I was recently luckily enough to be sent a copy of Jane Hornby’s new book What To Bake And How To Bake It.
The book is aimed at amateur bakers looking to master the classics and expand their repertoires. Each of the 50 delicious recipes is accompanied by photographs of the ingredients, each step of the process and a finished dish shot, ensuring foolproof results every time. Every element of the baker’s craft is covered, from everyday cakes and cookies to special occasion breads and pastries.
If you follow my blog, you will see that I do the same thing…printing step-by-step photos throughout all the recipes I post. I have always thought that if you can read, you can bake. But so many people still find baking hard, so I thought it would help people to see how each stage should look so they know they’re on the right track.
Flicking through the book, I wanted to bake almost everything, but I decided to begin with this salted caramel millionaire shortbread recipe. I don’t have much willpower against the words ‘salted caramel’. I’m so glad I did as they tasted AMAZING. They’re ridiculously rich but not overly sweet as the salt cuts through the cloying sweetness. They’re also annoyingly addictive.
For the base
110g /4oz soft butter, plus extra for greasing
a pinch of flaky sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
140g/5oz plain flour
For the caramel
110g /4oz butter
200g/7oz dark brown sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1 x 400g / 14-oz can full-fat condensed milk
For the topping
200g/7 oz bittersweet chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
Lightly grease a 23cm/9-inch square baking pan, then line with parchment paper. Make the base first. Put the butter in a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer until creamy and very pale. Add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and beat again until even paler.
Sift the flour over the creamed butter and sugar. Using a spatula, gently work the flour into the mixture to make an evenly blended dough that starts to clump together.
Press the dough into the prepared pan, then level and smooth it with the back of a spoon. Prick it all over with a fork, then chill for 10 minutes, or longer if you like, until firm. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. If using a fan oven, lower the temperature by 20°.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the shortbread is golden all over. Let cool completely.
Now for the caramel. Melt the butter, sugar, syrup, and salt together gently in a pan, then stir in the condensed milk.
Bring the caramel to a simmer, stirring constantly with a spatula, and let it bubble for 4 minutes, or until it thickens and smells like creamy toffee. It should be thick enough for the spatula to leave a trail in the caramel for a few seconds. Don’t leave the pan or stop stirring during this step, as it can easily burn on the base.
Pour the caramel over the shortbread, then let cool completely.
Once the caramel has set and cooled, it’s time to finish the layers. Melt the chocolate either over a pan of water or in the microwave, stir in the oil, then pour this over the caramel.
Sprinkle with the salt and let set at room temperature, or in the fridge if it’s a hot day. The oil helps stop the chocolate setting too hard, which can make it difficult to cut.
When the chocolate is just set, mark it into squares, then chill until completely firm. (As you can see, mine hadn’t completely set in the middle yet.)
Cut into cubes to serve. I got 30 out of this recipe. I decided to go for smaller cubes as I knew it would be very rich, For a really clean finish, wipe the blade of your knife with a slightly damp cloth between each slicing. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby (Phaidon, September 2014). The illustrated cover is by Kerry Lemon and photography is by Max and Liz Haarala Hamilton.