Mar 16, 2010

Millionaire’s Shortbread

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On the same day that I finally took a long overdue trip to the dentist and thought that it might be a nice idea to go on a little diet for a few days, I put together a totally addictive batch of Millionaire’s Shortbread. Is this what psychologists mean by “self-sabotage”? Please advise.

I suppose I could also be getting myself into a bit of hot water by posting about a traditional Scottish recipe in time for St. Patrick’s Day. But since a little Googling shows that one can find a version of Millionaire’s Shortbread in Ireland, too, and because I am now so out of touch with the world that I tend to think of everything “over there” as one big country, let’s just go with it, okay? Annnddd….there goes half my readership. Excellent.

Speaking of national holidays like St. Patrick’s Day that are so awesome that other countries get in on the action, why don’t we all celebrate one for Scotland, too? Because I think we should, based solely on Millionaire’s Shortbread. I mean, c’mon, people. Buttery, crumbly shortbread. Thick, chewy caramel. A slick of chocolate capping the whole thing off. Shouldn’t this dessert have its own FLAG?

Now, I’ve never been to Scotland. I hear it’s a beautiful place. I came very close to going to Scotland once for my sister-in-law’s wedding, but ended up birthing a baby six weeks before and was way too consumed with lactating and keeping my fragile newborn in a bubble to make the trip. My husband, however, bravely left his kin to attend the wedding. And he acted all sad about having to leave us, and at the time I think I believed him. But looking back now, I’m not so sure.

Because boyfriend got to get the heck outta Dodge, and in this case, the Mayor of Dodge was a hormonal, post-partum train wreck with a colicky, sleep-fighting infant. He left Dodge for a lush, green countryside full of golf, beer, the green light to wear a man skirt with no underpants, and incredible access to Millionaire’s Shortbread. Is 18 months after the fact too late to nag your husband about something?

Millionaire’s Shortbread

You can speed up the cooling process of the layers by popping the pan into the freezer for about five minutes or so between steps. For the chocolate layer, I like to use a half-and-half mix of bittersweet and semisweet chocolate chips because I think the balance is so right on, but all semi-sweet works too. I made my caramel in the microwave, but if you prefer, you can cook the condensed milk on the stovetop, in a double boiler over low heat, for 1 1/2 hours.

Makes about 20 pieces

For the crust:

1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for dusting
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the caramel layer:

1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or a generous 1/8 teaspoon of regular salt)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate layer:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (see note)
3/4 teaspoon vegetable oil

Position a rack to the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with an 8-inch wide “sleeve” of aluminum foil, long enough to create a couple inches of overhang on two sides. Butter or lightly spray the entire pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed just until creamy and blended, about 1 minute. Reduce the speed to low, and stir in 1 cup of the flour until well-blended, then stir in the egg yolk until the dough is smooth, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary to make sure everything is well-incorporated.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust your hands with flour and pat the dough into a disc. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup flour over the dough and knead it gently just until the flour is worked in–the dough should be soft and smooth and not too sticky. Pat the dough into a square almost as big as the pan, then transfer the dough to the pan and pat it neatly and evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the crust all over with a fork. Bake it for about 22-25 minutes, or until a light golden brown. Let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the caramel: Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a medium microwave-safe bowl. Cook on medium power (about 50%) for 4 minutes, stirring well halfway through. Continue to cook on medium-low power (about 30-40%) for another 12-20 minutes, until the milk has turned into a thick, smooth, golden caramel, stopping to stir about every 2-3 minutes. There won’t be a lot of change in the caramel until the last few minutes, and the total time will depend on your microwave–keep on stirring and adding time until you’ve clearly cooked the milk to a irresistibly golden caramel. Stir in the salt and vanilla.

When the shortbread has cooled, pour the caramel over it and nudge it into an even layer with a small spatula. Let it the caramel firm up for about an hour in the refrigerator, or less than 10 minutes in the freezer.

