This is surely one of Scotland’s greatest culinary triumphs? Hey, I think of it as Scottish, but perhaps it’s not? Does anyone know? Also, I note that it is called Caramel Shortbread or Caramel Slice these days. Do millionaire’s have such a bad press nowadays? Or is it some trades description ruling gone mad?
Anyway, the exquisite combination of smooth creamy chocolate, squishy sweet caramel and crisp shortbread is a true winner. Traditionally it is served in decent sized slices, but I prefer to cut them into canapé style bite-size squares. That way you can have one as a wee treat and it’s not toooooo calorific. OK, it is. It probably contains the total recommended calorie intake for a rugby team for a week, but surely that’s what treats are all about?
I wasn’t in my usual kitchen this last week, staying at my Mum and Dad’s, so I didn’t have access to my usual recipe books, or to an easy internet connection to look up recipes online. I found a shortbread recipe, which I adapted, in a charity cookbook. And I guessed with the caramel, and it seemed to work well.
3oz caster sugar (I used vanilla sugar, out of the jar)
6oz plain flour
1oz custard powder
For the caramel
1 large tin of condensed milk
about 2oz butter
about 2 oz caster sugar (vanilla sugar again will give it a lovely subtle vanilla-y flavour)
a wee bit of milk if necessary
A very large block of Dairy Milk chocolate
So, I started the night before, making the caramel.
- Put the condensed milk, butter and sugar in a heavy based pan and warm gently.
- Stir constantly for a good ten minutes, or possibly more until it is a delicious golden toffee colour. You could test it at this stage, by dropping a wee bit on a cold saucer and seeing if it’s a squishy consistency when it cools. Once it seemed ready, I walked away and spent the rest of the evening watching Brideshead Revisited on DVD.
- Now for the shortbread – Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will be oh so much easier if you start with soft butter, so if you have a cold kitchen you might want to leave it in a warm place for an hour or two, or soften it in the microwave if you have such a thing. Being at home, I left mine beside the Rayburn overnight, and it was perfect.
- Now add the flour and custard powder. You should probably add a wee teeny pinch of salt too, although I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary and in these days of trying to reduce our salt intake it probably is no longer recommended.
- Mix all together to form a dough. Don’t be over vigorous about this, as I think it makes a better crisp bisuit if it’s not over-worked.
- Press into a buttered tin, and prick it all over with a fork. Cook in a moderate oven (it was a Rayburn, I don’t have any more precise details than ‘moderate’) until it’s golden and ready. Yes, I said “until it’s ready”, probably at least 30 mins, possibly longer.
- While it was in the oven you could turn your attention back to the caramel.
- Here’s the cunning bit – as the caramel is now cool, you will be able to tell if it has the right consistency. If it is too solid, just warm it gently (really gently) in the pan and add some milk to loosen it. Stir it well once it’s warm. If it’s too runny then you’ll need to boil it up for longer (but this wasn’t an issue with me).
- At the same time you could be melting the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of water.
- When the shortbread is ready bring it out of the oven, and leave it in the tin. Spread the warm caramel over the shortbread.
- Leave it for a few wee minutes to cool slightly and then pour the melted chocolate over the caramel. Give the tin a wee shoogle to settle all the chocolate evenly and smoothly.
- Leave in a cool place, and carefully cut into bite-size chunks.