A thick layer of delicious golden syrup caramel, sandwiched between a coconut shortbread base and mouthwatering chocolate, this is the recipe for the Australian caramel slice, also known as millionaire’s shortbread.
What is the origin of the caramel slice?
The caramel slice is composed of a rich and crunchy shortbread base topped with a soft caramel layer and a milk chocolate coating.
The shortbread base is quite simply the shortbread of Scottish origin, a shortbread without egg but very rich in butter.
The Australian caramel slice therefore has its origin in Scotland where it is called millionaire’s shortbread. It’s also called caramel shortbread, caramel shortcake, caramel squares, or millionaire’s slice.
In Australia, the earliest known recipes and references can be found in Australian magazines and cookbooks of the 1970s, notably in The Australian Women’s Weekly where it is known as caramel slice. The other name, millionaire’s shortbread therefore seems to come from Scotland.
This pastry has become very popular outside of Australia and Great Britain, and was even very present in an episode of the famous American show America’s Test Kitchen in 2018.
What is the origin of shortbread?
The story of shortbread begins with the medieval biscuit bread. All of the remaining bread dough was dried in a low-temperature oven until it hardened. The word biscuit comes from Middle French and Latin, and means “twice baked”.
Over time, baker’s yeast was replaced by butter and the biscuit bread turned into shortbread.
Shortbread cookies were an expensive luxury and a special treat reserved only for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Years.
In the Shetland Islands, it was traditional to break a decorated shortbread cake over the head of a new bride as she entered her new home. The custom of eating shortbread on New Year has its origins in the ancient pagan Christmas cakes that symbolized the sun.
In Scotland, shortbread is traditionally always offered to the first New Year visitor who crosses the threshold of a house.
The birth of shortbread was attributed to Mary Queen of Scots who, in the middle of the 16th century, was very fond of petticoat tails, a shortbread born in the 12th century that was thin, crunchy and originally flavored with butter and caraway seeds.
Scottish cooking methods have indeed progressed under the influence of the French at the court of Mary, Queen of Scotland, and later through the elaborate dishes served to English lords with Scottish properties.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert acquired Balmoral in the 19th century and, while bringing with them the rich food of the English court, they also liked to serve traditional Scottish dishes to important visitors, and especially these small shortbreads.
What is millionaire’s shortbread?
The millionaire’s shortbreads are among the greatest classics of Scottish pastry. They are especially served also on New Year’s Day to the first visitor who enters a house.
A Scottish saying also warns consumers: “The millionaire’s shortbread is often richer in calories than the one who tastes is in hard cash”.
No one will become a millionaire by tasting it and it is not intended for millionaires either, the honorary title of this cookie is only due to the great wealth of its calories. In Australia, coconut is added to the shortbread dough.
What is golden syrup?
Golden syrup is an amber-colored raw sugar syrup. This thick and velvety English sugar specialty is the ingredient of many pastries and sauces in British cuisine, such as banoffee pie or sticky toffee pudding.
It looks like honey, but it is viscous like a syrup like corn syrup and yet it tastes neither. The taste is more like caramel.
Formulated by chemists Charles Eastick and his brother John Joseph Eastick at the Abram Lyle & Sons (now Tate & Lyle) refinery in London (Plaistow), golden syrup was canned and first sold in 1885.
In 1863, Abram Lyle, the owner of a cooperage, became the owner of the Glebe sugar refinery in Greenock. He realized that a byproduct of sugar refining was syrup which was generally sold at low prices and especially as feed for pigs. He decided to make certain adjustments so that this syrup was suitable for human consumption.
In 1883, Charles Eastick, chemist at the Abram Lyle & Sons refinery, therefore formulated the way in which sugar could be refined to create a jam and a sweetener for cooking. Charles and his brother John Joseph Eastick experimented with the process of refining brown molasses, hitherto a residual byproduct of sugar refining, and transformed it into a viscous syrup very pleasant in taste, in color and sweetness of honey.
The resulting product was therefore marketed in 1885 under the name of “golden syrup”.
Lyle’s first box of golden syrup, which was first sold in 1885, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest brand and packaging in the world.
This caramel slice or millionaire’s shortbread, with multiple textures and offering 3 such distinct flavors is absolutely irresistible.
- 1¼ cup all-purpose flour sieved
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 oz. unsweetened desiccated coconut
- ½ cup unsalted butter melted
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 oz. melted milk chocolate
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- For the mold
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Rectangular mold 11x8 inches
- Preheat the oven to 320 F.
- Butter a rectangular 11x8 inches mold, preferably with a removable bottom.
- In a bowl, mix all the dough ingredients, form a dough without kneading too much and pack the mixture in the mold.
- Bake for 15 minutes until the surface is golden.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- In a non-stick pan, melt the butter over low heat and add the brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, golden syrup, and the vanilla. Boil for 5 minutes without ever stirring.
- Pour the caramel on the biscuit base and bake again for 10 minutes.
- Let the cake stand in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Melt the chocolate and oil in a bain marie (water bath) and pour it over the cake.
- Let cool in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving. Cut into square slices.