It’s cold, it’s dark & I find myself craving everything spiced, hot & stodgy… it can only be Winter. For me, baking at this time of year involves ransacking the storecupboard, lots of dried fruit, syrup & spices in almost everything (if only living off of gingerbread alone were a sustainable diet).
With half a dozen or so different recipes for just gingerbread cake under my belt however (seriously), it’s time to be a little more inventive in the kitchen. Taking inspiration from my favourite Winter beverage, chai tea, I decided to explore the possibilities of recreating that warming, earthy, spiciness in a cup, in something that could just as easily be paired with my cuppa.
Biscuits are the logical solution but aren’t nearly indulgent enough for my comforting (greedy) Winter needs, I need something a little bit naughtier, more decadent… but that’s not to say that it can’t contain a little crumbly biscuit. What is the most indulgent biscuit based treat? Millionaires shortbread.
Buttery shortbread, sweet caramel & chocolate… there’s no denying that these three confections are true crowd-pleasers on their own merit. Combine these together in three even layers of heaven & who could resist? (if you can then this probably isn’t the place for you).
The ultimate tea (or coffee) companion & sweet fix. A buttery, crumbly base; a soft, sweet caramel that only just holds its shape; & a thick layer of bitter-sweet chocolate finishing off the perfect sandwich, each component working in tandem to just about hold the structural integrity of each slab. It’s not difficult to see why millionaires shortbread is a popular treat.
Being shortbread based, you’d be forgiven in thinking that the origins of millionaires shortbread lays somewhere in Scottish heritage, however recipes for millionaires shortbread first pop up in the 1970’s in the Australian cookbooks & magazines under the guise of “caramel slice”.
The name that we know these slices by today, ‘millionaires shortbread’, does seem to have originated in Scotland though, alluding to the rich variety of ingredients involved in the confection.
Personally, I believe slabs should be big, thick & heavy to hold (nothing like the poor imitations bought in any chain coffee shops). In this recipe I decided that my gooey, sticky caramel ought to be the perfect place for my warming chai spices, mingling well without being lost & cutting through the cloying sweetness. The result is a satisfyingly spicy, sweet treat that evokes thoughts of chunky knits & hot beverages as soon as you catch a whiff of that caramel.
CHAI MILLIONAIRES SHORTBREAD
(makes 12 squares)
- 125g plain flour
- 100g wholemeal flour
- 175g butter, cubed
- 75g caster sugar
For the chai caramel:
- 150g butter
- 379g condensed milk
- 100g golden syrup
- 40 ml milk
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- 1 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp star anise, ground
For the topping:
- 200g dark chocolate
- 200g white chocolate
- Grease & line an oblong cake tray with baking parchment
- Begin by making the shortbread base, sift the flour into a large bowl
- Add the butter cubes & use your fingertip to rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
- Sift the sugar through the crumb mixture
- Tip the mixture into the cake tray & use your hands to press down until firm & even
- Bake the biscuit at 180C for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown
- Bake at 180°c for 20-25 minutes, until a beautiful golden brown
- Remove the biscuit from the oven & set aside to cool in its tin
- Whilst the biscuit is cooling, make the caramel
- In a large, heave bottomed saucepan melt the butter & milk together
- Once melted, add the spices to the pan & stir through
- Add the condensed milk to the mixture & stir until well combined
- Increase the heat & bring the mixture to the boil
- Boil for approximately 5 minutes whilst continuously stirring to avoid it catching or burning, until the caramel darkens & begins to thicken
- Pour the caramel over the biscuit base & set aside to cool
- Once cooled, make the topping by melting both the dark & white chocolates separately in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water
- Pour each chocolate over the caramel in a patchwork manner
- Whilst the chocolate is still melted, take a skewer or a cocktail stick & use this to create swirls throughout the chocolate, creating a marbled effect
- Set this aside to cool & set before removing the shortbread from the tin & using a sharp knife to cut into 12 equal sized pieces