Millionaire Shortbread Bars

I’m not sure who it was that first thought to combine chocolate and caramel, but whoever they are I’d like to send them a thank you note and a bottle of champagne. Millionaire Shortbread Bars take the combination of chocolate and caramel and add a buttery layer of shortbread to make one of my very favorite baked treats. They’re rich, they’re delicious, and they’ll probably be the first plate of treats to disappear from your dessert buffet.

Shortbread is certainly the unsung hero of this recipe. The chocolate and caramel layers are so rich that they need the buttery cookie layer to help balance out all the flavors in each bite. I love shortbread on its own too. It’s a fabulous treat, it keeps really well, and it works for special occasions year round, from the 4th of July to Christmas Eve. Shortbread is also incredibly easy to make and really difficult to mess up. I love to bake with forgiving recipes and shortbread is absolutely one of the hardest to mess up.

Chopping baking chocolate.

The chocolate layer is the final topping to these bars and as such, we need to talk about it a little bit. I like to use a semi-sweet baking chocolate for the top layer. I think the bit of bitterness pairs incredibly well with the caramel layer, balancing out the caramel’s sugary sweetness. My tastes are not universal, however! If you prefer an even more bitter bite at the top of your Millionaire Shortbread bars, you could certainly go with a very dark or bittersweet chocolate. Similarly, if you like a less bitter bite, you could use milk chocolate for the top layer.

The crucial thing to remember with your chocolate choices is that you need to use baking chocolate (or candy-making chocolate). Chocolate chips can be used, though they will not work nearly as well, they have stabilizers that can make the chocolate grainy and leave chalky deposits as they harden. Regular chocolate bars like you’d eat as candy will work very poorly, probably resulting in uneven texture and chocolate that won’t firm up enough to allow you to portion the bars.

Millionaire Shortbread Bars

3 from 70 votes
Recipe by Add Recipes
Servings

12

servings
Prep time

30

minutes
Cooking time

40

minutes

Rich creamy caramel, decadent chocolate, and buttery shortbread combine to make these out-of-this-world bars.

Ingredients – Shortbread

  • 2 cups All-purpose flour

  • 1 cup Butter, softened

  • 1/2 cup Sugar, white granulated

  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

  • Caramel
  • 2 cans (14 oz) Sweetened condensed milk

  • 3 tablespoons Butter

  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

  • Chocolate
  • 8 oz Semi-sweet baking chocolate

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325° F (162° C). Line 9×13 baking pan with parchment or foil, leaving edges long and hanging slightly over sides of pan to use to lift bars out of pan when finished.
  • SHORTBREAD DOUGH: Combine flour, 1 cup butter, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in large mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer. Beat together until dough forms. Dough will be crumbly.
  • Press dough evenly into bottom of prepared baking pan. Using a dinner fork, pierce dough about two dozen times at roughly equal distances to prevent dough from bubbling while it bakes.
  • Bake shortbread in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until shortbread is just golden brown and baked through. Cool shortbread for 1-2 hours or until completely cool to the touch.
  • CARAMEL: In small or medium saucepan, combine sweetened condensed milk and 3 tablespoons butter. Over low to medium-low flame bring mixture to a low slightly bubbling simmer, stirring mixture regularly to prevent scorching. Caramel should be done in about 15-20 minutes or when it is golden brown. Remove from heat.
  • Allow caramel to cool for 2-3 minutes in saucepan, then add vanilla extract, stirring thoroughly to combine.
  • Pour caramel over cooled shortbread, using offset spatula or butter knife to spread caramel evenly. Cool for 2 hours.
  • CHOCOLATE: Roughly chop or break up semi-sweet baking chocolate. Place chocolate in microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 25-second intervals, stirring after each interval. When chocolate just melts, pour it over the caramel, using an offset spatula or butter knife to spread evenly, if necessary.
  • Allow chocolate layer to cool about 1 hour. Gently lift bars out of baking pan using parchment or foil lining. Cut and serve.

Notes

  • Butter may be salted or unsalted, according to your preferences.
  • Margarine may be substituted for butter for the shortbread recipe, but is not recommended for the caramel.
  • Dark, bittersweet, or milk chocolate may be substituted for semi-sweet baking chocolate if you prefer, however any chocolate substitute should be baking chocolate. Chocolate chips may be used but are likely to yield a grainy texture with a chalky finish because of added stabilizers.
  • Homemade sweetened condensed milk may be used. Results may vary.
  • Canned pre-made dulce de leche may be used as a substitute for the entire caramel portion of the recipe. Substitute two cans of dulce de leche for the sweetened condensed milk, 3 tablespoons of butter, and vanilla extract. Recommend heating dulce de leche briefly in microwave or over double-boiler to make pouring/spreading layer easier.

A few years ago, I discovered a shortcut for this recipe that makes it much faster to whip up. Some sweetened condensed milk makers sell an already prepared caramel in cans very similar to sweetened condensed milk that can be found in the same section of the supermarket. These products are marketed as dulce de leche and are widely available in Latin American markets. They make the perfect substitute for the entire caramel portion of this recipe, so rather than two cans of sweetened mixed with 3 tablespoons of butter and vanilla extract, you simply use two cans of this dulce de leche product. I do not recommend substituting any other caramel product BUT this particular type. Generally, I empty the cans of dulce de leche into a microwave safe bowl and microwave them on 50% power for 30 seconds 2-3 times, stirring in between, just to loosen up the caramel so it spreads better. Then I spread it on the shortbread and I’ve saved myself all the time making caramel on the stove. And it saves time on the cooling step for this layer since you simply warm the caramel. It generally sets within about half an hour in my kitchen.

Millionaire Shortbread Bars portion.

Parchment or foil are the last important step to ensuring your bars come out perfect. You line the pan with them, leaving enough excess material on the sides to allow you to lift the bars out of the baking pan once they’re finished and all the layers have cooled and set. Trying to cut the bars in the pan will result in crumbled and broken bars. I recommend pulling the bars out of the baking pan and slicing them on a cutting board with a good sharp chef’s knife — trust me, the results will be beautiful!

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