Salted Caramel Millionaires

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There is something so completely perfect about a millionaire, and I’m not just talking about the George Clooney kind. These classic biscuity bars are so chewy, crumbly and chocolatey – everything you’d want in a sweet treat, really – and the perfect partner to a really good coffee! I’ve given these bars a little twist with the salted caramel element, but you can reduce the salt to just a pinch for a more traditional bite. Making millionaires involves three stages. First there’s the shortbread base, then the caramel and finally a chocolate finish. It’s quite a hands-on process, particularly if you decide to temper the chocolate. I always do this (with varying degrees of success) as it helps the chocolate to retains its sheen and ‘snap’. If you just melt the chocolate and pour it on, it will set with a kind of grainy, matt finish, and will lose its crispness. It will still taste pretty good though, and frankly if I were to make these for people who can’t tell the difference (i.e. kids), I’d probably take every available shortcut.

There are two ways of making the shortbread base – you can either buy shortbread and blitz it with butter, or you can make it from scratch. If you want to do the latter, you’ll need to cream 60g caster sugar with 120g unsalted butter, then slowly add 180g plain flour. Flatten it into a buttered & lined tin (9”x12”), prick with a fork and bake at 180c/350f for about 20 mins or just until golden. Leave to cool on a wire rack then carry on with the caramel and chocolate layers. As I make these quite a lot for friends, I usually just buy the shortbread as it reduces the work involved. Be sure to buy ones labelled ‘all butter’ though, as cheaper ones are often made with a mix of butter and vegetable oils, and they’re definitely not as tasty.

As for the caramel – well, there is no shortcut here, so set aside ten minutes for constant stirring. And take care while doing so. I once dipped my finger absent mindedly into a pan of lava-hot caramel to see what it tasted like. It’s fair to say that a full arm amputation would have been preferable.

*You will need a standard 9″x 12″ traybake type tin for this, lightly buttered and lined with baking paper. Cut the paper larger than you need so that you can easily lift the millionaires out of the tin. If you want to temper the chocolate, you’ll also need a sugar thermometer. I love the Thermospatula from Lakeland!

I find this recipe will slice just perfectly into 16 bars. They are super rich, so this amount is just right.

For the base: (see notes above if you’d like to make this from scratch)
300g all-butter shortbread
75g unsalted butter

For the caramel:
125g unsalted butter
75g soft light brown sugar
50g golden syrup
1 x tin condensed milk (standard 397g size – don’t use the light version!)
1 tsp fine sea salt

For the chocolate layer:
200g dark chocolate, broken up into pieces
100g dark chocolate chips (or an extra 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped)
Sea salt flakes to sprinkle

To make the base:
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First, blitz the shortbread in a food processor (or bash in a plastic bag) until sand-like. With the motor still running, pour in the melted butter and blitz again. Make sure all the crumbs are coated in butter.

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Tip into a lined tin (*see notes above) and lightly spread the mixture evenly all over. When the tin is covered, press the mixture down very firmly, using the back of a spoon or the palms of your hands, until it looks flat. I finish with a large square of transparent perspex as it helps create a very neat and solid surface (and I can see what I’m doing!). You can try using the bottom of a cake tin for a similar smoothing effect. Place in the fridge to firm up as you get on with the caramel.

To make the caramel:
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Place the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Melt gently on a low heat, stirring occasionally, just until you have an amber liquid.

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Pour in the tin of condensed milk and mix well, until it is the colour of very weak tea. Stirring continuously, bring to the boil then reduce the heat – to almost as low as it can possibly go – so that it bubbles gently rather than furiously, and keep stirring for around six minutes. It will gradually thicken and look, well, like caramel. Don’t be tempted to stop stirring at any point until it’s done! Switch off the heat and sprinkle in a teaspoon of fine sea salt. Stir very well, then set aside for five minutes, stirring now and again.

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Pour the caramel on to the (chilled and firm) shortbread base. Gently use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to spread it evenly then set aside to cool for about 10 minutes, then pop it back in the fridge while you get on with the chocolate.

Quick tempering method:
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Break up 200g of the chocolate and place in a microwavable bowl. Cover and melt in 30 second bursts, stirring in between. When it has all melted, remove the bowl from the microwave and tip in the 100g of chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate). Sit down and make yourself comfy – you will need to stir it all together for around 15 minutes. The melting chips help to control the overall temperature and prevents randomly sized crystals forming, for a smooth shiny finish (at least that’s the idea). You may need to wrap a tea towel around the bowl if it’s a bit hot to touch. I use the amazing Thermospatula from Lakeland for tempering chocolate; it has a thermometer built into the handle, so you can monitor the temperature as you stir. Any sugar thermometer will do though; when it cools to 31-32 celsius, the chocolate is ready to use. If you don’t want to temper the chocolate, just gently melt the total 300g of chocolate and carry on to the next step.

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Pour the chocolate on to the caramel layer (it should have firmed up nicely by now) and spread evenly all over, using a palette knife or something similar to smooth it out. Sprinkle pinches of sea salt flakes all over before the chocolate sets, then leave it to harden at room temperature.

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Use the baking paper to lift the slab out of the tray and slice as you like. I like to slice into 16, as shown above. I find it helpful to dip a sharp knife in hot water (I half-fill the empty tin with just boiled water) as this will help avoid cracking the chocolate. Try not to move the bars around too much while slicing – it is best to allow them to firm up again in the fridge before handling. Millionaires will keep for at least a week if stored in an airtight tub in the fridge – although I’ll eat my Converse if they hang around for that long. Enjoy!

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