When I was in sixth form I once tried to make caramel shortbread when my parents were away. Yes, I was the teenager who embarked on ill-planned and over-ambitious baking in the absence of my parents. Crazy parties? Nope, flour in every corner imaginable and slightly ruined baking tins were more my style. Anyway, it went quite wrong. I can’t really remember why, I think it got stuck in a tin which I wasn’t meant to be using anyway or something. Anyway, I thought I’d try again. Not to take this too seriously or anything, but with caramel shortbread it’s all about ratio. Ask any self- respecting lover of this traybake, and they’ll happily go into great detail about how much of each mouthful should be shortbread, how much caramel, and how much chocolate. Shop bought versions tend to be woefully uneven in this respect: think, a massive wedge of shortbread and comparatively inconsequential layers of both caramel and chocolate. A travesty. This recipe, on the other hand, gives you the perfect levels of caramel vs. chocolate and shortbread. Also, they’re super tasty. Well, I think so anyway.
For the shortbread
150g butter (unsalted technically, but I basically never have it in and salted was fine)
250g plain flour
For the caramel
175g butter (again, should have been unsalted but I used salted and it was fine)
4 tbsp golden syrup
397ml condensed milk (standard tin size)
For the topping
300g chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark, because that’s what I had lying around. I think all dark would be fine, but you might want to avoid all milk since it might tip these over from deliciously sweet to downright sickly)
– You’ll need the oven at 160 (fan 140, gas mark 3). Line a standard rectangular tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that there is some overhang at the edges – it’ll come in handy when you come to lift the traybake out later.
– Make the shortbread. Place the sugar, butter and flour into a large bowl – mix it all together, and then get your hands in and rub the fat into the flour/sugar until all of the lumps of butter are gone and you’ve got a soft breadcrumb type mix. It should hold together if you squeeze together a clump in your palm. (If you have a food processor, use that – I don’t though, and the hand mix option worked fine!)
– Tip the mixture into the lined tin, spread it out and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it down gently; you want it to be even and smooth.
– Now pop the tin in the fridge for about twenty minutes to harden things up, before baking for around 35 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool.
– Next, make the caramel. Place the butter, sugar, condensed milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat— heat gently and stir to combine all of the ingredients.
– Once the butter has melted and the ingredients have combined, you’ll need to keep stirring right to the bottom of the pan to make sure that the caramel doesn’t stick or burn. Bubble for about 5- 8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened considerably – it’ll be thick, but still of pouring consistency.
– As soon as it’s ready, pour the caramel over the shortbread, and spread into an even layer if need be. Leave to cool.
– Melt the chocolate however you like – you could use the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water trick, but I favour the microwave. This works just fine as long as you cover the chocolate vessel and check/ stir it regularly to avoid burning.
– Pour the melted chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread it out into an even layer.
– Now just leave it all to cool. Once the chocolate is set, use a sharp knife to mark out and then cut into squares.
If you write a blog, now is the time to wander around your flat looking for the best natural light. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to put something vaguely attractive in the background; probably not that pile of receipts/bills or that tin of baked beans. Anything pastel or crafty is probably a good call. Even better if you have things that are pastel AND baking-related. If you’re truly dedicated, sprinkle some chocolate chips around about. Now, arrange your baking in an arty way, and take ridiculously-angled photographs until it looks pretty. Ignore the sceptical glances of anybody you may live with, surely they should be used to this by now?
If you have no need for arty and beautifully presented images of your creations, then feel free to just eat them. Much more sensible.
This recipe is adapted slightly from BakingMad.com. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.