Re-re-bake: millionaire’s shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread!I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with millionaire’s shortbread. I absolutely love to eat it, but making it is such a pain when you cannot for the life of you get the caramel to set! Happily, I think I’ve actually managed to nail it this time thanks to the power of social media.

The shortbread base itself was nothing particularly special – just good ol’ butter, sugar flour and a little salt. No problem.

Millionaire's shortbread - baseI was absolutely determined to find out how to make the caramel properly, so I took to Facebook to ask my friends on there for any tips. Lo and behold, Rachel over at A Jar of Happiness came to the rescue with what looked like (and actually was) a foolproof recipe.

I made the caramel, poured it over the shortbread base and left it in the fridge overnight to set. And yes, I may have resorted to a spot of ‘fridge and pray’ action, for any Great British Bake Off fans out there!

Millionaire's shortbread - caramelI was incredibly, incredibly relieved when I took the tin out of the fridge and I could actually touch the caramel without it coming away on my finger. Maybe there is a baking god up there after all…?

After that, it was a simple matter of melting some milk chocolate, pouring it over the caramel and giving it another few hours in the fridge to set before slicing it up into bars. I used a bar of Choceur chocolate from Aldi, which is an excellent range of chocolate and very reasonably priced (I’m nibbling away at their rum raisin and nut chocolate as I type).

Millionaire's shortbread - chocolateTaste-wise, the shortbread was absolutely divine. At first, I was a little worried that it might have been too salty due to using salted butter and then adding more salt on top, but the sweetness of the caramel and chocolate makes a pleasing contrast – I probably wouldn’t add any salt if I used dark chocolate in this recipe in future, though.

If you too have struggled with making the perfect millionaire’s shortbread, give this recipe a go!

Millionaire's shortbread!The recipe

Makes 16 small squares, 12 small bars or 8 large bars

For the shortbread:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 175g butter
  • Pinch of salt

For the caramel:

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 397g can of condensed milk

For the chocolate:

  • 200g good quality milk or dark chocolate (if you choose the latter, opt for 50-60% cocoa content)
  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas mark 2. Line a shallow 20cm square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. To make the shortbread, sift the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
  3. Rub in the butter until it forms clumps, then press the mixture into the bottom of the tin.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it’s a pale golden brown. I had to leave my shortbread in my gas oven for about 50 minutes before it got to this point, but your oven may differ to mine! Leave the shortbread to cool in the tin.
  5. To make the caramel, melt the butter and sugar in a pan, stirring all the while. Keep stirring as you add the condensed milk and turn the heat up to boil for 1 minute.
  6. Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread and set the whole lot in the fridge, for a couple of hours minimum but ideally overnight.
  7. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and pour over the set caramel, tilting the tin to make sure it gets into all the corners. Return the shortbread to the fridge to set for a further 30 minutes or so.
  8. Cut up the shortbread into squares or bars. Stuff your face and feel happy!
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First bake: toscakaka

ToscakakaYou can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned British cake, but it’s nice to try international cakes every so often. This toscakaka (caramel and almond sponge cake) hails from Scandinavia, although rumours suggest it might actually be Italian. Wherever it’s from, it’s a brilliant invention!

I decided to bake this on impulse to cheer myself up following a lot of house buying-related stress this week, and it certainly did the trick. It’s easier to make than it looks – you just make the sponge, fling it in the oven, make the praline topping while it’s baking, then pour the caramel on top of the cake and bake for a bit more on a higher heat setting. Et voila – toscakaka!

Toscakaka mix

Toscakaka mix

The cake mix ended up being quite runny, so I was a bit worried about the texture of the finished cake, but I needn’t have been. The sponge somehow manages to be both dense and light, with pleasing results. The praline topping didn’t set as I hoped, but it’s still super delicious! The recipe adds a fair bit of sea salt for that fantastic savoury-sweet combination, and that’s exactly what I’ve got.

ToscakakaI’ve only had one piece so far after making it last night, but I fully intend to sample some more! This is one for anyone with a penchant for salted caramel or simply something a little bit different from the norm.

The recipe

From Vegetarian Living magazine. This may be a recipe by a particular chef, but I don’t know as I ripped the recipe out and chucked the magazine away a while ago!

