Have you ever tried to make a gooey caramel center for millionaire shortbreads when it's 90+ degrees and humid out?
I have. Pro-tip: Don't fucking do it.
To be fair, the millionaires came out fucking delicious. But getting the caramel to set took far longer than it had any business taking.
If you are unfamiliar with millionaires, they are a shortbread crust topped with a layer of caramel and then a layer of tempered chocolate. Devilishly simple, extremely tasty - and this recipe is one of the first ones that inspired me to try out some GBBO bakes.
In series 8 (Netflix Collection 5), episode 4, the bakers faced Caramel Week. The signature bake for the week was Millionaire Bars. I love a good, basic millionaire bar - so I was excited to see the different creations the bakers had come up with in preparation for this challenge. I was torn on what recipe to use for my attempt - the jaffa millionaire shortbreads and rum salted millionaire shortbreads were on the shortlist to try out, too. And let's be honest, I'll probably make them sometime anyway!
I decided to make Liam's recipe because I had everything I needed to make it, and because I just really love peanut butter.
This recipe was so good! The rice flour/ground rice in the shortbread gave it a crisper base texture than I usually find shortbread - and there was a little bit of extra crunch because I can't grind flour quite so fine as regular rice flour you get from the grocery store. The peanut butter helped cut the sweetness of the caramel, and overall created a lovely and balanced millionaire that I struggled to want to give to friends.
For the shortbread dough:
For the peanut butter:
For the salted caramel:
You will also need:
1) Put the flours, salt and sugar into a processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and vanilla and blitz to combine to a dough.
2) Turn out the dough onto a large sheet of baking paper, gently knead it into a ball, then shape it into a brick. Place another sheet of baking paper on top and, using a rolling pin, roll into a 1cm-thick rectangle at least the size of your mould tray. Use a sharp knife and a ruler to cut bar shapes. Press the bars into each hollow in the mould tray. Prick with a fork, then chill for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.
3) Bake the bars for 14–16 minutes, until golden at the edges. Meanwhile, start making the peanut butter. Tip the peanuts into a baking tray and dry-roast on the oven shelf beneath the shortbread, for 10–12 minutes, until golden, then remove and allow to cool. Take the shortbread out of the oven, place the tray on a wire rack and cool.
4) Continue making the peanut butter. Put 100g of the roasted peanuts, and the salt, honey and oil in a processor and blitz to a paste. Set aside. Put the reserved peanuts in the processor and chop up.
5) To make the caramel, slowly heat the cream and vanilla in a small pan until almost boiling. Meanwhile, warm a medium pan over a medium–low heat. Add the glucose and 60g of the sugar and heat gently, swirling the pan, until dissolved and a light straw colour.
6) Add the remaining sugar and heat for 15–25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until dissolved. Remove from the heat, then add the heated cream. Return the pan to a low heat and stir continuously, until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat.
7) Stir in the butter, then mix in 2 tablespoons of the peanut butter and the chopped peanuts. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon of the peanut caramel on top of each shortbread bar (still in the mould tray) and spread evenly. Chill until set.
8) Melt 165g of the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water until it reaches 45°C on a sugar thermometer. Stir in the remaining chocolate to melt. Pour this over the caramel-topped shortbread bars and spread evenly. Chill for about 1 hour, until firm. Pop out of the moulds to serve.
Millionaire shortbreads really aren't that difficult, in my opinion. Unless you hate making caramel, and then maybe stay away from them.
Caramel is fickle. It can seize up and crystallize and then you wind up having to start from scratch, which can be extremely frustrating. When I first started making caramel, I actually started with a whiskey caramel sauce for my go-to dark chocolate whiskey cake. It was a gentle, beginner's approach to caramel that I found highly accessible.
More than just seizing up on you, caramel can also burn. And that leads to the same result as crystallizing - you have to start all over again. I very nearly burned the caramel I made for this recipe, because parts of the caramel didn't look ready to come off the heat. But if you catch a faint whiff of that burnt sugar smell, sometimes you can salvage it.
Because the caramel had peanut butter mixed in and was being sandwiched between shortbread and chocolate, that oh-so-faint whiff of burnt sugar actually worked well with the millionaires. Note, this was a very faint touch of burnt smell/flavor. Don't use burnt caramel for the sake of wasting nothing. It is NOT worth it.
You're making a caramel sauce that will thicken into a bonafide layer of firm enough to hold its shape but not so firm it is difficult to bite through caramel.
The problem with this comes when it is so god damn hot and humid outside that your caramel doesn't want to set even when you put your millionaires in the fridge. And of course, because you're so impatient to eat them, you cut them into bars once the chocolate has set thinking it will be fine - and it mostly is, except for the caramel oozing down the sides of the shortbread.
I can state with authority that taste testers Andrew, Chelsea, and Bailey (and myself) had no complaints about the oozy caramel. It just didn't look very picture worthy.
I love millionaires, and I really am looking forward to making some of the other variants on the recipe. I encourage you to try them out - they are a decent entry into caramel making and they will be popular at whatever social distance approved gathering you go to next.
Next time on Bake the GBBO, I'll be tackling double crusted pie. A bake I am certainly not a stranger to, but felt I ought to do for posterity. ;)