My husband is the king of gift giving. It’s basically his super power. Over the years, he has given me so many wonderful, thoughtful gifts that are always totally surprising but also exactly what I want, sometimes without even knowing it. And though he does often spend more money than I would, it’s never about how expensive the gift is. He always finds something that shows that he has been listening and really gets me. Every gift says I love you.
I’m turning forty soon, and I’ve been pretty anxious about it. Signs of age are finally undeniable in my face and body, and I’m not sure how to deal with that. I want to accept it gracefully, but it’s a struggle.
The other night, I came home from my yoga class to a pile of packages on the kitchen table. I overlooked them, assuming they were maybe Christmas gifts or something from various family members that had been sent up early. I couldn’t think what else they would be, and I was too hungry to process them beyond another thing I would need to tidy up.
Ten minutes later, to keep myself from dying while I waited for some real food to be delivered, I dug out some ice cream bars from the freezer, and as I was setting the empty box on the table, I finally noticed the note that was sitting there. A note to me. The sweetest note I’ve ever read declaring that all those gifts and envelopes were actually for me. 40 gifts for the 40 days leading up to my birthday so that I would remember every day how much I am loved, how wonderful my life has been, and what a beautiful future we have together. That note will probably still be my favorite part of the gift by the time my birthday finally arrives. I’ve said it before, I didn’t know what it meant to be truly loved until I met this man. Nothing has changed.
For Geoff’s birthday a few months ago, I bought him a video game and tickets to a local Oktoberfest event. I’m terrible at gift giving. My brain just doesn’t work like that. The way I showed him my love was to make him homemade caramel ice cream, and these Millionaire Shortbread bars. I’m a terrible shopper, but you best believe, you’ll get the homemade dessert of your dreams. And this Millionaire Shortbread is definitely the stuff that dreams are made of.
A layer of crumbly, buttery shortbread is topped with a layer of chewy caramel, then a thick chocolate ganache is spread over the whole thing. It’s heavenly. While there are three different components, and each needs to be made individually, this can be done after work and still be eaten later that night. Caramel-making is always a little bit fiddly. My pot is old and doesn’t heat evenly, so I get hot spots, but hopefully you don’t have hand-me-down cookware and won’t have to contend with that problem. But even if things don’t go perfectly, this is still gonna be awesome.
We all have unique ways of saying I love you. Millionaire shortbread is a great place to start.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces cold butter, cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 ounces unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of sea salt
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped of chips
- 3 tablespoons double cream
- Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment or foil leaving a bit of an overhang for easy removal later.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, corn starch, and salt until combined and lump free.
- Work the butter into the flour mixture until it looks like wet sand. I find my clean hands are the best tool for this job.
- Add the water and egg yolk and blend together with a fork until everything is well combined.
- Transfer this mixture to your baking sheet, and press it evenly into the bottom. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- While your crust is in the oven, you can start making your caramel. Start by whisking together your sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, butter and golden syrup in a medium sauce pan with a candy thermometer attached. Make sure you have enough space as the mixture will expand as it boils.
- Cook this over medium heat, whisking gently all the while until the butter melts and the mixture starts to boil. Continue to cook and stir until the temperature reaches 225F. Once you hit your target temperature, turn off the heat and quickly add in the vanilla and salt. Whisk this all together, then quickly and carefully transfer your caramel onto your crust. Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes for the caramel to set.
- Combined your chopped chocolate or chocolate chips with your cream in a microwave safe dish. Microwave the mixture for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each round, until the chocolate is just melted. Give it a good stir to smooth everything out, then pour this over your caramel layer. Use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate mixture as evenly as possible right to the edge.
- Refrigerate the whole thing for at least an hour to set everything before slicing into 16 pieces. These are pretty rich, so you could make them even smaller if you have the patience. If you're finding your bars difficult to cut, allow them to come up to room temperature first.