Melt the chocolate chips and vegetable oil together in a small microwave-safe bowl on 50% power, stopping to stir every 40 seconds or so, until the chocolate is melted, glossy and perfectly smooth. Drizzle the chocolate in an even layer over the caramel, and use a spatula to smooth it. Chill until the chocolate is set, refrigerated for about 30 minutes or about five minutes in the freezer. Remove the bars from the pan using the handles of the foil sleeve to lift the slab, and then transfer it to a cutting board. Cut into aout 20 bars, using a large chef’s knife and wiping the blade clean after each cut. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

  • Beautiful…looks very delicious. By the way, Scotland is very beautiful. I've been living here for a few years now. Beautiful castles, sceneries etc. And I really love the bag pipes. You should come for a visit.

  • Thanks, MaryMoh. Both for the compliments and not scolding me for my blatant disregard for geography. Hopefully I will make it To Scotland someday!

  • I was just looking at a recipe for this last night in the Baked book! I have a new jar of Dulce de Leche in the cupboard – do you think I could use that for the middle layer (since you essentially made your own for this recipe)?

    I love St. Patrick's Day as an excuse to make desserts with Bailey's, but maybe this year I'll make this instead!

  • Robyn–There are a bunch of recipes out there that use dulce de leche in them, could be a great shortcut! I added salt and vanilla to my caramel because I crave that sweet/salty balance, and I bet you could do the same with dulce de leche just to give the caramel layer a little lift. Report back!

  • I honestly cannot wait to make this!!!!! My girls would devour this…
    Thank you sooooo much for a great treat!

  • Ohhh! I just bought Elle à Table (french cooking magazine) and was reading it yesterday when a recipe for Millionaire's Shortbread caught my eye. And now, yours! OK, I definitely take this as a signal to make these very very soon. I bet I'll even be dreaming about them tonight!

  • This is eerily similar to the toffee bar recipe my mom always makes. Delicious!

  • Yummm, so happy you found Millionaires, this is Mike's staple indulgence. They were even served at the wedding! Oh, and we can't WAIT to get you over here…maybe research on yummy British desserts?

  • I think that regardless of the time of year or what country you are from, Millionaire's shortbread is one of the world's most perfect foods. And this version looks great!!!

  • Oh that looks delicious, thanks for the recipe can't wait to try it out!

  • looks yummy!! my co-worker always talked about making her millionaire shortbread…but now i'm actually motivated to make it!

  • okay, I feel like a total and complete failure….where is the "print" button? Do you post a printer friendly version? Or do I need to copy/paste on Word?

    What a great recipe to give a go…can't wait!

  • I live in Bombay, and i have my 10th grade IGCSE's on, but i saw this recipe and just had to try it out! They were delicious! Went very well with math problems 🙂

  • ooh! These look yummy.

    BTW, I don't think the statute of limitations on giving your SO a hard time is up yet.

  • YUM! This looks crazy good!
    And no…you can hold a grudge on that one until he births a baby and missed a fantastic vaca 🙂

  • I can't wait to try this…I don't have a square pan. Do you think a cookie sheet (with edges) would work as well?

  • Anonymous–It wouldn't be impossible, per se, but probably not quite deep enough.

  • Hey Shauna, this is beautiful shortbread. Looks so decadent. Your photos are making me hungry too…

  • j'en avais fait l'autre jour mais j'avoue que j'ai été déçue, je m'attendais à un goût plus prononcé de caramel, et moins de lait concentré sucré.

  • Argone–I'm using my high school French here, but I think you're saying that your caramel layer came out tasting more milky than caramelized. I'm guessing that the milk wasn't cooked long enough–the more color it has, the more caramelized the flavor will be. The recipe gives a suggested time, but microwaves vary a lot. Hope that helps!

  • Wow, want to grab one and eat it right away. Will have to try it as I am always looking for new recipes. yummy! I recently made myself Dulce De Leche cheesecake, that was delicious, so yours have to be great too, I bet.

  • I've never heard of this but caramel and chocolate are always a win!

