered the caramel to be rock hard, and I found myself hacking my way through it for a good half an hour trying to save what was left of the squares. Now I wasn’t enough of a perfectionist not to bring these into work (sorry team!), but I am enough of a perfectionist to want to try making these again and learn how to master these. I’m starting to feel a bit like one of the Great British Bake Off contestants in the early stages where they haven’t weeded out the less knowledgeable people, and the technical challenges lead to tantrums, tears and epiphanies of just how these baking techniques should be mastered.
So we need to talk about caramel. This fiendish little substance has a pretty specific time frame for perfection, right between being too undercooked to set and overcooking to the point of no return. It’s also potentially a pretty dangerous job because if it splashes you, it can cause burns so you really need to be careful and ready for the workout that is 5-7 minutes of intensive stirring. You have two options. You can use the stove like I did and frantically stir the mix until it starts to thicken and turn a caramel colour. I found colour to be the best guide in judging when it’s done, you can use the pictures here to help you or aim for a soft brown, golden colour. I recommend using oven gloves to protect yourself in this task. It is also very important that you’re stirring fast and continuously, not just to prevent burns but also because otherwise it may catch on the bottom of the pan and cause brown flecks in your caramel. The other option, which comes heavily recommended by a close friend is the microwave technique. On a medium heat for a similar time frame, heat the caramel for little bursts, stirring between these bursts. Only use a microwave if you have a revolving plate on the microwave, as keeping it still can lead to an uneven distribution of heat and can lead to burnt spots in the caramel. I’ve written the instructions as if you’re using a hob as that’s what I did. I hope I haven’t put you off, but I want to make sure you learn from my mistakes! Once you’ve mastered the art of caramel making, the rest is actually pretty simple and I’m really happy with how this batch turned out. Mary Berry would be all over those ‘layers’.
- 190g butter or margerine, at room temperature
- 85g caster sugar
- 250g plain Flour
- 185g butter
- 85g caster sugar
- 3 tbsp golden syrup
- 325g Condensed Milk
Chocolate Layer & Decorations
- 200g milk chocolate
- 1x large pack of Maltesers, to decorate (optional)
- Gold or silver balls, to decorate (optional)
How to make it…
- First, preheat the oven to 160°C and start making your shortbread. To do this, start by creaming together the butter and the sugar. Next, add the flour and mix until it forms a crumbly but consistent dough.
- Line a square or rectangular baking tray (I used a standard 20 x 23 model, but anything around those measures should do) with baking paper and press the dough firmly into the tin. Smooth the top with a silicone spatula or a spoon to create a flat top so make those layers as sharp as possible.
- Bake in the oven for around 20 – 25 minutes until it turns a light golden colour. If you lightly press the top if should feel a little springy. Leaving it in the baking tin to cool for at least an hour, or overnight if you prefer. When you’re happy that your shortbread has cooled, you can get started on the caramel.
- In a large, deep saucepan heat the butter, caster sugar, golden syrup and condensed milk on a medium heat until the mix is smooth, stirring continuously.
- Next, turn the heat up high (get the oven gloves out at this point) and stirring continuously, heat the caramel mix for around 5-7 minutes or until it’s turned a light brown/ golden colour and has thickened to the consistency of a fudge. If you’re unsure, you can take it off the heat briefly and check what you’re stirring it with – when it’s ready, the caramel should be thick and sticking to the spatula (apologies for the shabby quality of the picture, but please see as a guide)
- Pour the caramel over the shortbread into the baking tray, smoothing over the top if necessary. Leave to cool in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours.
- Melt the chocolate, leave to cool slightly to a point when it is no longer hot but still runny. Then, pour the chocolate over the caramel and smooth the top, again using a spatula, knife or spoon.
- While the chocolate is still runny, add the decorations of maltesers and silver balls so that they can set into the top.
- Give it a last burst in the fridge over another 1-2 hours and use a good knife to slice the millionaire shortbread into squares!
- Enjoy 🙂
From Jane’s Patisserie’s recipe: ‘Millionaire Shortbread’