desserts, snacks

millionaire’s shortbread (the homemade twix bar).

Because we needed one more thing to eat around the house on this post-Thanksgiving weekend. Just one more thing, juuuust in case we run out of the 184 other things we made to eat.

I’ve seen these before, called all sorts of different things, on the internet. I’ve perused their photos on blogs, I’ve passed by them in cookbooks, I’ve heard rumors about Twix-like bars you make yourself. Finally, curiosity got the best of me. Do they really taste like Twix bars? Why so many aliases? Why does everyone seem to be obsessed about these? Maybe that’s why all the names…obsessed cookie stalkers. 

So, ok: time to make them and see what all the fuss is about. The ingredients are simple…nothing fancy here: just a few cans of sweetened condensed milk, some semi-sweet chocolate, and you should have everything else in your pantry. Making each layer was easy: the hard part was understanding that you needed lots of cooling time in between (or it seemed like a long time to those who desperately wanted to try them).

The trick to these little babies working is completely in the amount of time you leave them to set/chill. I noticed a huge difference trying to cut them into bars the day I made them versus the following day. On the day of, the shortbread is still pretty tender and tends to crumble easily, leaving the caramel and chocolate behind. The second day, the shortbread base seemed to be much denser and had a much better stay-together quality to it. Anytime I make these from now on, I’ll be making them the day before to save myself the trouble. The good news is they improve with the day-long chill time (I promise), so don’t get antsy.

When the bars are ready to cut, please have the following items ready:

  • damp kitchen towel
  • very sharp, thin knife
  • parchment paper

And here’s why: if you want your bars to look pretty and un-crumbed, you’ll follow the slicing instructions below. this may be why they’re called “millionaire’s shortbread;” because you may want to hire someone full time to cut these cookies. They are absolutely worth the trouble, however, and you’ll be very pleased with your results if you take care during this step.

And they really do taste like Twix bars, only way better. Now I get what all the cookie stalkers have been talking about…

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by my favorite duo, Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

Millionaire’s Shortbread/Homemade Twix Bars

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
  • 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350°F. butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together until blended. Add the egg yolk and beat for a few seconds, or until just combined. Add flour and beat until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough and your hands with a little flour. Use your hands to gently work the dough into a rough rectangle shape, place it into your prepared pan, and carefully press to evenly cover the bottom of the pan. Don’t call the Scottish shortbread police, either: I’m sure this isn’t the proper way to make shortbread, I know there’s usually kneading involved, but really; we’re making Twix bars here.

Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake in the center of the oven for 20 to 22 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Time for the caramel:

Put the sweetened condensed milk in a large microwave-safe bowl. I underline “large” because this will bubble up, and you really do not want to clean out caramel from your microwave. Cook on 50 percent power (medium) for 4 minutes, stirring briskly halfway through, until smooth.

Cook on 30 percent power (medium-low) for 12 to 18 minutes, until very thick and caramel colored, stirring briskly every 2 minutes, until smooth. Warning: this may take longer depending on your microwave, so feel free to use a few more minutes to get it right. Alternatively, if you’re used to doing things like this using a stovetop (as I am), you can put the sweetened condensed milk in a large, heavy saucepan and cook on medium-high heat until bubbling, and stir constantly for 5-8 minutes, until thick and amber-colored.

Pour the caramel filling over the cooled shortbread and place the pan in the refrigerator until cool, about two hours.

And now, the final layer:

In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled caramel layer and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer. Put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (I still suggest overnight, but if you must) or until the glaze hardens.

Slicing how-to:

Remove the pan from the refrigerator 10 minutes before serving so as not to crack the chocolate glaze. Dampen a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and cover a cutting board with parchment paper. Using a very thin, sharp knife, cut large strips of the bar and carefully remove from pan onto the parchment (see above photo). Cut this large strip into smaller rectangles (or squares, however you choose), wiping the knife each time with the damp towel and rinsing periodically. This should keep your chocolate layer intact and keep the crumbs from spreading upward from the shortbread.

The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

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  • Reply Catherine November 27, 2011 at 8:57 am

    Yum! Thanks so much for publishing this recipe – I will have to work up the courage to make it now. Have been searching for something else to make with caramel since I swore off banoffee pie a few years ago (so delicious, so bad for the waistline…)

    • Reply shannon November 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      you’re so welcome! banoffee pie is another one on my “things i’ve seen and intend to make” list. i’ve passed it up several times because, as you said, not the best thing for a waistline, but i suppose it’s better now while we’re all in the throes of the holiday season. 🙂 I just checked, and the huge batch of shortbread i made is more than half gone. so proceed with caution; it seems to be addictive.

  • Reply Kendra December 5, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I tried these based on how tasty they looked, and I was fairly disappointed in the taste. Did you find the shortbread to be bland in your testing? These will go to the work break room, and the search for this year’s cookie exchange contribution continues.

    • Reply shannon December 5, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      i’m sorry these didn’t work out for you! I’ve made these a few times, and if it helps, i think the two biggest things which impact the flavor are how “caramel-y” you can get the sweetened condensed milk and how long you let them settle before cutting/serving. The deeper the color on your caramel, the more flavor. I liked my results better using the stovetop versus the microwave. As far as the set time, I tasted the first batch right as the chocolate had set, and wasn’t overly impressed. But: i tried these the second day after letting them settle overnight, and it was a totally different cookie. Letting them sit overnight, tightly covered, gives the flavors some much-needed meld time and as a bonus, are much easier to cut. I’ve also seen some people add a little fleur de sel to finish off the top.
      Again, i hope that helps and you get better results if you try them a second time! In the meantime, i hope your coworkers appreciate the treat. If you’re still looking for another recipe for your cookie exchange, the chewy chocolate gingerbread cookies were a big hit when i took them to a party back in october. Full flavored like a gingerbread but soft like a chocolate crinkle, and perfect for the holidays. The recipe yields a ton, so you’ll have plenty with not a lot of effort.

      • Reply Kendra December 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm

        Thanks for the hints. I had also made the caramel in a saucepan and let the whole cookie cool overnight, but for me, I think the shortbread just lacks a little pizzazz. I’m sure my coworkers will gobble them up, and I think they’d be much better with a cup of coffee. I think for the cookie exchange I’m going to go with a tried and true favorite, these Swedish almond butter cookies: (Give those a try, they are excellent)

        • Reply shannon December 6, 2011 at 8:45 pm

          Those butter cookies look delicious! And thanks for the suggestion; I’ll be giving those a try sometime very soon (and they may show up on the blog). 🙂 Happy holidays to you.

  • Reply kasey December 9, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I just made these “twix” cookies and they turned out fabulous. Instead of using the carmel sauce above though, I used the Cooks Illustrated Carmel Sauce from the Family Cookbook. I love that sauce and it gave it so much flavor!!

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