Serves 10

For the cake:

  • 3 medium eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 0.25 tsp fine sea salt
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 75ml buttermilk (make your own by adding a splash of lemon juice to whole milk and leaving it for a few minutes to thicken)

For the topping:

  • 125g butter
  • 125g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 150g flaked almonds (or dessicated coconut to create a Danish dream cake (drommekage))
  • 50ml whole milk
  • 0.75 to 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • double shot of espresso (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3-4. Lightly oil a 23cm round cake tin.
  2. For the cake, whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl until pale and fluffy.
  3. Combine the baking powder, flour and salt in another bowl.
  4. Gradually add the flour mix, buttermilk and melted butter to the egg mixture, taking it in turns to spoon each one into the bowl and folding the ingredients together the whole time with a large metal spoon.
  5. Pour the mix into the tin and tap it to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 mins, or until firm and golden.
  6. Begin making the topping 15 mins into the baking time so it’s ready for when the cake comes out. Place the topping ingredients in a saucepan over a low-medium heat and bring to a simmer, mixing all the while. Keep it at a low simmer for 3-4 minutes until it has slightly thickened.
  7. Take the cake out of the oven when done and pour the hot topping over it. Turn the oven up to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and put the cake back in for another 5-10 mins, until the topping has turned golden brown and is crispy.
  8. Cool the cake slightly in the tin and then run a knife around the edges to make sure the praline isn’t stuck to the tin. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Re-bake: millionaire’s shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread (second tier, centre)

Millionaire’s shortbread (second tier, centre)

I was invited round to my boyfriend’s house this weekend for a sumptuous afternoon tea organised by his sister, who is a super brilliant baker! I was obviously very excited, until I realised that I had to bake something too. My boyfriend eventually advised me (read: made me) to make some millionaire’s shortbread.

I do like millionaire’s shortbread a lot, but I haven’t had much luck with making it in the past. I must have baked it about four or five times, but I’ve only managed to nail it once, due to issues with the caramel and shortbread on separate occasions. Annoyingly, I can’t for the life of me remember the recipe I used for the perfect millionaire’s shortbread. So, I decided to adapt a recipe for salted caramel shortbread from the Guardian instead.

I like this recipe mainly because of the shortbread itself, which contains semolina – creating a really nice, substantial texture. The caramel is made by simmering an unopened tin of condensed milk in water for 2 hours, while the topping is melted milk chocolate and butter.

Shortbread, pre-baking

Shortbread, pre-baking

Caramel-covered shortbread

Caramel-covered shortbread

I’ve used the tin-boiling method for the caramel before, but it didn’t turn out quite right – too pale and gloopy. So I decided to simmer the tin for a good deal longer this time, and it seemed much better.

However, it still failed to set despite an overnight stay in the fridge, so I just decided to plough on and make the chocolate topping anyway, using some ‘extra special’ milk chocolate and a little bit of Milka chocolate, along with a knob of butter. I was a bit worried that I’d put too much butter in, as the resulting mixture seemed to be more like a ganache, but it did set overnight (phew!).

The final product was very nice indeed – everything tasted as it should. However, I’m still annoyed about the caramel not setting. As you can see in the first picture above, the caramel ended up dripping everywhere – not great when it’s on a beautiful cake stand filled with other perfect-looking goodies! If anyone can tell me what the secret is to the perfect set caramel, I’m all ears.

Yesterday’s afternoon tea went swimmingly – there were four kinds of sandwiches, two types of macarons, mini Bavarian slices and mini scones (which I knocked up at the last minute from this recipe) served with strawberry jam and clotted cream, as well as cava and lashings of tea, of course! We had to ‘get rid’ of some of the leftovers this afternoon as well, and now I’m all sugared out, but it was well worth it!

The recipe

Adapted from this River Cottage recipe for salt caramel shortbread in the Guardian – just omit the salt in the caramel and shortbread, and feel free to use salted butter instead of unsalted in the shortbread itself (which is what I did!).

First bake: Milka chocolate and caramel muffins

Milka chocolate and caramel muffins

As I have a bit of a thing for purple, cows and chocolate, it’s perhaps no surprise that my favourite chocolate brand is Milka. I rarely bake with it (as it’s milk chocolate rather than dark), but I do occasionally like to throw it into the odd chocolatey bake. I did this a few days ago when experimenting with a variation on my beloved BBC Good Food triple chocolate muffins.

I had quite a lot of caramel left over from last week’s caramel banana blondies, so I thought I’d attempt to bake some chocolate muffins with a gooey caramel centre. I’d never really done this before so it was a bit of a gamble!

I started off by making the wet and dry mixes for the muffins as per the recipe, swapping the white chocolate in the original recipe with extra milk(a) chocolate and reducing the amount of dark chocolate. I kept the amount of cocoa powder the same, however.

