A couple of weekends ago, I went to a holiday brunch that included a giant platter of what is known as "millionaire's shortbread." Despite being extremely rich and sweet, I found myself eating one piece after another. Apparently I was not inconspicuous about my shortbread bender, because the very nice fellow who baked them had spotted me and wanted to know if I'd like a little Ziploc bag of shortbread to take home. Then I arbitrarily decided that maybe a piece of fried chicken would make me stop eating the shortbread. It did not, and after leaving the party I kicked myself all the way home for declining the offer of a shortbread doggy bag.
"Millionaire's shortbread" is essentially homemade Twix bars, so we're going to call them the latter because here at The Shortbread Cure we are not the kind of people who would eat a candy bar with a knife and fork. I found a basic recipe for homemade Twix bars and made a couple of adjustments to the shortbread layer to make it less sweet (since sweetened condensed milk has enough sugar to go around) and to introduce some holiday spice in the form of speculaas spice.
If you still have gifts left to buy, remember that all anyone really wants is a Ziploc bag of cookies. Merry Christmas!!
Speculaas-Spiced Twix Shortbread Bars
Adapted from Joy of Baking
Makes 18 bars, more or less depending on how you cut them
For the Speculaas Shortbread Layer
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon speculaas spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Caramel Layer
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
For the Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon butter
Make the Speculaas Shortbread Layer
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, butter the parchment paper, and set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, either with electric mixer or by hand. Mix in vanilla extract. Add flour, speculaas spice, and salt, and mix until batter just starts to clump together. Press shortbread dough onto the bottom of prepared pan, taking care to distribute dough evenly. Lightly prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent shortbread from puffing up too much while baking. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until pale golden in color. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool while you make the caramel layer.
Make the Caramel Layer
Pour condensed milk into heatproof bowl and place over saucepan of simmering water. Cover with piece of aluminum foil and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 60 to 90 minutes or until condensed milk is thick and caramel in color. Remove from heat and give caramel a good stir. Evenly spread caramel over cooled shortbread, cover, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until firm.
Make the Chocolate Layer
Melt chocolate and butter in heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water. Let cool to room temperature. Then evenly spread melted chocolate over caramel layer and leave to set (you can also pop the pan into the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes). Cut Twix shortbread into pieces using a sharp knife.
The Twix shortbread bars can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or frozen for longer. Serve cold or at room temperature.