Once my mom sent a package from South Africa to New York with my pal Randall. It was a shoebox and it was very very heavy.
She said she was sending something sweet, something that she had made for us as kids ….I ripped open the box (I was homesick, you see, so had to be dramatic and ‘rip’) and inside I found about 2 pounds of ‘Millionaires Shortbread’ (so called because it’s so rich): shortbread with a layer of caramel with another layer of chocolate on top.
So, I ate it. All of it, in about a week. I’ve never been one to savour sweet things, eating one piece a night, making it last months…oh no…have to eat it all up as quickly as possible, especially when it’s so damn good. And thanks to you mom, the 2 pounds of biscuity delight that came in the shoebox, they went straight to my hips (I think they’re still there).
I’ve made it myself a couple of times since then, but just can’t seem to get the neat little squares my mom made….mine look like someone stood on them before I took the picture. But, whatevs, they taste really good!**
Oh, and Robyn, this one’s for you.
Read on for the recipe
** I have discovered since posting this that if you freeze the Millionaires Shortbread, you will be able to cut it up more neatly. I would have shown you, but I’ve eaten it all.
(adapted from Une Gamine dans la Cuisine …..I forgot to ask my mom for her recipe. Lame.)
Shortbread ingredients (I doubled this recipe, but you don’t have to)
1/2 cup (that’s 1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
2 Tablespoons of sugar
Dulce de leche ingredients
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup (that’s 1 stick) of Salted butter cut into cubes – this will help it melt faster
3 Tablespoons of dark brown sugar
dash of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon of pure almond extract (I omitted this because I didn’t have it)
Chocolate topping ingredients
6 ounces of chopped dark or bittersweet chocolate (get the best quality you can find, honestly it’s worth it)
1 Tablespoon of butter
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Line an 8×8 inch square baking pan with foil and butter or spray the entire pan (bottom and sides.) Set aside.
Crust: In a medium bowl, beat the butter on high speed until it becomes light and fluffy (about 3 minutes or so.) On low speed, add the flour, salt and sugar and mix just until a crumbly dough forms. Try not to over mix. Press the dough into the prepared pan, going up the sides a bit. Prick the dough a few times with a fork. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is just starting to turn a light gold. Remove from the oven and cool completely. You may turn off the oven at this point since you won’t need it again. (unless you were going to make, say, a banana bread).
Dulce de leche: MAKE THIS ONLY WHEN THE SHORTBREAD HAS COOLED. Empty the can of sweet milk into a heavy, medium sized pot. Add the cubed butter, brown sugar, and salt. Place the pot over medium-low heat and stir until the butter has melted. Turn the heat up a bit to a medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture resembles a thick light golden caramel. Depending on how high the heat is, it may take up to 15-30 minutes [the first time I made these, it took about 20 minutes. This time it took almost 30. Be patient and it will thicken.] Be sure to keep stirring to prevent the bottom from burning. The longer you heat the mixture, the deeper the flavour till be. Once the mixture is thick and gold, remove from heat and quickly stir in the almond extract (be careful not to burn yourself as the caramel may sputter.)
Immediately pour the mixture over the cooled crust and spread it evenly before it hardens. It should be easy to spread as long as you don’t hesitate too long. Set the bars aside to cool for about 20 minutes.
Chocolate topping: Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure no steam is escaping from the pot. Place the chopped chocolate and butter into the bowl and stir until you have a smooth, shiny mixture. Carefully remove from heat and drizzle the chocolate over the cooled dulce de leche layer. Sprinkle some sea salt over the chocolate before it cools. Chill the bars completely before serving.
To cut the bars, run a sharp knife under hot water. Run the hot knife through the bars. Repeat as necessary.