Saturday, 14 April 2012

Saturday Treats

Well, I was asked (via the comments section below – please feel free to use them for any questions / suggestions you have) to post “my” recipe for Chocolate Toffee Squares. Now, I have to own up; I ain’t all that creative! I wish I was, but of course, the recipe is someone else’s – one of my favourite sources. As readers to the blog might already know, I do like the Sunday Times “Ireland” supplement on the weekend, particularly Mary Carney’s column. This recipe is another of hers, and indeed, one of the main reasons I like her column so much! Anyhow, these are the type of thing that go by various names, usually “Millionaire’s Shortbread”. I’ve always been very, very keen on this confection – I am a bit of a butter addict, so all things toffee and butterscotch really floats my boat. Add in buttery shortbread and chocolate – well, what’s not to like?!
Anyhow, as I say, I’ve tried loads of these over the years, both shop bought, home-made and “artisan” types (you know, the ones you pay €1.50 for a tiny smidgen of something at an over-priced market stall). Generally, the home-made wins hands down. This is the first time I’ve made them at home myself – all the recipes seem just so convoluted. Anyhow, I read this recipe and thought, “hmm, that sounds easy enough” and gave them a whirl. I have to say, I was quite dubious about the pastry layer instead of “proper” shortbread. All I can say is – TRY THEM. That’s an order. They are so, so, so delicious. Your waistline won’t thank me, but your taste buds will! As, indeed, will your friends and family – they are a naughty treat, so when I make a tray of these, I tend to give loads away, so everyone benefits.
And might I add, if you are a tentative cook, give these a go anyhow. There are a number of processes, but it’s fairly straight forward. Also, the batch I made yesterday and have photographed below I made in a complete frenzy. I actually had a job interview* yesterday afternoon, but as it was something a friend put me forward for, I had no job spec and couldn’t “mug up”. So instead, to keep myself busy and as a big “thank you” to the lovely friend who minded my girls despite having visitors herself, I made these. Actually, they are quite a good thing to make while busy doing other stuff, as you need to leave this layer to cook and that layer to set, etc., so I was able to rush off to the shower and do “hair and make-up” in between times. They are not my best ever effort, I really was quite distracted and I didn’t let the toffee cook quite long enough and therefore didn’t set so well, my chocolate started to burn and I ended up improvising / free-wheeling a little, but they turned out good enough to be photographed and certainly, to be eaten! And everyone loved them – even people who’ve tasted them before and know the “good” version. So, for all you reluctant cooks out there, I urge you - give this a go, it’s a real “Domestic Goddess” recipe, in that you will really impress people with it in inverse proportion to how much effort it took … Just don’t blame me if your weighing scales is mean to you the next day!

Here's the recipe:
Pastry Base Toffee Layer Chocolate Layer
170g plain flour 1 x 397g tin condensed milk 100-150g milk (or milk & dark mix) chocolate
120g butter 60g soft brown sugar
60g caster sugar 60g butter

Pre-heat oven to 170ºC / gas mark 3
  • Combine the pastry ingregients using your fingertips (I usually use my grater, held high, dipping it into the flour and sugar as I go, then rub in with my fingertips) to create a breadcrumb texture, then press it into a well-buttered 20cm x 30cm rectangular tray. Do not compact the base too much, but do ensure it's sufficiently firm.
  • Bake for 20 mins or until golden brown
  • For the toffee layer, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently. I find now that it really helps to break down the sugar with your fingers first, an open packet of sugar can get very compacted, so it's worth sifting through with your fingers and breaking down the lumps. If little lumps get in and don't dissolve in, don't worry; this has often happened to me and it's fine. Stir continuously for 6 or 7 minutes or until it deepens in colour and becomes thick enough to spread with a knife - I find about 10 mins usually better, or even more (make sure to keep an eye that it doesn't burn, esp if not using a non-stick pan, keep stirring!)
  • Remove from the heat and pour onto the pastry base, using a knife to spread it out evenly
  • Cool for 20 minutes
  • Melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water (I used left over easter eggs this week!). Once melted, pour on top of the toffee layer and smooth with a knife or spatula
  • Harden the result in the fridge before cutting into biscuits - they will remain fresh in an airtight container for up to a week (or so I'm told, mine have never lasted that long!)
  • Also, they are a great thing to make on a Saturday (oh yeah, that’s today!) for a treat. Just remember that the toffee layer contains a lot of sugar and that gets extremely hot, so keep your budding-DinnerLadies out of the way for that part, you don’t want sugar burns.
Now I'm off for another Saturday treat - brunch with toasted bagels, cream cheese and crispy rashers, and the excellent coffee from LovePasta

*PS – no news yet on the interview, but I’m not holding my breath, I just didn’t get the “vibe”


15th March, 2013 - a quick edit, just to say, I tend now to use 150g chocolate for the choc topping layer, as my tin is quite large so 100g was a bit skimpy. I also usually make this up of 125g milk chocolate and about 25g (only 2 large squares) of dark, dark 70% (or more!) chocolate, just to give it a bit of depth and take the cloyingly sweet edge off the chocolate. I thought of this now, as I've just but a batch in the fridge to set, ready for a birthday party tomorrow!

24th June, 2014 - another note; just to say I've added a couple of notes above as well. The more I make these, like with any recipe, the more I get used to it and I notice there are a few things I do now, that I thought I'd share. So the notes above about breaking down the sugar and how long to cook the toffee are "new". I also usually use a mix of dark and milk chocolate now, to reduce the cloyingly sweet element a little. Usually 100g milk chocolate and 50g of dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids, or more).
And no matter if there is burnt toffee at the bottom of a the pan, a good long soak in water does all the donkey work for you, it should come off easily enough.


  1. Funnily enough my Mam used to make this (four trays a year, one of each of our birthdays) and it was always pastry she used. When I discovered in recent years the 'shortcake' version I assumed she'd used the pastry due to budgetary restraints - I now see she was simply 'ahead' of her time! Well done Mammy...

  2. Well done your Mam, way ahead of the curve! They are lovely and in the couple of months since I got the recipe from the Sunday Times, I've made them about 6 times, I'm way too greedy!

  3. Thanks thanks...can't wait to try them....your batch went down a treat!