Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Poor Man's Millionaire Shortbread

Yesterday was my turn to host book club, and at first I was really excited to be in charge of putting together a spread to honor the Scottish setting of “The Winter Sea” by Susanna Kearsley. I had all these wonderful delusional ideas about making sticky toffee pudding from scratch and hosting a high tea fit for the Queen herself.

But as the date approached and I started researching exactly what goes into making sticky toffee pudding, I decided it was a bit ambitious for my meager cooking skills. And plus, discovering the ingredients of my favorite Scottish dessert might ruin some of the mystery for me, and actually measuring out the required butter, syrup, and sugar might make me abandon my new soul mate altogether.
Back to the drawing board, I settled on the seemingly much less complicated Millionaire Shortbread, which is like a chocolate, caramel, and shortbread lasagna. I quickly jotted down the ingredients and headed out to the store. Sugar, Flour, Butter, Syrup- check, check, check, check. It wasn’t until I actually started making the British dessert that I read the directions and ingredients more carefully. The first step was to “whizz” the Caster Sugar and Plain Flour together with 115 grams of butter in a food processor. Hmmm…quick question; What is Caster Sugar?
I decided to ask Google and it seems that Caster Sugar is widely interchangeable with plain ole sugar in Britain, so I should be good as long as I used anything except, heaven forbid, granulated sugar.
Oops. No big deal, right? WRONG.
Next question- What is Plain flour versus Unplain flour? Apparently plain flour is just regular ole flour, so I should be good as long as I used anything except for, heaven forbid, self-raising flour.
Oops. No big deal, right? WRONG.
Alright, well, at least I got the right type of butter. Now on to converting grams into cups. Let me just pull up my trusty iphone converter app. Oh, what’s that you say trusty i-phone converter app…Grams measure weight and cups measure volume and therefore you can’t convert it for me? Well shucks.
Hey Google…how many cups does 115 grams of butter make? 1 stick? Great, thanks. Not really what I asked, but it’s something I can work with. Except that I don’t have sticks of butter, I have one huge brick of butter. So I did some fancy algebra equations and figured that 115 grams was a little bit less than half a block of butter. It only took me the better part of 15 minutes to figure out.
So on to the whizzing together…in a food processor…which I don’t own. A blender works the same, right? WRONG. And my American blender promptly started smoking as soon as I turned it on with the adaptor. Oops.
So I used my mixer instead, which is not even close to mimicking a food processor. I was supposed to ‘whizz’ until the mixture looked like breadcrumbs, which after 30 minutes of mixing I finally realized was never going to happen. It was right about this point when I started getting the sinking feeling that store-bought Millionaire’s short bread was in my near future. Not one to quit, I decided to go through the motions anyway and hope for the best.
Once the ‘shortbread’ had been baked until golden, it was time to move on to the caramel layer. This turned out a bit more promising, and I thoroughly enjoyed licking the bowl clean. I may or may not have burned my tongue out of sheer impatience to give the sugary sauce a sample. Oops.

I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty proud of myself for making caramel from scratch yesterday. It’s almost as if I’m a real live housewife or something. 
The shortbread and caramel layers were done, all that was left was the easiest part, melting chocolate. I mean, certainly, no one with a pulse could possibly mess up melting chocolate, right? WRONG. Apparently, you can burn white chocolate if you don’t stir it often enough. Oops.
But I didn’t come this far just to fail at this point, and I may or may not have bought an extra white chocolate bar for my own personal enjoyment. (Being a real live house wife is hard, y'all. Sometimes it requires copious amounts of chocolate.) So during my second try, I heated the chocolate up over the stove instead of in the microwave and I watched that bar of candy melt like my house wife reputation depended on it.
I poured the milk chocolate over the shortbread and then marbled in the white chocolate over the top. Then I licked the bowl. Don’t judge me that my lunch yesterday consisted of caramel and chocolate. You’re just jealous.
After fumbling my way through making all three layers of shortbread from scratch, all that was left was to let it chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours, and pray that the shortbread crust was strong enough to hold the squares together. And lo and behold, it was! And it was delicious.
Now, just running to the store and buying millionaire shortbread is exponentially easier than making it from scratch, but in case you get the inkling to polish up your real live housewife skills, here is the recipe that I used. Have fun converting grams into cups/liters/tablespoons/sticks/etc. Make sure to have your google search open and ready.
P.S. Does anyone else get offended when a recipe advertises itself as ‘easy’. If it doesn’t involve dumping a few canned goods into a pot and heating it until it boils, it ain’t easy. I mean , you want me to melt chocolate and you’re calling this a simple recipe? Who are you? Julia Child? Can you imagine if I had tried Sticky Toffee Pudding? That one even admitted to only being ‘moderately easy’. I didn’t stand a chance.


  1. It WAS delicious! And I may or may not have been a math teacher and I may or may not have able to help you if you called me ;-) Your housewife status stands strong - don't let anyone tell you different!

  2. This page has a butter converter which has been a lifesaver for me when going back and forth between US and European recipes and measuring methods. You can use grams, sticks, Tbsp, cups, etc. Basically every possible way to measure butter!

    In any case, those look delicious!

    1. Thanks for the tip, Jenny! That's going to help me out tremendously.

  3. I made similar mistakes with sugar and flour my first time baking, so don't feel bad. It happens:) and your spread was delicious!

  4. I love hearing of your trials in the UK kitchen!! Your writing has me feeling like I'm right there with you scratching my head. lol. You've inspired me to have chocolate and caramel for lunch today :)

  5. Well, my choclate and caramel lunch also had peanut butter.
    There's nothing easier than seeking assistance from the nearest vending machine - no conversions required! Have you considered writing a Julia & Laine book?

    1. Well chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter definitely trumps plain ole chocolate and caramel:)

  6. I've used and it saves me ALL THE TIME! It is all so confusing, so I just bring my laptop into the kitchen with me.

    I love baking but I've not done a lot of it since moving here. Everything is so different it makes an easy recipe difficult! You're not alone.

    Your millionaire shortbread looks amazing!

    1. Thanks for the tip! I've been steering clear of baking as well. I think the hardest part of this ex-pat adventure is having to re-learn how to do everyday things. It's exhausting!!