This week we have two blog posts! I wanted to get this recipe out to you before Super Bowl Sunday as I think it would be a terrific snack for game day.
I love a dessert with layers. The more complementary textures and flavors you can incorporate without blending them all into one, the more fantastic the end result and eating experience will be. This homemade candy bar might only have three (technically four with a sneaky addition you will find out about at the very end), but it proves how worthwhile it is to have this kind of variety, even within a simple dessert. I think my next endeavor will be to double or triple or even quadruple the amount of layers, but right now, these three are enough to transport you to a magical land of sweets.
Essentially, I created a version of a millionaire's shortbread, which might sound quite unfamiliar at first but with an intriguing ring. Once you realize what it is though, you will probably remember eating it several times before. This treat consists of three layers of shortbread, caramel, and chocolate - primarily like the classic Twix, but also slightly reminiscent of a Snickers! Or even a Mallomar, but with marshmallow instead of caramel. So it is actually not that interesting when you hear about it, but it does evoke a sense of simple pleasures and childhood memories, and those can be tons of fun to recreate or reimagine!
My reasoning for choosing to play around with this recipe actually did not stem from anything truly meaningful - I had some dough in my freezer and had seen quite a few millionaire's shortbreads on social media, so they were on my mind for some time. I also knew that I wanted to make something complex yet easy, something that would wake up my taste buds and have a touch of finesse but would totally satisfy my recent junk food desires too. This candy trifecta felt like the best option to fulfill all these wishes; cookies, caramel, and chocolate are not typically that fancy, but with a little of this and a little of that from a random search for swanky ingredients in my kitchen, I knew they would be transformed into such a distinguished dessert.
My millionaire's shortbread is also not too technical and is great for both adults and kids! For its crust, the dough is completed with two sets of mixing by hand - one to combine all the flavoring elements (with a whisk), and one to add in the almond flour (with your actual hands - get right in there and don't be afraid to get a little messy as this is the only way to fully incorporate the flour with no difficulty!).
While the dough is baking, you have enough time to prepare the rest of the components - how could that be, doesn't caramel take a long time? Not this version! We will use a sneaky technique to speed up and also change the process a bit, but still end up with a delicious, nutty, and toasty result!
My caramel is typically made from almond butter and usually honey, but as I wanted a more refined flavor this time, I used apricot jam. Both get stirred together and then microwaved on high for 30 seconds, then smoothed out with water and seasoned with salt to balance out the sweetness. What you end up with looks and tastes very similar to a thick caramel, but with a different kind of depth due to the almond base - the fruitiness from the apricot really brightens it up and stands out too, providing two levels of yumminess in this layer.
After the two-minute long caramel, you will still have time to get the chocolate layer ready - however, since you need to wait for the caramel to set before pouring the chocolate on, I would just have the ingredients in place but not actually melted (you will probably have to re-melt when the moment arrives to use it). In this layer's most basic form, you only have to melt the chocolate in the microwave. However, I love a textured chocolate - like a crunch bar - and decided that this would be the perfect topping for my millionaire's shortbread since the cookie crust would be very tender (thanks to the special addition of yogurt). I combined my melted chocolate with chickpea cereal (could also be crispy/puffed rice cereal), but I have this one in my pantry and the taste is very neutral) and salt to keep the chocolate alive. Once the caramel is hard, this gets spread right over it and left alone to solidify once more.
Because this dessert will initially be frozen so that it holds it shape when cutting, you must plan ahead for when you want to actually enjoy it. First, remember to take it out of the freezer to temper for just a few minutes so that you can cut through it, but don't forget about it! While you can still cut it when it is soft, you will get melted chocolate and sticky caramel all over you hands, the knife, and every piece, which will make eating it neatly more challenging, but not one bit less delicious. Once you have solid pieces though, don't put them back in the freezer. Leave them at room temperature - the shortbread are best when the caramel is gooey as the flavors come through more prominently and texture is much more satisfying. If you choose to save some for the future though, then store them in the freezer (and thaw before it is eating time!).
If you are planning on watching the big game Sunday evening, start preparing these shortbread today or first thing tomorrow morning. That way, once they are portioned out, there is literally nothing left to do but have it by your side when a craving comes. And you don't even need to take your eyes off the television to get a little bit of everything because it is all packed into one. Could there be a better snack for such an occasion or future binge-watching?! I think not!
Syncopated Candy Trifecta
Yield: ¼ sheet tray
¼ cup Greek Yogurt
4 T Honey
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ tsp Cinnamon
1 T Cocoa Powder
¾ tsp Salt
3 cups Blanched Almond Flour
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg.
Whisk in the yogurt, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, cocoa powder, and salt until smooth.
Add in the almond flour in three batches, whisking the first round, then using a spatula or your hand as it gets too thick. Make certain the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is smooth and homogenous.
Take two pieces of wax or parchment paper and place the dough in between. Roll it out into the shape of a rectangle that would fit the ¼ sheet tray and is 1/8’’ thick. Flip into a ¼ sheet tray lined with parchment and arrange as necessary so that it evenly covers the bottom.
Bake for 15 minutes and let cool.
Almond Butter Caramel
¾ cup Creamy Almond Butter
4 T Apricot Jam
1 tsp Salt
4 T Water
In a microwave safe bowl, combine the almond butter and apricot jam.
Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then whisk together with the salt and water until smooth.
Spread on top of the cooled cookie, keeping it on the parchment and in the sheet tray, and let set in the freezer for 30 minutes.
9 oz Dark Chocolate
¾ cup Chickpea Cereal (I like Three Wishes brand)
¾ tsp Salt
Dash Ancho Chili Powder
In a microwave save bowl on medium heat, melt the chocolate.
Break up the chickpea cereal into quarters, then mix into the chocolate with the salt.
Spread over the hardened caramel, then return to the freezer to set for another 30 minutes.
After the chocolate sets, let the sheet tray temper at room temperature for about five minutes.
Cut into desired pieces with a sharp knife - you may need to run hot water on it and dry it in between each slice so that you can cut cleanly through the chocolate and caramel.
Sprinkle with ancho chili powder (the secret fourth layer!) and let sit out until it is no longer cold/the caramel is completely thawed.
Take a giant bite and let your worries melt away, but go back quickly for seconds before they are all gone! Or just grab as many pieces as you can and save them in a hidden spot for yourself. If there are any left over and you plan on eating them again soon, you should store them at room temperature so they always have the ideal, oozy caramel consistency whenever you are ready to eat one!