In England, where I started my 3-week Europe trip, I was stunned by the sheer variety of food that I encountered. Okay, so maybe the fish-‘n-chips and beer British stereotype I had always entertained wasn’t exactly a fair one–though they do like their beer–but I wasn’t ready for the amount of GOOD STUFF I inhaled during my 6 days around Kent, London, Oxford, Cambridge, and York. From tea time scones & jam to gratins and savory pies, there simply was no shortage of perfect nibbles to fuel our packed daily schedules.
By far my favorite eateries to visit were the pastry and bread shops. There’s something infinitely comforting about the smell of freshly baked goods wafting in the air as you peruse shelves with strange, quaintly British names like “Bakewell Tart” and “Eton Mess” scribbled underneath them. Even familiar-looking desserts had unfamiliar names: biscuits for shortbreads, knickerbocker glory for a particular type of ice cream sundae, and puddings for desserts in general.
Though I didn’t encounter this particular dessert in the UK until we arrived in Edinburgh after our England tour, the Millionaire’s Shortbread–or what most online recipes would just call Millionaire Bar–was one of those known-yet-unknown foods that I felt I was meeting for the first time halfway across the world. We were at the Edinburgh Castle whiskey gift shop, where we had just finished sampling two extremely disappointing creme-flavored whiskeys, when I spotted these little gems sitting on a white tray next to the castle-themed hip flasks: just a scant layer of caramel sandwiched between an even scantier layer of chocolate on top and a hefty, THICK slab of shortbread on the bottom. The caramel and chocolate looked thinner than the woefully optimistic sundresses and cardigans that I had brought with me to the freezing, wet city.
The boy (who, by the way, is originally from England) came over and laughed when I expressed my surprise at these Frankensteinian versions. What happened to the caramel? The chocolate? The good stuff? He explained that in the UK, the right way of making Millionaire’s Shortbread is with an emphasis on the shortbread–you know, that stuff that the British are really, really good at making. Having tried shortbread in both England and Scotland, I wasn’t about to challenge that thought, and instead immediately scribbled down a recipe in my notebook to try when I got back home from my trip.
While this recipe is still a
LOT bit heavy on the caramel (okay, I couldn’t resist! I love caramel, and you know you do too), it’s the perfect bar in my book. With buttery shortbread, rich caramel, and smooth chocolate, this dessert is so simple and classy to make–just make sure you leave yourself ample time to whip together each of the layers and refrigerate them properly, because I got impatient to eat after the first hour and the result was much gooier caramel than I wanted, though it was damn delicious anyway. (Exhibit A: the photos taken with the adorable blue Cath Kidston London kitchen towel I bought in England feature gooey, pre-refrigeration bars; photos taken against purely white background are post-refrigeration, and much prettier to eat IRL, even if the photos were much more rushed!)
I’m still recovering from my post-travel busywork/catch-up–plus a lovely long weekend visit from a good friend!–but I’m glad to be having so much quality time in the kitchen again. More trip posts and Europe-inspired recipes coming this week!
What recipes have you been inspired to try based on your travels?