These chocolate caramel shortbread bars are my spin on classic millionaire's shortbread. With a chocolate shortbread base, salted caramel and a triple chocolate marbled topping I think these treats could be classed as Billionaire's bars or even Trillionaire's bars too.
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Caramel shortbread (aka millionaire's shortbread) is one of those bakes that never fails to please. Relentlessly popular, it's only a tough cookie that can resist the combination of buttery shortbread biscuit, creamy caramel and a satisfying layer of chocolate all in one bar.
I am not that tough cookie. I do, however, frequently like to play around with the classics to add my own stamp on it. Why publish a recipe that's been done a thousand times before when I can breathe fresh life into it?
Today's twist brings you these chocolate caramel shortbread bars. Of course, they are very similar to the classic millionaire's shortbread. But I've made 4 noteworthy changes:
- chocolate shortbread replaces plain shortbread
- salted caramel takes the place of plain caramel
- milk, dark and white chocolate swirl together across the top to create a pretty marbled effect
- and I've topped the lot with some jazzy sprinkles to add extra visual impact and a little extra crunch
Call them what you will - billionaire's bars, trillionaire's bars, or chocolate caramel shortbread bars. They deliver quite a sugary hit. Anybody with a sweet tooth is sure to be delighted.
What's the difference between Millionaire's Shortbread, Billionaires Shortbread and Trillionaires Shortbread?
Here in the UK caramel shortbread bars are frequently referred to as Millionaire's shortbread. But evey now and again, I come across the phrases billionaire's shortbread or trillionaire's shortbread.
In reality, the latter two are one and the same thing. Though there seems to be no formal definition for billionaire's/ trillionaire's bars.
Instead, it is widely accepted that these terms are interchangeably used when referring to more indulgent, extravagant or, some might say, over-the-top versions of classic millionaires bars. Whatever those diversions may be.
I class my outrageous goodies as definite contenders for the title of both billionaires bars and trillionaires bars. Take your pick.
How to Make Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars
Making this bake is a three-stage task:
- bake the shortbread
- layer it with homemade caramel
- top with a medley of chocolate & sprinkles
Each stage is self contained and takes around 15 minutes hands on time. The hardest part of this bake is waiting for the layers to set, before slicing up and digging in.
- Begin by making the shortbread. All ingredients are rubbed together in 1 bowl, then pressed into a lined baking tin, pricked and cooked long and slow (30-40 minutes) to ensure a crisp base
- For the caramel, ingredients are added to a pan and cooked over a low-moderate heat to allow all sugar to dissolve. Then the heat is turned up and the caramel cooked to a temperature of 112-115C (233-239F). Salt is added, then it is poured over the cooled shortbread base and left to set
- Finally, melted dark, milk and white chocolate are swirled over the caramel and topped with your choice of decorative sprinkles
Tips for Making Millionaire's Shortbread Bars
For years I used to make millionaire's shortbread bars that I had to store in the fridge because my caramel layer would always end up too runny if left at room temperature. What was I doing wrong? Why, I wasn't cooking my caramel sufficiently, of course.
That's my proof that there are always tips and tricks to be learned that will help you achieve success with a baking recipe.
Here are my tips for these bars:
- Don't be tempted to rush the cooking of the shortbread by turning up the heat. Shortbread really does benefit from a long slow bake to ensure it's crispy throughout and not just around the edges
- When making the caramel ensure your pan is of sufficient size - you'll be stirring it constantly and spilt caramel does burn & make a mess
- I repeat, the caramel needs your constant attention. Take your eye off of it for a second and that is the time that it will choose to catch on the bottom of your pan, turn bitter and lead to a grainy texture. Use a wooden spoon to keep the caramel on the move at all time
- If you feel that the caramel is catching on the bottom of the pan, stop the cooking process quickly by plunging the base of the pan into a bowl of cold water to cool it down quickly. Ensure that no water enters the pan itself and carefully wipe the pan dry before returning to a more moderate heat
- Do not undercook the caramel. In order to set at room temperature, it needs to cook to a temperature of 112-115C (233-239F) and no less. I use a Thermapen digital food thermometer to ensure this temperature is achieved
- Once cooked, plunge the bottom of the pan into cold water to stop the cooking process
- It's also wise to add the salt bit by bit, tasting as you go to ensure the caramel has a firm twang of saltiness about it but is not too overpowering for your tastes. Always test caramel carefully since it can cause wildly painful burns in your mouth if not cooled sufficiently before consuming - blow on that sample
- Regarding the chocolate, it's up to your whether or not to temper it before pouring onto the caramel. In this instance I chose to as I get irritated by bloom on chocolate - my chocolate tempering guide might come in handy
- Once the chocolate is ready, work very quickly as it will start to set as soon as it hits the caramel. Dollop spoonfuls over the caramel and use a small skewer or toothpick to drag it to the edges of the tin and create a marbled effect
- if your chocolate begins to set too much, put it in a barely warmed oven (50C/ 122F) for 2 minutes then check to see if the chocolate is fluid enough to spread again. If not, pop back into the oven for 2 more minutes and check again. Resist putting it into a hot oven for speed since the caramel will likely melt too
- Once happy with the chocolate distribution get those sprinkles on quickly before it sets
To avoid shattering that glorious chocolate when the bars are cut, I take a little time to warm and dry my knife between each cut I make. The warm knife helps melt the chocolate just enough for the knife to pass through and make a clean cut.
