If you dream about the sweets and treats of your childhood but want something a little more special than the standard chocolate chip cookie or vanilla ice cream, look no further than Emma Duckworth’s Simply Sweet Nostalgic Bakes (2021, Page Street Publishing Co.).

From Apple Fennel Salted Caramel Tart to Blackberry Glazed Brioche Donuts and Kids’ Fave Neapolitan No-Churn Ice Cream, each of the 55 recipes has been carefully crafted to evoke the fond, comforting memories of days gone by while lending irresistible depths of flavor to even the most familiar desserts. 

Espresso Millionaire Shortbread Bars

 

What’s not to love about a layer of buttery, crumbly shortbread slathered with oozing caramel and topped with decadent chocolate? These bars are a delicious British classic at heart.

Here I’ve included espresso powder in the caramel layer which, despite being only one-ingredient addition, totally transforms these millionaire bars.

 

    Shortbread:

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature 

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

    Espresso Caramel:

Two 14-ounce cans condensed milk

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup golden syrup

2 teaspoons espresso powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

    Chocolate layer:

1-2/3 cups coarsely chopped 70% dark chocolate

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup chopped white chocolate, for feathering

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-9-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Allow the parchment paper to hang over the sides to make it easier to lift the shortbread out once cooked.

To make the shortbread base: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add the flour, butter, sugar, egg yolk, vanilla and salt and beat on medium speed until combined and a dough starts to form.

Tip the dough into the prepared pan and using your hands, press the mixture into the pan until totally level. Using the base of a measuring cup or glass might help to level at the end. Prick the base all over with the tines of fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool completely.

To make the caramel layer: In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the condensed milk, butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, espresso powder and salt and heat until the sugar has dissolved and the butter has melted, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring continuously so that it doesn’t catch. The caramel will thicken to a soft fudge consistency and turn golden brown.

This can take about 5 minutes. Pour the caramel onto the cooled shortbread base, level with an offset spatula and leave to set for 1 hour in the fridge.

To make the feathered chocolate layer: Melt the dark chocolate and butter in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not come into contact with the water.

Once melted and glossy, pour the chocolate mixture over the caramel. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave in 20-second increments, stirring well after each.

Spoon melted white chocolate into a small piping bag and pipe horizontal straight lines about 1/4 inch apart over the dark chocolate.

Score the lines using a skewer by dragging it up and down the top of the chocolate, perpendicular to the lines that you piped.

Chill in the fridge until completely set, at least 1 hour or overnight. Remove from the pan by using the parchment paper. Cut into slices or squares using a sharp, hot knife, wiping between each cut. These shortbread bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to one week.

Makes 16 bars.

Tip: This makes an extra-thick layer of caramel. If you prefer a thinner layer, halve the caramel ingredients.

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