  • Awesome 🙂

    How'd you get the ripples on the chocolate if I may ask?

  • Yeah Shauna, how DID you get the ripples?

  • Still waiting for the chocolate ripple tip (sorry for stalking, but you're just so darn good!)
    😀 😀 😀

  • Anonymous and Alice–So sorry to leave you hanging on the ripple question. Unfortunately my answer doesn't involve mad skillz. Because the chocolate topping for my Millionaire's is a bit thicker than other recipes, you'll get sort of a wavy surface when you spread it into place, and then when it's sliced it looks all ripply. Make sense?

  • Is there an eggless shortbread recipe anywhere? I have looked EVERYWHERE! I can find vegan ones, but not any eggless ones 🙁

  • Please tell me if you know of a substitute that I can use in place of the egg yolk, Shaun…pretty please? :D:D Am hoping to make this for a friend's little son who eats vegetarian. Like I said, not necessarily vegan, just eggless.

  • Anonymous–Gale Gand's Millionaire's recipe has a shortbread base that doesn't use egg, though I haven't tried it. I think you can find it on the Food Network website!

  • I added butterscotch chips and it turned out really good.

  • May I ask something that would seem stupid? Just want to know why you'd put oil in the chocolate? 😮

  • Anonymous–Not stupid at all! The tiny amount of vegetable oil keeps the chocolate a bit softer and easier to cut into neat bars without cracking, and also adds a bit of shine.

  • OHMYGOD, such a disaster. Though for everyone who reads this, this will be hillarious.
    The dough was sticky and I needed a lot (like, a LOT) more flour to get it together to look half as decent as your picture. When I tried making a square, it just kept breaking, took me an hour to get it in the pan.
    Then I couldn't exactly POUR the caramel since it was exactly like how the dough should have turned out in the first place. SERIOUS! I could have rolled it into pancakes. So I had to press that into the pan too.
    The chocolate had pity on me and behaved.

    Where ALL did I go wrong? I just want to become the size of little C and come hug you and cry my heart out 🙁

  • OMG, this went staright from the fridge to my butt.

    I found the shortbread dough too crumbly? I don't knwo if the yolk i used was large. Can I use 2 next time?

  • Okay I'm making this now, and my condensed milk smells HORRIBLE as I'm cooking this…is that normal??

  • Hey Julie–Well, I suppose it could sort of give off a bit of a funky, milky smell as it cooks especially if your micro runs hot, but it shouldn't be totally offensive. I'm wondering if your can of condensed milk was a bit off, maybe? I only say this because it's not an item that gets a lot of turnover in some stores, so it could be near the expiration date–I've had this happen to me before. Let me know what happens!

  • This taste just like a Twix candy bar. I love it! I plan on making it into bite size pieces and giving them out for holiday gifts.

  • I could easily change my candies for this shortbread

  • Hi Shauna! Thanks for posting this recipe! I will be trying this tonight 🙂

    Just a note to the other commentators: I have made dulce de leche in the oven! Preheat the oven to 200-220 Celcius (sorry, I’m from Europe!) Just pour a can of condensed milk into a shallow dish. Cover dish tightly with foil and place into a larger roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water up to two thirds the sides of the smaller dish. Finally, place in the preheated oven. After an hour, check the water level and add more if it looks depleted. Bake for a further 30 minutes to 1 hour. check the dulce de leche’s colour. It will look peculiar because the colour will vary until it is whisked. It should look a little darker than your version (above). When ready, remove from oven and whisk. It will kind of curdle at first, but will smooth out and the colour will be consistent throughout. (Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz’s). I’ve used this recipe in his Dulce de Leche Brownies (devine!) Now can’t wait to try this recipe:)

    I love your blog and have read every single post! It’s a pity there aren’t any more! I love your writing! 🙂 I have also tried your perfect pie crust recipe (quite a pain to convert to metric took me ages!!) but I had a wonderfully flaky pie crust that tasted really buttery! Thanks a million!

    Greetings from sunny Malta 🙂

    Kim xx

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