Millionaire's shortbread

As I type this and think about these tasty millionaire's shortbread I made recently, our kitchen is a gutted, dusty space...renovation has begun!  I'm taking it one day at a time and trying to just go with the flow.  I'm thankful to be able to have an updated kitchen to cook and bake from soon, and also grateful I had the chance to make a few more delicious things to eat before we packed up the kitchen and got things ready for the construction!
I've heard about millionaire's shortbread for a while now and I figured it was a great indulgence to attempt to make during the holidays to share with friends.  It's made up of a base layer of buttery shortbread, a center of soft and chewy homemade caramel, and a top layer of dark chocolate.  It's essentially homemade Twix bars.  As my husband says, it tastes like a "fresh Twix bar" or a "fresh, gourmet Twix bar".  Well, I think Twix bars are pretty good as it is - it's a childhood favorite of mine - but this homemade millionaire's shortbread is a knockout indulgence!
This is the recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  It's actually fairly easy to follow - the only "must" is a candy thermometer for cooking the caramel layer to ensure that it turns out smooth, soft, and chewy.  Using melted butter for the shortbread base, you can just stir the ingredients together and then simply press the crumbs into the pan. Finally, it takes a little time and effort to finely grate some of the dark chocolate that goes on the top layer and then to carefully - and slowly - melt the chocolate in the microwave for you to end up with a firm coating of chocolate that has a nice snap and won't bloom (turn gray).  Following the directions, this was as close as I ever got to tempering chocolate and I was very happy!
My bars aren't nearly as neat as the ones made by Cook's Illustrated but I can't say I'm too surprised.  I had trouble slicing the bars without making a ton of crumbs in the shortbread layer (and frankly, I was too impatient to try a little harder).  I'm fine with a little mess.  I packed up most of my batch for a few friends (the recipe makes a generous 40 bars so it's great for gifting) and I don't think my friends minded the mess, either.
I don't often eat a Twix bar these days but making these homemade bars was a great reason to indulge.  These millionaire's shortbread bars were so addicting.  The combination of buttery crunchy shortbread crust, with stretchy, sweet, and chewy caramel, wrapped up with a firm snappy dark chocolate top is a really winning combination.  This is the perfect time to make a batch!


To make this millionaire's shortbread, start with a 13 x 9 inch pan and lining it with a foil sling using 2 large pieces of foil; this makes removal super easy when you're all done.  Here's how the 3 layers go down:

The shortbread layer: this couldn't be much easier.  Instead of softened butter, this recipe uses melted butter so you can stir all the ingredients together in a bowl and then just turn the crumbs out into the pan.
Use your hands and palms to press and spread the crumbs into one even layer.  Then dock it with a fork.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden.  When it's out of the oven and warm, it's recommended you take a large flat spatula to press down on the shortbread to compress it to make it easier to cut later.  I did this but I have to say I still had quite a bit of breakage and crumbing when it came time to slice.  Let the shortbread cool for about 20 minutes.
The caramel layer: It's all about the texture.  You want a soft, chewy caramel that stretches if you snap the bar in two and pull it apart.  For that, a candy thermometer is a necessity.  
The ingredients are sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt.  Cook it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it reaches a temperature between 236 and 239 degrees.  This is essential and takes 16-20 minutes.  Once ready, pour it on top of the shortbread crust.
Throughout the whole process of making the caramel, the mixture is obviously extremely hot so be careful!  Once the caramel layer has been spread, let it cool completely for about 1 1/2 hours.

