Millionaire Bars

I'm a pretty big fan of Twix candy bars, so when I came across this recipe and read that it tasted like a grown-up version of a Twix, I had to try it. There are three steps to making the Millionaire Bar - supposedly named so because of their richness - but each step is quite easy. If you can make cookies, stir milk in a pot, and melt chocolate without disaster, you can make these bars.

Millionaire Bars (adapted from Joy of Cooking):

Shortbread Crust:

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350* and lightly grease a 9 x 9 baking pan.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla and salt. Stir in the flour just until the dough begins to come together in walnut-sized chunks. Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely. Begin the filling as soon as the crust goes into the oven.

Caramel Filling:

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring often, 60-90 minutes, until golden brown. Alternately, cook the caramel in a double boiler, covered, stirring occasionally (every 15 minutes or so). The only difference in the methods is the amount of attention given the caramel and the tools needed. When thick and deep golden, spread caramel evenly over cooled crust and refrigerate until caramel is cool and set.

Chocolate Topping

6 ounces good-quality dark or semi-sweet chocolate (I use Guittard)
1 Tablespoon butter
Coarse sea salt (optional)

Melt the chocolate and butter slowly over low heat and spread over the cooled caramel layer. Sprinkle sea salt over the chocolate. Refrigerate until set. Slice and enjoy. Store the bars, covered, in the fridge.

Are they as good as Twix bars? Oh, yeah. Better. Much better. I was wary using the canned milk as the base for the caramel, since I normally would make my own with butter and sugar, but there was no off or tinny flavor at all. And although the sea salt is optional, I wouldn't make these without it. I think the salt brings out the flavor of both the caramel and the chocolate and provides a lovely counterpoint to the crumbly shortbread.