Oh, finally, though just 16 bars are picture, I was slight over-ambitious on the appetite front. Next time around I would cut these billionaire's bars slightly smaller and get 20 squares out of the bake.
More Traybake Recipes to Try:
- Easy raspberry brownies
- Toffee apple flapjack
- Cherry & almond traybake with roasted cherries
- Millionaires caramel krispie squares
Chocolate Caramel Shortbread Bars
- 1 x 20cm by 30 cm square-cornered tin around 3 cm deep
For the Chocolate Shortbread
- 120 g/ ⅝ cup Caster sugar
- 225 g/ 2 sticks Butter, unsalted (softened)
- 210 g/ 1 ⅔ cups Plain (all purpose) flour
- 100 g/ ½ cup Semolina (fine)
- 40 g/ ⅓ cup Cocoa powder
- ¼ tsp Salt
For the Salted Caramel
- 397 g/ 14 oz) Condensed Milk
- 110 g/ ½ cup Dark brown sugar
- 85 g/ ¾ stick Butter (unsalted)
- 2 tbsp Golden syrup
- 1 tsp Sea salt flakes
- 100 g/ ⅔ cup Milk chocolate (chips or chopped)
- 75 g/ ½ cup Dark chocolate (chips or chopped)
- 75 g/ ½ cup White chocolate (chips or chopped)
- 3 tbsp Sprinkles of your choice
Make the Shortbread
- Preheat oven to 150C/ 200F/ GM2 and line a 30cm x 20cm baking tin (at least 2.5 cm/ 1 " deep) with baking parchment
- Sift the flour and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and add in the other ingredients
- Rub the butter into the dry ingredients. At first, it will resemble breadcrumbs but keep on rubbing in until it comes together in a dough
- Spread the dough out evenly into the base of the baking tin, press down firmly and evenly. Prick all over with a fork and bake for 40 mins until. Let cool in the tin
Make the Caramel
- Grind the sea salt using a pestle and mortar. Set aside
- Put all other caramel ingredients into a heavy-based pan set over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved
- Turn up the heat slightly, and, stirring continuously allow to boil gently until the temperature reaches 112°C – 115°C (234°F – 240°F). This is the softball stage. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, you can test for readiness by dropping a small amount of the caramel into some chilled water - it should form a firm ball that does not flatten when removed from the water, but squishes when squeezed
- Once the caramel is ready, take the pan off the heat and plunge the bottom of the pan into a sink of cold water to stop the cooking process, taking care not to get water into the pan
- Add ¾ of the salt, stir well and taste (very carefully since the caramel is extremely hot - do blow on your sample a lot). Add more salt in accordance with your taste preferences
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes then stir well and pour over the shortbread. Set aside for at least 2-3 hours to firm up and cool completely
Add the Chocolate Topping
- Either melt or temper the 3 types of chocolate (see my tempering guide)
- Once the melted/ tempered chocolate is ready, working quickly, spoon each type over the caramel layer and drag a cocktail pick or a thin skewer through the chocolate to spread it out to cover the caramel and create a marbling pattern (see my notes on what to do if the chocolate begins to set before you are finished)
- Scatter the sprinkles over the chocolate before it sets and then let everything sit for at least an hour to set completely
- Cut into 20 squares (tip: if you can be patient, using a warm knife to score through the chocolate helps to stop the chocolate cracking in all directions and gives you neater squares).Keep in an airtight container for up to 4 days