It’s Friday! Just the day to consume your year’s quota of calories, in one bite. These are buttery shortbread bars, oozing caramel all over the place, topped with bitter chocolate just so that your brain doesn’t hurt with all the sugar. As far as being rich in guilt, these little guys are certainly millionaires.
Believe me when I say you want to cut these into the tiniest pieces you can manage and then cut those tiny pieces into little teeny weeny pieces and then choose the bittiest one to eat. And finally, go hug your treadmill for the weekend.
Now that the monsoon is over, it’s like summer was just waiting to pounce and let’s just say, a hot kitchen is not conducive to slicing chilled chocolate, shortbread and caramel, without making a gigantic mess. And it’s even less conducive to shooting such a mess, because guess how fast chocolate melts now! But hey, the best desserts are the messy ones. This is explosively good, you guys. It’s not a cloyingly sweet dessert because of the dark, bitter chocolate topping and the reduced sugar in the shortbread base. But it comes together fabulously and is a about as decadent as this weekend should be 🙂
If it’s easier for you to halve the caramel so that slicing is neater, go for it. You could also try the more traditionally used condensed milk caramel (‘dulce de leche’, happy Googling!) which is thicker and firmer, but I really like homemade caramel sauce and a messy kitchen counter is quite worth it 😀
Buttery, sweet, salty, chocolatey all at once. It’s not hard to make the individual layers, but it is hard sitting around waiting for each one to firm up in the fridge before layering the next. This is crucial though, otherwise you’ll have a much bigger mess on hand and it won’t be as much fun to eat, not to mention clean.
I used my standard loaf tin for this recipe. It doesn’t make a very large amount (not that we need it) but if you want to use a square pan, I would suggest nothing bigger than a 6×6 size. Whatever you use, make sure you grease it well, line it with baking paper as neatly as possible and ignore any jagged chocolate edges that might form. ‘Jagged chocolate edges’ is not something I thought I’d ever say.
Let’s fill up on guilt!
- For the shortbread layer
- 100 gms butter (Just shy of ½ cup, salted is fine)
- 1 and ¼ cup regular/all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup caster sugar
- For the caramel layer
- 1 cup caster sugar
- 6 tbsps salted butter, cut into cubes (85 gms)
- ½ cup cream
- For the chocolate layer
- 125 gms dark chocolate, at least 55%
- 2 tsps butter or cream
- Preheat the oven to 180 C and grease a 9x5 loaf tin. Line it with parchment paper so that there is an overhang on all four sides.
- First, make the base. Combine the flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Melt the butter in the microwave or on low heat, ensuring it doesn't get too hot. Pour into the flour mixture and bring the dough together with a spatula. It should clump when pressed between your fingers. Press the dough down firmly into the tin, making sure it's even. Bake for 15 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Set aside to cool for about 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to chill.
- Next, make the caramel. In a sturdy saucepan on low heat, melt the sugar, stirring constantly. It will begin to form lumps and look gritty after about a minute. Slowly you’ll see it melting down, going from a clear liquid to amber pretty quick. Stir till it melts down completely.
- Add the butter and stand back because it will splutter and bubble up a bit devilishly. Stir again till the butter melts into the sugar.
- Now add the cream gradually and watch out for more spluttering and bubbling. Once the cream has blended in, allow the sauce to boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and allow to cool and thicken for 20 minutes, then transfer to the fridge to chill.
- Finally, make the chocolate layer by melting the chocolate in a double boiler with the cream or butter, to give it some gloss. If the chocolate seizes and turns into a thick paste-like substance, (there's a fair bit of direct heat because there's not much else melting with it) stir in boiling water a little at a time, till it's smooth and melted. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
- Take the chilled shortbread out of the fridge and keeping it in the tin itself, spread the chilled, thickened caramel on it, smoothening it as best as you can. Put the tin back in the fridge for the caramel to solidify further.
- After about 15 minutes, spread the chocolate on top of the caramel, as evenly and smoothly as you can. Chill this final product overnight. When ready to slice, use the overhang to lift the whole thing out, then peel off the paper from the edges and slice using a sharp, sturdy knife. The caramel will ooze, it's ok. Keep the squares chilled at all time. The longer they chill, the firmer the caramel will become. Happy indulgence!
*For a thinner, easier to cut layer of caramel, simply halve the quantities in the recipe. You could also look up making a dulce de leche out of condensed milk if that sounds like an experiment you're up for 🙂