It’s a beautiful thing when you make one of your favorite bakery treats at home and they turn out exactly like you remember at the bakery. I’ve been visiting BAKED on every trip to New York City since 2009– it’s like my once per year (occasionally more!) pilgrimage to the bakery that has made such a difference in my life and baking “career”. I’ve followed them through four cookbooks and a few hundred recipes, and one of my absolute enduring favorites is Millionaire’s Shortbread, slabs of buttery, crumbly shortbread slathered with caramel and topped with chocolate. I never, repeat never, miss an opportunity to grab one of these when I’m at BAKED. So I was utterly delighted to finally make these at home for Baked Sunday Morning‘s recipe from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking this week! Why have I never made them before? Ummm, I really have no discernible logical reason at all. Just haven’t? Does that count as a reason? Anyway, this has been a NYC classic for me for a decade, so imagine my delight when these tasted just like they did from the BAKED pastry case!
Now, it didn’t necessarily appear that they would come out at all for a while there. I was worried that the shortbread dough was way softer than the shortbread I’m used to making, and the sweetened condensed milk that was supposed to cook down to a dulce de leche in 60-90 minutes took nearly THREE hours. But fortunately in the end, all the components did come together and these bars, which are described in the book as “the rich man’s Twix”, are pure gooey luxury. I don’t eat a lot of commercial candy bars these days, but if I was going to have one, it’s highly likely to be a Twix bar, so I suppose I’m predisposed to loving these anyway!
Okay, so backing up– I poured a can of sweetened condensed milk into a bowl set over a simmering saucepan, which starts out very light and fairly thin, but reduces to a thickened, darkened, caramelized puddle of deliciousness. It just took a lot longer than expected, which meant that I couldn’t bring them over to my friends’ house for dessert that evening; I was a little bummed about that, but instead I got to serve them at a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party!
As for the shortbread, we’re instructed to beat together the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then add flour and finally an egg yolk. This produces an ultra-soft dough that you’ll form into a square, into which you’ll then knead another ½ cup flour. I wasn’t sure why we didn’t simply add all the flour into the mixer, but it made a photogenic mess and kneading the soft dough was a lovely sensory experience. At that point, the dough seemed soft, yet substantial enough to spread into the bottom of my baking pan. I normally would’ve put it in the fridge to firm up (though the instructions don’t say to do this), but since I was still planning at that point to bring the bars to my friends’ house, I popped it in the oven right away. (Meanwhile, the caramel was still not thickening/darkening after over an hour, so it soon became apparent that I would have to scramble to make a different dessert for the evening!)
The shortbread baked up beautifully golden, and I baked it an extra couple of minutes to ensure it wasn’t underdone. Once it had cooled and the dulce de leche was finally done, i.e. it had turned a light caramel-y color and thickened to something like a sticky pudding, I poured and spread it over the cooled shortbread, then put it in the fridge to chill and firm up.
I waited until the next day to finish the chocolate layer, which is simply a mixture of dark chocolate, corn syrup, and butter that gets melted down together. After pouring this over the chilled caramel, it will firm up in the fridge, and then we’re told to take the bars out 30 minutes before cutting in order not to crack the hardened chocolate. I didn’t have any issues with the topping breaking, but I was bummed that the chocolate had bloomed a bit for some reason, rather than looking smooth all the way across. Still, this was a minor annoyance. My bars did cut a bit messily– I should’ve made the effort to hot-knife them… at least a few for the photo shoot! 😉
So circling back to the beginning, I was beyond thrilled with these! The combination of indulgent shortbread, gooey caramel, and crisp-to-melty chocolate all together IN YO MOUF is positively splendid. It’s like taking three excellent things and marrying them into an even better thing that I want to eat all day long. Fortunately a little goes a long way, as they are very decadent. The only thing I’d change is to use European-style butter next time for an even richer shortbread, and possibly I’d sprinkle some flaky salt on top, or even swirl it into the caramel! Despite the time needed for cooking the filling and chilling in the fridge, these are actually pretty easy and require minimal hands-on time. The payoff is extraordinary in my humble opinion– I would say that this is one of the best recipes in the book, if not in the BAKED realm of baked goods. Dramatic? Maybe. But I think that these embody the best of their “American classic desserts with a twist” genre, which is what I fell in love with!
Since you do need these in your life, I recommend hightailing it over to Baked Sunday Mornings for the Millionaire’s Shortbread recipe. These are outstanding for pretty much any day ending in ‘y’, and even more so for a celebratory occasion. I might even suggest tucking away this recipe for the upcoming March festivities, since they feel a little Irish to me with the shortbread. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them, and please check out my fellow bakers’ bars on BSM too! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2019.