Warning: just looking at this page might expand your waistline.
We’ve been running a number of recipes from Jane Hornby’s Simple & Classic, one of the most handsome – and easiest to use – cookbooks we’ve ever come across. So far we’ve had frittata, chicken and bacon pie and tarte au citron.
This week, it’s time for the salt and caramel combination that’s been taking over the world. If you haven’t tried making it yourself, Jane calls this recipe ‘a delicious way to experiment… The recipe is a twist on millionaire’s shortbread, a classic childhood favourite of mine. It’s now all grown up, and perfect as a bite after dinner.’
You can adapt the recipe to make ‘standard’ millionaire’s shortbread, incidentally: just replace the dark chocolate with milk chocolate, and reduce the salt in the caramel to a pinch, instead of half a teaspoon.
Jane also adds that they’ll keep in an airtight container for up to three days – but if you manage to hang on to them for that long, you’ve got far greater willpower than we do…
Ingredients (makes 36 squares)
For the crust
- 110g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
- 50g caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 140g plain flour
For the caramel
- 110 g butter
- 200g dark brown sugar
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 400g can of sweetened condensed milk
For the topping
- 200g bar of 70% cocoa dark chocolate
- 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
- 1/2 tsp salt
First pre-heat the oven to 160°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease a 9-inch (23-cm) shallow square baking pan, then line with baking paper. Make the crust first. Put the butter into a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and pale. Add the sugar, salt and vanilla and beat again until even paler.
Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an even dough that starts to clump together.
Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.
QUICK SHORTCUT: If you prefer, buy a 400g all-butter shortbread. Crush them finely, then stir in 4 tablespoons of melted butter until evenly blended. Press into the pan, bake for 15 minutes (or until golden) then continue with the recipe.
Next comes the caramel. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a saucepan, then stir in the condensed milk.
Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for four minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee.
It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don’t leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, because it can easily burn on the bottom.
Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let cool completely.
Once the caramel has set and cooled, it’s time to finish the layers. Melt the chocolate either over a saucepan of water or in the microwave, stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel. Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.
When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares (I use a ruler to get the lines perfectly straight), then chill until completely firm.
Cut into cubes to serve. For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slice.
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