Do you have a staple recipe that sees you through the times when your imagination has left you? Is there one particular recipe in a much-loved cookery book that is stained with splashes of milk, thumbprints of chocolate and the pages stuck together with caramel? Well for me, this is one of those recipes.
My copy of Gizzi Erskine’s Kitchen Magic has been well thumbed having bought it two years ago, and suffice to say it has stood me in good stead. I have made gorgeous southern fried chicken, perfected my scrambled eggs, tried my hand at gnocchi and won a few prizes using her recipes (most notably a second for the Earl Grey Chocolate Fudge Cake and first prize for the Scones) at my local flower show. As for the Millionaires’ Shortbread, it is a fabulously modern take on a classic that has won over numerous friends, colleagues and family members with its crumbly base, rosemary scented caramel, sweet crunch of sea salt and a sliver of dark chocolate. This traybake oozes sophistication and is a far cry from the familiarities of tiffin, Mars Bar crispy cakes, and in my humble opinion, the horrific Malteser cake.
The beauty of this traybake is the ability to make it in stages. Delicately crumbling the butter, flour and sugar together then pressing into a tin to bake. Wandering back into the kitchen a few hours later to make the caramel. Then, having watched some horror films and eaten an obscene amount of Dominos food, carefully melting the chocolate over a slightly simmering pan of water and swirling across the top of the caramel, pretending to be some fantastic chocolatier when the finished product has a delicate figure of eight dancing across the top. This is baking simplified and can be made across a long, languid day as a distraction from all the toils a Journalism project can bring. And of course, there’s always the promise of a square with my afternoon coffee to perk me up again. Gizzi, I salute you.
Recipe from Gizzi Erskine’s Kitchen Magic
Makes 20 squares
You Will Need
For the Shortbread
225g plain flour
85g caster sugar
For the Caramel
1 tin of condensed milk
4 tablespoons golden syrup
2 sprigs rosemary
1 tablespoon sea salt
200g Dark Chocolate
Preheat the oven to 170oc/150oc fan/Gas Mark 3. Line a rectangular shaped baking tin with baking paper and stick down with a few dots of butter. To make the shortbread base, mix together the flour and sugar, then crumble in the butter, feeding it through your fingertips until the mix resembles a sandy dough. Tip into the baking sheet and press into the tin using your knuckles, making sure to keep the shortbread even, then prick with a fork several times. Place in the oven for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven to 150oc/130oc fan/Gas Mark 2 and bake for a further 30 minutes until the shortbread is golden and no longer doughy. Leave to cool in the tin.
To make the caramel, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the condensed milk, golden syrup and rosemary sprigs. Mix well to fully incorporate the butter, then bring to a simmer and keep stirring for 10 minutes until the caramel is a golden brown colour. Holding a metal sieve over the shortbread base, pour through the caramel to remove the rosemary, then spread evenly across the shortbread and sprinkle with the sea salt. Leave to set.
Break up the chocolate and place in a glass bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Slowly melt the chocolate, taking care not to burn it, then pour over the caramel. Swirl the chocolate to create a neat finish then leave to cool.
To serve, cut into 20 squares and enjoy with a cup of coffee or a pot of tea.