Milka chocolate and caramel muffin dry and wet mixes

Dry and wet muffin mixes, before combining

Then I combined the two to create a wonderfully rich muffin mix:

Milka chocolate and caramel muffin mix

Milka chocolate and caramel muffin mix

Next, I spooned two-thirds of the mix into the muffin cases and added a generous blob of caramel on top, before spooning over the rest of the muffin mix. I used Nestle Carnation caramel from a tin, but you can make your own if you’re good at it (I’m not!). I was careful to cover as much of the caramel as possible with the top layer of mix to avoid burning.

Muffin mix, pre-baking

Muffin mix, pre-baking. The one in the top left corner is complete – two layers of mix with caramel in between.

Caramel

Gooey caramel…

Then the muffins went into the oven for 20 minutes. Some of the caramel bubbled up to the top of the muffins, but there weren’t any burning issues, thankfully! I left them to cool for a few minutes before attemping to break one open to see how successful I was with creating a gooey centre…

Milka chocolate and caramel muffin

A Milka chocolate and caramel muffin, warm from the oven

Well, they were gooey alright, but not quite in the way I expected. The caramel dispersed throughout the muffins in little blobs, rather than staying in one big blob in the middle. I suspect this is because the muffin mix was pretty gooey itself to begin with! There was also some gooey melted chocolate, which is par for the course (and extremely welcome) in the original recipe.

Taste-wise, the muffins were very chocolatey. I couldn’t taste much of the caramel in the first muffin I had, but the next one was pretty spot on, so I think the first muffin just didn’t have enough caramel in it. Some of the chocolate chunks didn’t melt, resulting in a wonderful combination of textures – liquid caramel/melted chocolate, cakey muffin and hard chocolate bits.

Everyone who tried a muffin really enjoyed them, and I’m very pleased with how they turned out. I think if (when) I make them again I’ll add more caramel, but that’s probably the only change I’ll make.

Now to decide what to do with the rest of the leftover caramel…!

The recipe

Based on the recipe for triple chocolate chunk muffins from BBC Good Food 101 Cakes & Bakes.

  • 250g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g Milka Alpine Milk chocolate (or any other milk chocolate), broken into chunks
  • 50g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 284ml soured cream
  • 85g light muscovado sugar
  • 85g melted butter
  • 12 generous tsp caramel (I used Nestle Carnation caramel)

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6/180C fan oven. Place 12 paper cases in a muffin tin (or butter the holes themselves if you’re not using cases).

2. Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and chocolate in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Mix the eggs, soured cream, sugar and butter in another bowl.

4. Add the wet mixture to the flour mix and stir until just combined and the mixture is fairly stiff, but don’t overmix.

5. Spoon two-thirds of the mixture into the paper cases/muffin tin holes, then top each one with a generous teaspoon of caramel (you can add more if you’re able to). Divide the remaining muffin mix among the 12 cases/holes by spooning a blob of mix on top of the caramel, making sure to cover as much of the caramel as possible to avoid burning/bubbling.

6. Bake for 20 minutes until well risen. Leave in the tins for 15 minutes as the mixture will be quite tender. Remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

First bake: caramel banana blondies

Caramel banana blondies

We get a weekly delivery of fruit at work, and as we had some extremely ripe bananas going begging from a previous delivery, I thought I’d claim them to bake some lovely banana-based goodies. The first thing I made was these caramel banana blondies – or white chocolate brownies.

The blondies were unbelievably easy to make. I think I got the whole thing done in about 45 minutes. Melting the butter, sugar, caramel and chocolate together made things much easier (no spending ages trying to cream the butter with a whisk).

Caramel banana blondies ingredients

Melting the ingredients for caramel banana blondies

I deviated from the recipe a little after reading some of the comments on it. I halved the amount of sugar and also took the blondies out of the oven after 30 minutes, rather than 45.

Caramel banana blondie mix

Caramel banana blondie mix, pre-baking

I thought 250g of sugar seemed far too much considering there’s white chocolate and caramel too – not to mention the sweetness of the ripe bananas. Halving the sugar worked fine and they were definitely sweet enough (perhaps even still a little too sweet!). Taking the blondies out early also meant they stayed squidgy and suitably brownie-like.

Giant caramel banana blondie

Giant caramel banana blondie!

Overall, the blondies were excellent and adding blobs of caramel to the top before baking meant there were some lovely gooey bits in the middle of them. I would definitely make these again, sticking to my changes to the original recipe.

The recipe

From BBC Good Food here: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9962/caramel-banana-blondies