Diwali gifting is stressful for my mother and I. Year after year, we feel the need to challenge ourselves and get more creative with our gifts. We will unabashedly admit that we love the oohs and aahs when someone pulls back the foil paper to reveal the season’s confection. While it is a labour of love, we always cuss and complain about being short-staffed and starting on a short notice, but nothing changes. Spring cleaning in the fall is a hindrance, the grease has gotten on literally everything, and by the end of it, we hate ourselves for committing to such herculean Santa duties. This year is no exception, but I did want to ease up the work by making something that wouldn’t bleed too much into our time.
Millionaires’ Shortbread, those posh layered squares of biscuit, caramel and chocolate are just the best to give away as gifts. It doesn’t cost a lot to make it and just a few of these squares in place of cheap chocolates, you know the ones I’m talking about, can really go a long way. The reason I chose this was because it doesn’t involve too much physical work- the shortbread mixture comes together in a processor, the caramel is made in the microwave (yes, microwave), and the chocolate is well, just good quality melted chocolate. Simply go about your day’s chores as every layer sets and you’ll have a brilliant edible gift at the end of the day.
You can wrap these in brownie boxes with tall sides or tins like I have. Invest in some good self-patterned printed paper or good ol’ foil paper to line the base of the box, wrap the closed boxes in Indian gift paper from a shop like Chimanlals, fasten with string and send it on it’s way.
The recipe below is for a simple Millionaires’ Shortbread, but because I like to kick things up a notch during Diwali, I’m including an optional riff within the recipe with spices that go into the shortbread, to cut through the sweetness of the caramel.
Caster sugar 50g
Butter 150g, softened
Rice flour 25g
Optional spice mix addition:
Cinnamon 1/4 tsp
Ground ginger 1/2 tsp
Ground cardamom 1/4 tsp
Ground cloves 1/4 tsp
Ground coriander a pinch
THE CARAMEL FILLING
Condensed milk 1 can
Butter 200g, melted
Golden syrup 4 tbsp
Sea Salt a pinch
Dark chocolate good-quality, 325g
Line a square brownie tin with tall sides, approximately 20 cm by 20cm, leaving an overhang on all sides.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius.
Pulse the shortbread ingredients in a food processor, or using a stand mixer, or simply rub in the butter into the flours and spices mixture. Once it has formed a dough, press this into the prepared tin and transfer this to the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Transfer the dough to the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes till golden brown on top. You can rotate the tin halfway through the cooking process.
Leave the shortbread base to cool, following which, you should prepare to start on your caramel.
Making this caramel will require your full attention because you will be doing this in the microwave.
Combine the condensed milk, melted butter and golden syrup in a microwave-safe bowl and whisk together till well combined.
Transfer the bowl to the microwave and subject it to 6-8 bursts of one minute each, mixing between each burst with a spatula or wooden spoon. Be careful as this mixture will get too hot. You’re looking for a light toffee colour and nutty taste, and should see some results after the fourth or fifth burst. Be careful to not burn the caramel. Stir in a sizeable pinch of sea salt flakes into the caramel and mix.
When the caramel is done, pour it over the cool shortbread and tilt the tin to help it reach the edges, gently banging the tin on a counter once to even out the surface.
Once the caramel has cooled, using a double boiler, melt the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Pour this over the cooled and set caramel layer and even the surface, then allow the surface to set.
When cooled, using the overhang, gently lift the set layers out, trim the edges if need be and cut into equal squares for wrapping.