[A storm, two cars and a millionaire’s shortbread]


Millionaire’s shortbread; from Donna Hay’s Gourmandises

Ivonne and Orchidea, asked us to share a special dish both comforting and full of memories. Here is my little story:

There are some days that are unforgettable; I mean, not willingly unforgettable. Those kinds of days you’d prefer not to remember or actually, days that end up making great stories for long winters’ nights.
Indeed, if I knew an effective mean to reprogram my brain in order to dismiss memories from these days, I’m not sure I would go for it (though, I certainly would if asked right after ‘la catastrophe’ [the disaster]).
Looking back, I – now – remember those times with a hint of emotion because of all the lessons they taught me and all the benefits I’ve retained over the years.
Funnily enough, it seems that the benefits in question are mainly food-related. As if I was more keen to cook (or more possibly to eat) when utterly shocked.

Last July – the 29th to be accurate, my home-town was hit by a violent storm. My parents had left the house a few days before for a three-week journey.
The thunder started rumbling.
Without being aware of it, I started counting the seconds to get a rough idea of the location of the storm.
1, 2… Still far!
The minute after I felt what was unknown for me before – a loud crashing noise echoed and a bright light made me blind for a short moment. All this at the same exact time. The lighting had just hit the small road in front of my house.
I rushed to the kitchen and turned off all the electric appliances – including the oven, where a cake was being baked for ‘le goûter’. Then, without thinking, I grabbed my father’s car keys and jumped into the car, heading towards the south to escape to the storm.
When I finally got to my boyfriend’s house I felt relieved yet shocked.

That night I received a text from my parents saying they would not be reachable for the next three days.
It was ok. I was in a safe place now.
But as the saying goes, ‘il ne faut pas mettre la charue avant les boeufs’.

The next day, I was waited for in Cannes. But before going there, I had to go home to change clothes.
Just four kilometres away from home, the car stopped and wouldn’t start again. I tried to reach my dad with no success – then I remembered the text and wondered why such a thing happened while I was alone. Alone. I must have prayed really hard because a few moments later I could finally hear the motor.
I was more than happy to be home again.
When ready to leave, I decided to take the other car – my mother’s. I didn’t want to risk to stay stuck in Cannes.

I went to the party. Everything went well. But then, later that night, when I got into the car and tried to start it, everything went from ‘well’ to ‘dark’.
The battery was dead*.

Can you believe that in two days I faced a storm and the loss of two cars?

I was devastated. Devastated yet willing to bake. I picked up the first book on the shelf and decided I would make the first recipe I would spot. Millionaire’s shortbread, it was; sounded good and comforting. Just what I needed. That THE benefit from this experience. Indeed I’ve made this recipe at least twice since that day of July.
And everytime I make these shortbreads, I still feel the same comfort they brought me after this awful day, which obviously make them taste even better (if possible!).

Hopefully, incidents do not happen that often. That would be too exhausting a life (even if you got a keeper-recipe each time)!

* Apparently the magnetic vibes of the storm had emptied the battery.

Millionaire’s shortbread
Apart from the fact that these squares brought me all the comfort I needed after that tiring event, they are very good.
The base calls for coconut, which is a great twist for the regular shortbread. The caramel mixture is so yummy I could eat it straight from the pan with ‘une petite cuillère’ and the use of oil (I prefer to use cocoa butter, but you can easily substitute it with sunflower oil) in the chocolate layer help getting a glossy look without having to temper the chocolate.
Note – I couldn’t help but use salted butter in the caramel mixture. I am such a ‘caramel au beurre salé’ lover!

Milionnaire’s shortbread

for the base
135g flour
45g dried coconut
100g brown sugar
125g butter, melted

for the caramel layer
130g golden syrup
125g salted butter (see note above), melted butter
800g sweetened condensed milk

for the chocolate layer
185g best dark chocolate
3 tsp cocoa butter (use sunflower oil if not available)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 20cm x 30 cm pan with baking parchment.
Make the base by mixing the flour, coconut, sugar and melted butter. Spoon this mixture into the tin and press to make an even layer. Bake for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack.
Place the golden syrup, butter and concentrated milk in a large pan and cook over low heat for 7 minutes. The mixture should be thick and caramel-brown in colour. Pour this over the base and bake for 20 minutes into the preheated oven. Allow to cool completely at room temperature, and then go on with the chocolate.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Mix in the cocoa butter and pour over the caramel. Chill until set.
Cut into small squares and eat!