My morale has always been boosted by caramel in all its glorious forms.
I know, I know, the dieticians would have a fit. You know the drill: “food is not a crutch, you shouldn’t eat for comfort”. To which I rudely reply Nuts To That. It’s quicker, cheaper and easier than therapy, drugs or support groups, and you can keep it conveniently in the cupboard in case of emergencies! I don’t think my caramel habit is too dangerous just yet…
So anyway, it’s been a trying couple of days and I wanted a nice slab of something, well, comforting. So I made some. This therapeutic creation is Chocolate Caramel Shortbread. It’s also, but not for any reason of virtue, gluten free. But not by any stretch of the imagination dairy free, so be warned.
You’ve seen it everywhere, but probably never made it. And it’s easy. Want to try some? If there’s anyone out there who said No, would you please leave quietly, shutting the door behind you, while the rest of us make pigs of ourselves and have lots of spoon-licking moments.
It breaks down into three ingredient groups: A, B and C
1 cup flour, whatever you have
1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cup caster sugar
125g/4oz melted butter
1/3 cup golden syrup. This is heavy dark syrup with the consistency of cold honey, not pancake syrup, which is too thin and runny.
125g/4oz melted butter
2 x 395g/14oz cans sweetened condensed milk
C) Choc topping
200g/7oz dark chocolate (eating or couverture)
2 tblsp light vegetable oil
The baked shortbread
Butter, condensed milk and syrup, some of my favourite food groups….
Pouring the thickened caramel onto the shortbread
Baked caramel with little volcanic crunchy bits
No prizes for guessing where that spoon went afterwards…
Another pouring shot. This time it’s chocolatey
The whole wonderful taste explosion: shortbread base, thick caramel layer and velvety chocky top
Well, of COURSE I licked the knife afterwards….
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.
Grease and line a square brownie pan with baking paper. Greasing it will help you remove any spilled caramel in the pan that would otherwise set like concrete.
Mix all (A) ingredients together and press the resulting dough into the base of the brownie pan. Make sure you get right into the corners and have a level edge. Bake for 15 minutes and cool for 30 minutes.
Mix all (B) ingredients together in a heavy bottom pan over a low to moderate heat. Stir continuously for about 10-15 minutes, while the ingredients blend and thicken. Once it starts clotting and bubbling, and has thickened a bit, pour it over the shortbread base and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown and bubbled on the top. When it is no longer hot, refrigerate for at least half an hour and preferably a bit longer till the caramel is very firm.
Put the (C) ingredients in a microwaveable bowl and heat on high for 30-60 seconds till the chocolate is just melted. Blend thoroughly with a spoon till smooth and glossy. Lick the spoon (oops, did I say that out loud…?). Pour quickly over the chilled caramel layer, tilting the pan to get it into the corners. Tap the base of the pan gently on the counter to level the surface, and return to the fridge to set.
This is incredibly rich, incredibly yummy and dangerously moreish. Ensure you are forced to share it with family or dear friends who can be relied on to heroically save you from yourself by eating their fair share.
Otherwise you will end up sticky, dishevelled …and seriously sugar loaded.
Oh, and by the way: I owe my minor obsession with pouring shots to Conor at One Man’s Meat, who is a genius in the kitchen and with a camera. Get over there and start salivating at the pictures and enjoying the prose, which is wonderful.