Fraser and I worked together to make another of his granny’s specialties for a small gathering of friends: caramel shortcake. This is also known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, and commercially as the Twix bar. While I made the shortbread base, Fraser made homemade caramel and poured melted chocolate into the Han Solo and Lego ice trays. Normally, you would just spread the caramel over the shortbread, then pour melted chocolate over that and hope you remember to cut it before it’s totally set, otherwise the chocolate will crack like crazy. By using the rectangular molded chocolates, that made it very easy to cut into uniform, perfectly-portioned pieces.
The recipe we used is adapted from the Joy of Cooking. When I made it before, I thought the caramel was too stingy, so we doubled the amount for ours. For the chocolate, we used Scharffenberger’s 72% dark chocolate for the Han Solos and Trader Joe’s Pound Plus dark chocolate for the Legos. Both were delicious.
It’s also worth noting that this shortbread base is great on its own. I’ve used it in a variety of forms – molded, frozen and sliced, rolled out and cut into rounds for plain shortbread cookies, empire biscuits, and with mini chocolate chips mixed in. It’s just an awesome basic shortbread recipe.
For the shortbread base:
- 3/4 cup (aka 1.5 sticks or 170g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1.5 cups (210g) all purpose flour
- dash of salt
For the rest:
- 2 14 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk (this is after I doubled it to make a nice, thick caramel layer. If you don’t LOVE caramel, one can will make enough to just barely give the whole pan a thin layer.)
- 6 oz good-quality dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I’ve used Trader Joe’s, Scharffenberger, and Ghirardelli all with good results)
- 1 tsp unsalted butter ONLY if you’re NOT molding the chocolate. If you are molding the chocolate, omit this butter.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (170 C) and spray a 9″x9″ pan with either Baker’s Joy or Pam with Flour.
- Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the vanilla and beat until it’s fully combined. The stand mixer is your friend. Toss in the salt, then add the flour and mix it in JUST until its all combined. It won’t form a perfect ball of dough and will be somewhat crumbly.
- Press the dough into the prepared pan, making it as even as possible.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn golden.
- While the shortbread is baking, make the caramel. Pour the condensed milk into a large, microwave-safe bowl and microwave on half-power for 4 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 4 minutes. Stir again and reduce the power to low. Continue to microwave in 2 minute bursts, stirring between bursts until the milk has thickened and turned a golden caramel color. It will be sticky around the edges. Using a pot holder to protect your hands, beat the caramel with a wooden spoon, until it’s completely smooth. (That said, don’t worry too much if there are tiny flecks of solid caramel anywhere in there. They’re sort of nice.)
- Spread the caramel over the shortbread and leave on a wire rack to cool COMPLETELY.
- While it’s cooling either mold your chocolate (melt it in a double boiler and pour into molds only about 1/8″ deep. Much thicker than that and it won’t so much be a topping as a slab of chocolate that’ll make it impossible to bite through the cookie. Put the molds in the freezer to speed up the process, but store the molded chocolate in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.) or go read a book for an hour.
- If you aren’t molding your chocolate, melt the chocolate with the butter in a double boiler, then pour over the caramel. Use a spatula to spread it out and smooth it. Leave it to set, but check it after 15 minutes or so. Once it’s no longer liquid but not totally set, cut it into 16 squares (or more or less depending on how big you want them, really). You really don’t want to wait until it’s all the way hardened, unless you honestly don’t care if the chocolate cracks and looks all messy. It’ll still taste good.
- If you did mold your chocolate, lay the chocolates on top of the FULLY cooled caramel (otherwise, they’ll start to melt and negate all the work you did molding them) and use them as a guide to cut the shortcake into individual cookies.