Now...for the chocolate layer, my favorite part!
Cook's Illustrated (and I) highly recommend Ghirardelli's 60% bittersweet chocolate bar for this.  You need 8 ounces in total.  Chop up 6 ounces and finely grate the remaining 2 ounces (using the small holes in a box grater).  It's a little messy and time consuming to grate the chocolate but I found that following the instructions precisely resulted in a perfectly set chocolate topping that did not bloom after it cooled and had a nice hard texture to it.  In essence, it's been tempered.
And in order to essentially temper the chocolate (melt it slowly) in the microwave, you start by putting the 6 ounces of chopped chocolate into a bowl and heating it on 50% power, 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each time.  Repeat until chocolate it just melted and it isn't much warmer than body temperature (test by feeling the bowl with your hands).  This will take 1-2 minutes.  Then, add the 2 ounces of grated chocolate and stir well to combine.  If necessary, return the chocolate back into the microwave no more than 5 seconds at a time (again, at 50% power) until all the chocolate is just melted.  
Spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the caramel layer.  Place the pan in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to set.  That's all it takes.
To slice the millionaire's shortbread into bars, lift it out of the pan using the foil overhang, and remove the foil.  Use a serrated knife and slice it into half crosswise, then half again so you have 4 equal rectangles.  Using a back and forth gentle sawing moment is recommended.
Then, slice each into 10 bars for a total of 40 bars.  Each one will be very satisfying!
Hopefully, yours will be less messy than mine.  However messy mine were, they made up for it in taste.  The chocolate is hard and cracks underneath your teeth while the caramel is nice and stretchy, smooth, and soft.  The shortbread reminds you why you love the simplicity of a shortbread cookie.
After you stow some away for you and your family to enjoy (my husband made it a point to remind me to keep some), pack some up for friends!  It's the holidays and a great time to show you care with something sweet and homemade.

Recipe:

Millionaire's Shortbread 
From Cook's Illustrated

- Makes 40 bars - 

For shortbread crust:
2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For caramel filling:
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup packed (7 ounces) brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup corn syrup
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

For chocolate topping:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (6 ounces finely chopped, 2 ounces grated using the small holes on a box grater; Ghirardelli's 60% bittersweet chocolate bar recommended)

For crust:  Adjust oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make foil sling for a 13 x 9 inch baking pan for easy removal of bars later (Fold 2 long sheets of aluminum foil; the first sheet should be 13 inches wide and second sheet should be 9 inches wide.  Lay sheets in pan perpendicular to each other, with extra foil hanging over edges.  Push foil into corners and up the sides of the pan, smoothing foil flushed to the pan.)

Combine flour, sugar and salt into a medium bowl.  Add melted butter and stir with a rubber spatula until flour is evenly moistened.  Crumble dough evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.  Use your fingertips and palm to press and smooth the dough into an even layer.  Using a fork, pierce the dough at 1-inch intervals.  Bake until light golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack.  Take a sturdy metal spatula and use it to press on the entire surface of the crust to compact it (this is to help make the finished bars easier to cut).  Let crust cool until just warm, at least 20 minutes.  

For filling: Place all ingredients into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir together. Cook, over medium-heat, stirring frequently, until temperature reaches between 236 to 239 degrees (it will fluctuate), 16 to 20 minutes.  Carefully pour the mixture (it is very hot) over the crust and spread evenly using an offset spatula.  Let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours.

For chocolate: Place chopped chocolate into a bowl and microwave it on 50% power for 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval.  Continue until chocolate is just melted and not much warmer than body temperature (check by holding bowl in the palm of your hands), about 1-2 minutes in total.  Add the grated chocolate and stir together until smooth.  If necessary, return chocolate to the microwave for no longer than 5 seconds at a time (again, on 50% power) to finish melting.  Spread over the caramel layer and smooth it evenly using an offset spatula.  Refrigerate the pan until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes.

Finish/slice the bars: Lift shortbread out of the pan using the foil overhang and remove the foil.  Place onto a cutting board.  Using a serrated knife with a gentle sawing motion, slice bar in half crosswise so you have two 6 1/2 by 9 inch rectangles. Then slice each of these rectangles in half again crosswise so you have 4 strips.  Slice each strip crosswise into 10 equal pieces, for a total of 40 bars.  

Store at room temperature, between layers of wax or parchment paper, for up to a week.




44 comments:

  1. Can't wait to see your new kitchen!! These shortbread bars with chocolate and caramel look irresistible!

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    1. It won't be very dramatic. : ) Just taking out the old and replacing with new. Same space but definitely looking forward to cooking in it again.

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  2. Oh my yum! these shortbread treats look and sound amazing! Yummmmmmmm!
    And I love that soon you are going to get an updated kitchen. Time to celebrate!

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  3. It's so funny that you comment on the bars not cutting neatly, because the first thing I thought (right after yum) was how pretty and neat the bars look! I was even going to ask you how you do that! :) Making soft, chewy caramel is on my "learn to do" list", and now I know where to go for the recipe! As you know, tempering chocolate is a nemesis of mine. Bravo,Monica, that you were able to temper to a shine and a snap! Good luck on the kitchen renovation. You are amazingly calm about it!

