Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars

Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child

Two things inspired this confection: an episode of Great British Baking Show featuring millionaire bars and one of Frankie & Jo's fall ice cream from last year: All The Trees. Think of millionaire bars as a homemade twix. Typically they are made of a shortbread layer, a caramel layer, and a thin layer of chocolate on top. They are very rich and decadent and also much more upscale than a simple shortbread, and thus the name millionaire bar comes into play. As for how this treat relates to plant-based ice cream: I was so inspired by the F&J flavor All The Trees from last September which contained flavors of bay leaf and pecan. I loved the idea of that combination and I especially loved the idea of incorporating bay leaves into a dessert.

I think the bay leaf can be a bit underrated. Sure, you toss a few in the occasional soup or braise, but are they really doing anything? Yes! Their flavor is definitely subtle but it’s there. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tested the caramel with how pronounced the flavor really is and how it really compliments the caramel. Bay is very aromatic and almost minty with earthy notes akin to oregano or even pine and has a pleasant bitterness that helps to bring a little balance to the sweet caramel. And the addition of crispy, nutty pecans is perfect in the shortbread. These are not too hard to make and I used Cook’s Illustrated genius method for making the caramel. Normally, this task can be a bit daunting but the combination of sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream helps ensure your caramel will not break and will have the perfect, chewy texture when complete. These are fun to make and even more fun share and bring to a party! They keep well for several days, too. I hope you give them a try!


Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars

makes 18 bars

crust
2 c all purpose flour
3 T cornstarch
1/2 c pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 c organic granulated cane sugar
1/2 t Himalayan pink salt
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

caramel
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2 c golden syrup (could also use corn syrup)
1/2 c unsalted butter (1 stick), cubed
1/2 t Himalayan pink salt
6 large dried bay leaves

topping
6 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped and divided
18 pecan halves, toasted
flaky salt, such as Jacobsen’s

make the crust
Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with parchment leaving about an inch overhang on either side.  We'll use these wings to easily lift the bars out later.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and pecans then stir in the butter with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a thick dough is formed.  Press the dough evenly in the bottom of the baking pan with your hands, pressing it all the way to the edges and in the corners.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until dark golden brown. Allow to cool while you make the caramel.

make the caramel
Add all the caramel ingredients including the bay leaves to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over medium heat until temperature reaches 236 F, stirring frequently. This may take a while (it took me about 15 minutes) so be patient. Once the caramel is finished, remove the bay leaves with a fork or tongs and discard. Pour filling over cooled crust and allow to set completely before topping with chocolate, about 1 hour.

assemble
Create a double boiler by filling a small saucepan with a few inches of water and placing a bowl slightly larger than the pot over top, being sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Turn the heat on to medium heat and add in about 4 ounces of the chopped chocolate, reserving the rest. Stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted, turning the heat down if necessary so that the water doesn’t boil. Remove from heat and add in the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate and stir to melt. This is a simple way to temper the chocolate so it sets up nicely later. Pour the chocolate over the set caramel layer. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate out evenly in a thin layer. Top with sliced pecan halves and sprinkle with flaky salt. Allow to set completely then lift bars out of pan using the parchment and using a serrated knife, slice into 18 even bars. Enjoy!

caramel layer recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated


Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child
Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child
Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child
Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child
Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child
Bay Leaf + Pecan Millionaire Shortbread Bars | All Purpose Flour Child