Many moons ago, I lived in Edinburgh for a time, very close to a great little deli. It was there that I first discovered Millionaire’s Shortbread – traditionally sold as a wonderfully decadent slab of shortbread, covered by a thick layer of caramel and finished off with a chocolate-based topping. Since then, I have sampled it all over, with varying degrees of enjoyment. If one layer isn’t quite right, it can spoil the whole indulgent experience. The shortbread might be too dry, or too cakey or too crumbly. The caramel might be too sweet, too solid, or too runny and if the topping is made from something merely ‘chocolate flavoured’ – then there’s definite disappointment ahead, not to mention all the ‘snack malfunctions’ that might occur, leaving you with a devastation of crumbs and caramel tumbling down your front.
The solution would seem to be to make it yourself – however that too is fraught with difficulties. Quite apart from all the possible pitfalls mentioned above – using pure chocolate for the topping isn’t the solution either, as I learned when I made some for visitors a while back. After lovingly making the caramel from scratch and then spreading the top with a thick layer of the finest chocolate, I decided to cut it at the table for maximum effect (Attention-seeking? Moi?). Well it certainly made an impact, but not in the way I had hoped, because as I plunged the knife into the (thick and now quite solid) chocolate layer, the knife stuck firmly and took the whole slab of chocolate with it, thereby forcing the entire caramel layer to squidge out the sides and drip onto the table. Awkward.
Anyhoo – enough of the preamble. Here’s my solution to all of the above problems. Mini shortbread cups you can eat in just 2 bites, filled with caramel and just drizzled with melted chocolate. Great for the school fete bake stall too!
Millionaire’s Shortbread Cups
75g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
230g plain flour
1 x 397g tin of Nestle Carnation Caramel
100g plain chocolate – 70% cocoa for preference
Pestle or some other round-ended item
- Blitz shortbread ingredients in food processor until they come together in a ball. The dough will be very soft.
- Divide into balls weighing 15g. This is not as fiddly as it sounds, as long as you have a digital scales – you soon ‘get your eye in’ on the size required, and then it’s only a matter of trimming excess dough if necessary.
- Put one dough ball into each of the well-greased mini-muffin cups and press it to the sides. Handy Tip: I use the rounded end of my pestle to just press down onto the ball – and it’s so soft it moulds to the muffin cup with one simple movement. Prick the bases with a fork to keep them from rising during cooking.
- Put muffin tray into the freezer for 15 minutes, to firm up the dough. This will help it hold its shape when put into the hot oven.
- Heat oven to 160C Fan.
- Bake on bottom shelf of oven for 10 minutes. Turn pan, then cook for another 10 minutes or until shortbread is browned. NB Don’t take the pan out too early, or the bases will not be cooked.
- If the shortbread has risen too much, while its still hot, use your pestle to press down firmly to re-form the cup shape.
- Cool the shortbread for 5 minutes, then ease the cups out of the pan and set to cool on a rack.
- When the shortbread has cooled completely, tip the caramel into a bowl and beat briskly with a fork until smooth.
- Put a teaspoon of caramel into each cup. Be careful not to overfill the cups – you want the caramel level with the top of the biscuit – it really is a very scant teaspoon.
- Break the chocolate into pieces and put into a ceramic or glass bowl.
- Heat in the microwave in bursts of 30 seconds, stirring after each turn.
- Spoon the melted chocolate into the piping bag, snip the end (if using a disposable bag) and drizzle zigzags of chocolate over the cups.
Makes about 40 mini-cups
Cost: £4.05 (July 2011) – 10p a cup!