How to make caramel shortbread – it's easier than it looks
Millionaires’ shortbread is a layered delight and is much easier to make than it looks
Millionaires’ shortbread. Photograph: Harry Weir Photography
I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t love this triple-layered biscuit. The name “millionaires’ shortbread” (which nods to the richness of its indulgence) seems to have caught on after the millennium, and its popularity continues to soar, despite a brief stint as “Wellington Squares” in the 1990s.
I have happy memories of industriously filling old biscuit tins to the brim as tuck boxes for lonely souls in Irish college. That was back in the 1980s before anyone started using expensive chocolate in home baking. They were still the mother of all treats.
Despite the three layers, they are relatively easy to make. First, a base of crumbly shortbread made with a 3:2:1 recipe ratio of flour, butter and sugar. Second, a smooth caramel centre. A friend of mine complains her caramel is always too runny, so I won’t pretend getting the right consistency of firm caramel is easy. I imagine she panics about the caramel catching on the bottom of the pan as she stirs over a high heat. This happens to everyone and results in dark flecks in the mixture, so when making caramel, I arm myself with a whisk for constant stirring and a wooden spoon to scrape around the edges of the pan.
The trouble while stirring is you can’t tell how firm the caramel will set when it cools. I find colour gives a good indication. My friend is probably stopping when the mixture turns camel coloured when it should be teddy-bear brown.
Finally, a third layer of melted chocolate poured over the top – what could be simpler?
Makes 21 fingers
200g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
300g plain flour, sifted
175g dark chocolate (min 55 per cent cocoa solids)
For the caramel
75g caster sugar
397g tin sweetened condensed milk
1 tbsp golden syrup
1. Preheat oven to 170C and grease and line a rectangular baking tray (approx 30cm x 20cm) with parchment paper.
2. For the shortbread, using a food processor or electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add in the flour and continue processing for 10 seconds or until it comes together (or bring it together with your hands, adding a dash of milk if necessary to bind the dough).
3. Press the shortbread to ½cm thickness into the baking tray.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 mins or until firm to the touch and light golden (without it browning around the edges). When the shortbread is cooked, allow it to cool in the tin for 15 mins before covering with caramel.
5. For the caramel, gently melt the sugar, butter, condensed milk and golden syrup in a medium saucepan. Using a whisk to stir vigorously, increase the heat to just below a boil, then stir fast for about 15 minutes while the sauce changes colour and starts to thicken (use a wooden spoon to scrape around the inside edges of the pan where the mixture might catch, removing it regularly from the heat source as you do so). Stand over the pan and keep stirring until it reaches a “soft ball stage” or a caramel colour (what I call teddy-bear brown). Test this by dropping a bead of the caramel into a cup of cold water: It should form a soft ball that does not harden fully.
6. Spread the caramel evenly over the shortbread and set aside to cool fully.
7. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water). Pour the chocolate over the cold caramel. Chill until the chocolate hardens. Use a large sharp knife to cut neatly into even fingers.
As they are always a huge hit, no variation can truly improve on millionaires’ shortbread. I prefer to use dark chocolate with 60-75 per cent cocoa solids but you can use milk chocolate and even create a decorative top with a drizzle of white chocolate. If you don’t want the chocolate to develop a cloudy colour, store them in an airtight container rather than in the fridge.