Happy New Year everyone!
Just so you know, this will not be a post about holidays. This will not be a post about resolutions. This will not be a post about plans or wishes for the year to come. Rather it will be a post about millionaire’s shortbread. I realize I have written about it before. But this time it’s about more. It’s about friendship. And lessons learned.
Before we get too deep into the story though, you should know that I used my regular recipe. I haven’t perfected a quick version (although the recipe doesn’t take that long to make in the first place). This batch I actually made too quick, if such a thing is possible. I was in a rush to make them, so they didn’t turn out as well. But what self-respecting baker would rush a recipe? And why?
I had a very good reason. Actually, I had two. One, it was the last day at work for a good friend of mine. I wanted to make something special as a way of sending him off in style and thanking him for all the work he had done. Plus, he was always one of the biggest fans of my baking, as well as a frequent taste tester of new recipes. So I thought he would appreciate something that was tried and true.
The second reason for making them was a little bit more selfish. My wife and I were going on a road trip to an out-of-town wedding the next day, so I thought whatever I didn’t give my friend would make a great snack for the trip for us and our driving companions. (It turns out my wife had a similar idea. She ended up picking up some treats from our favorite bakeshop around the corner, not knowing that I had baked some cookies for the trip.)
I was scheduled to work a later shift that day. I woke up around my normal time anyway. I figured that I could get a bunch of things done, including making the cookies and calling about getting our kitchen light fixed. Yes, our kitchen light had been broken for some time. It was daytime, so there was some light, and I had a lamp to provide a little more light, but it was a challenge baking under those conditions.
I set about making the cookies. The first step is to make the shortbread. Easy. I ended up using a smidgen less butter than I needed (maybe half a tablespoon), but I didn’t want to open up a whole nother stick of butter just for that. No big deal, the shortbread turned out fine.
The next step is to make the caramel. By this point, I realized that I didn’t have as much time as I thought I did, so I was in a little bit of a rush. I was doing too many things at once, so I didn’t pay as close attention to the caramel as I should have. I lost track of time, and I was worried that I might overcook it (as I did when I first made it), so I erred on the side of cooking it less. I think it ending up being too much less. The caramel wasn’t quite right. The butter didn’t mix all the way in, so there was this layer of melted butter that sat on top of the caramel. I tried scooping some out, and using a paper towel to soak some of it up, but it didn’t quite work. It ended up as caramel, but it took a while longer to cool and solidify than it normally would.
The chocolate was actually great. I used a huge (over a pound) milk chocolate bar. I broke off enough of the bar to be just a couple of grams shy of what I needed. It was good chocolate and it melted well.
I put everything together, and then I just needed it to set. As I mentioned, I didn’t have that much time. I had to get to work, and I actually didn’t have enough time for it to set completely. I tried putting it in the freezer for a little bit to try to speed it along. But given that my freezer is so small, I didn’t really have a great space to put it, and it ended up being not level. So because it was at an angle, and I had botched the caramel, there ended up being a layer of congealed butter. (More on this below.)
So between the angle, and not being completely sure what the freezer would do to the consistency/texture/taste, I didn’t end up leaving it in there for too long. The chocolate wasn’t quite set, and it was a little bit messy, but I was determined to bring some of it in. So I cut off two rows (I normally get five out of it), and then cut it into smaller pieces so it would fit into a container, and dashed off to work. The coworker who was to be the recipient of the cookies was supposed to leave early, but I put them in the fridge as soon as I got there, and I made sure he stayed long enough for the cookies to set. Well, it was his last day, so we had goodbyes and lots of other things to say, anyway.
After many niceties and pleasantries, I mentioned to him that I had a surprise for him. I told him that I had baked cookies for him. I gave him the container and his eyes lit up.
“How many can I take?” he asked. (There were like 12 cookies in the container.)
“They’re all for you,” I told him.
“Aren’t you going to have any?” he asked.
I told him that I had made a whole batch, so I had more at home. These were all for him, as a going away present. He was very touched and thankful. He made sure to ask me the name of the cookies so he would remember and could tell his wife what they were.
I didn’t get anything else done on my to do list that morning, like call the super about the kitchen light. But it was worth it. The light needed to be fixed for sure, in fact it was way overdue in needing to be fixed, but it could wait. It was only my friend’s last day at work once.
As you may know, I’ve made this recipe a million or so times (pun intended), so I feel I can critique them more than some other recipes I’ve made. Even with all the trials and tribulations, I think they still turned out okay. I don’t think the caramel was as strong because it didn’t mix enough which means the cookies ended up being more shortbread-y, and less caramel-y, but that was fine. My wife (who is my favorite taste tester) still thought they were delicious.
The layer of melted butter did congeal a little bit, so there were small chunks of it that made their way around the edges to end up on top of the chocolate (probably aided by the time at an angle in the freezer). That was mostly easy to deal with, so I don’t think the cookies ended up too greasy.
All in all, not too bad. I even learned some lessons. I had already learned not to overcook caramel, because it gets too hard. But I learned this time not to undercook it either, as you end up with caramel that’s too liquidy and less caramel-y. Also, don’t let it set at an angle.
It was totally worth making them. Even without as much time as I would have liked. Even though they weren’t perfect. It turns out they were still yummy. And they’re still one of my favorite cookies to make.
Have you ever rushed a recipe? Have you ever put off important tasks in order to bake? Do you like giving baked goods as presents? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!