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    1. You are very sweet and generous. I loved how that caramel turned out...nice and soft & chewy. The thermometer will make it right. And I'm with you on tempering. I don't even try to but this effectively did it and I was amazed...no blooming.
      And the kitchen...well, I figure 'no pain/no gain'...there's been pain so I hope the gain comes with it soon. ; )

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  4. Twix bars are basically my favorite candy bar and these sound right up my alley! Pinning for later :)

    Sues

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  5. Love Twix bars!!!! making these for a Christmas eve party we are going to. Thanks Monica! Also can't wait to see your new kitchen, I bet you are excited.

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    1. I hope you make it and everyone enjoys it. It was super tasty (too tasty, maybe...) ; )
      Thanks for the kitchen wishes...always nice to change things up and have a fresh space. Fingers crossed!

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  6. I think you did a great job cutting these! And they're so cute, cut into the Twix bar shape. Having been through a kitchen reno myself a few years ago, they're hard to live through but so nice to have done! Good luck!

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    1. Thank you, Beth. Appreciate the kind words.

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  7. Good luck with the reno, it will be all worth it in the end and I can't wait to hear all about it :) I think these bars look perfect! Twix was always one of my favorites and homemade is always better! The recipients that received these are so lucky :)

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    1. I could use a few Twix right now! Thanks, Kelly.

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  8. These shortbread bars are so perfectly prepared...

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  9. I love millionaire's shortbread, it's just the best!

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  10. I've actually never had these either if you can believe it. They look so yummy!

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    1. Definitely a good project to make for gifting, enjoying during holidays. Thank you.

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  11. Good posts, beautiful blog.
    Congratulations.
    Welcome to see my creations:
    http://paintdigi.com

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  12. Oh my gosh I didn't realize your kitchen reno was happening so soon! Eeek! Yes, definitely just take it one day at a time and I'm sending lots of good vibes your way that it all goes on schedule! :)

    And this shortbread! What I would do for one right now with my tea!

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    1. Eeek is right, Ashley. Every "small" project has complications as you no doubt will confirm. Thanks for the good vibes. Love that!

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  13. I've looked at this recipe so many times and just knew I would love it! Thanks for making it for me - I guess my box is in the mail? haha! Best wishes on your kitchen renovation. We've never finished ours 100% and still have half - a half bath to finish. Sheesh :) Oh well - I bet it will be amazing! Merry Christmas to you!

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    1. I hear you. I'm really glad I finally took the plunge to try these. Super addicting. Thank you, Tricia.

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  14. If I added these to my holiday baking trays they wouldguaranteed it be the first things gone!

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    1. So agree...these bars are decadent and delicious.

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  15. It's been a long time since I want to renovate my kitchen, but just didn't get enough motivation. All the best for your renovation, you would be working in your beautiful new kitchen in no time. :) Love Twix bars and these millionaires shortbread would make a lovely treat for any day.

    Anu
    http://www.mygingergarlickitchen.com/

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    1. We're not doing anything major but still, it is a project. It took me many years to get to this 'motivation' point so I hear you.

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  16. I've heard of the millionaire's shortbread but haven't ever tried it…that must change.

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    1. Fresh Twix-like bars. Very decadent and delicious, Karen. ; )

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  17. OMG look at that decadence. I don't think these would last very long in our house for sure. RENO of kitchen is painful. Hope it goes quickly and it looks like a million bucks when you are done.

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    1. Thank you, Bobbi. This project makes me crave some decadence! Send food and caffeine in general! ; P

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  18. I've heard of this millionaire's shortbread but never had any, it looks really good. Great thing about renovating the kitche, we did it 2 years ago and I love it.

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  19. Wow Monica, this millionaire's shortbread looks awesome...I love all the layers...and yes, they sure make a great gift...
    I look forward to see you new kitchen...and I can believe that you still baking...
    Hope you are having a great week my dear :)

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    1. Thanks, Juliana. Made these before the kitchen was cleared out. : )

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  20. They are fabulous and such neat cross sections! Lucky friends of yours Monica. Good luck with the renovations...how exciting that you'll be baking out of a new kitchen soon:-)

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    1. Thanks, Sonali. I'm looking forward to eating home-cooked meals again...

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  21. Absolutely beautiful and delicious!

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  22. I love Twix bars too! I might even have a slight obsession with the little mini Twix bars ;) These look fantastic.

    Hope you are enjoying the holidays! <3

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    1. Thank you, Bianca. Hope you're having a great holiday season and enjoying your engagement. Congrats!!

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