My grandmother was an amazingly accomplished cook and baker and was very adventurous in the things she chose to cook for the family, but oh how I envied my friend who lived across the road because her mother used to make Chocolate Caramel Squares for her family.
The first time that I made them, I burnt the caramel in my eagerness (and haste) to produce the addictive bars that I loved so absolutely. It really is crucial that you cook the ingredients for the caramel over a low heat, using a heavy based saucepan and keep stirring all the time. Otherwise the caramel will catch on the bottom of the saucepan and will burn in no time at all. Other than that, the bars are relatively easy to make and keep very well for up to a week stored in an air-tight tin.
I have cut these into generous sized bars, but they can be cut into smaller bite-sized morsels and served as petits fours. I have used dark chocolate to top the bars, but you can use milk or even white chocolate. I do think the slight bitter edge that dark chocolate lends is preferred as the caramel layer is so sweet.
You can also add a few chopped hazelnuts, or nut of your choice, to the caramel once cooked and before spreading on top of the shortbread. What I give here is the basic recipe, which can be adapted as you like. Sometimes I forgo the shortbread base and instead use one made up of puffed rice cereal and melted chocolate. This can be very tasty and is less heavy than the shortbread.
As alluded to in the title to this post, these bars are also known as Millionaire’s Shortbread. The origins of this name are disputed but it seems generally accepted that it reflects the rich and decadent qualities of the bar.
150g butter, softened
75g caster sugar
225g plain flour
397g tin of condensed milk
100g golden syrup
200g dark chocolate, melted
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Fan Oven 150C/Gas Mark 3. Line a 30cm x 20cm x 4cm oblong shallow cake tin with non-stick baking parchment.
2. Using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Using a wooden spoon, work in the flour to produce a dough. Press the dough into the prepared cake tin to cover the base. Spread out and level the surface using the back of a spoon. Prick the base several times with a fork. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, until cooked through and just beginning to colour. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool while you make the caramel.
3. Place the condensed milk, butter and golden syrup into a medium/large heavy-based saucepan and heat over a moderate temperature until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth. Increase the heat slightly and bring the mixture to the boil, stirring frequently. The caramel will need to bubble away for approximately 12 minutes for it to reach the correct stage. When it is ready, it will have thickened and will have turned a rich golden brown colour.
4. Immediately pour the caramel on top of the shortbread base, spreading it out using the back of a metal spoon. Set aside to cool completely.
5. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Once it is fully melted, pour it over the cooled caramel in an even layer. Set aside until cooled completely and the chocolate has set. Cut into 20 even-sized squares/bars.
Makes 20 bars.