Sometimes, you just need a dessert that is as rich as Bill Gates. Aka a very, very rich dessert. And this Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread, my friends, fits that Bill (bill. Bill! get it?!) exactly. A buttery shortbread base, topped with a halva “nougat” and tahini caramel.
Even though it’s a lot of richness, it’s not cloyingly sweet. The shortbread is rather plain (in the best way), and the halva nougat is nicely balanced from being mixed with pure tahini. The tahini caramel is the same way.
I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but it comes from the cookbook Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi. His cookbooks, particularly Sweet and Jerusalem, are possibly my favorite cookbooks.
There’s something about a well-done cookbook that makes me so happy, and I’ve never had a recipe from one of his books that I didn’t love. In fact, Friday’s recipe comes from the Jerusalem cookbook. heheh.
And no, this is not sponsored at all. I just really like his books 🙂
How to make shortbread
As the base of this delectable treat, it’s important that you make the shortbread properly. Lucky for us, shortbread is a fairly forgiving dessert and takes very little effort to whip up. Typically, shortbread is made by combining flour, sugar, and cold butter that’s been cut into small cubes. The butter is rubbed together with the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, and then it’s packed into a pan and baked.
This Middle Eastern millionaire’s shortbread is even easier to make, though! In this recipe, the butter is melted and then set aside to cool slightly. While it’s cooling, sift powdered sugar and cornstarch into a bowl, and then mix in the granulated sugar. Then, slowly add in the melted butter and vanilla extract.
You’ll want to sift in the salt and flour last (we’re adding it in last to ensure that the flour isn’t over worked. You don’t want tough shortbread!).
You can tell when the shortbread is ready to come out of the oven by checking its color. Once it’s a lovely golden brown on top, it’s ready to be taken out and allowed to cool.
Assembling your millionaire’s shortbread
Even though these bars have three layers, I have to say I was pleased with how easy the assembly process was. The shortbread comes together in a jiff, the halva layer takes like two seconds, and as intense as it sounds, homemade caramel is easy peasy.
Once you’ve made the shortbread, you’ll need to let it cool completely before spreading on the halva nougat. The nougat melts quite easily, so you must give the shortbread time to cool off.
The homemade caramel sets quickly, so you’ll want to make it right before the shortbread is ready to be topped. To make your life easy, you could make the shortbread before you go to bed and finish prepping this millionaire’s shortbread the next day (assuming you can wait that long to eat this bad boy…).
The homemade caramel takes about 15 minutes to make and can be poured onto the nougat layer straight away. You’ll need to let the millionaire’s shortbread sit in the fridge for at least four hours, or until it’s properly set. A long time to wait, I know! But the wait really is worth it, I promise.
Alright, HAPPY WEDNESDAY and happy baking, friends!
3/4cup unsalted butter, melted and set aside to cool slightly
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the halva nougat
7oz halva, roughly crumbled into small pieces
For the tahini caramel
1cup granulated sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1/3cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
For the shortbread
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper rises up over the edges of the pan.
Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch into the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, then add the granulated sugar and mix on a medium speed. With the machine still running, slowly pour in the melted-but-cooled butter and beat until combined.
Add the vanilla and reduce the speed to low, then sift in the flour and salt and continue to beat until the dough comes together. Tip the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands to pat and even out the surface.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cool: this will take an hour or so, so don’t start making the caramel too soon or it will have set by the time the shortbread is cool.
For the halva nougat
Place the halva and tahini in a small bowl and mix with a wooden spoon to combine.
Once the shortbread is cooled, spread the mix over the cooled shortbread and use the back of a spoon to smooth it out to an even layer.
For the tahini caramel
To make the caramel, place the sugar and water into a small saucepan and place over a medium-low heat. Stir occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium-high.
Bring to a boil and cook – still at a boil – for about 12 minutes, until the sugar is a deep golden brown.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and cream: take care here, as the mixture will splutter. Whisk to combine and, once the butter has melted, add the tahini and salt. Whisk to combine again, then pour evenly over the halva layer in the pan, so that all of the halva is covered.
Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours until set, before cutting into bars, about 2 inches square. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the middle of each bar and serve.
Recipe from the cookbook Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi