One of the most popular desserts I’ve ever made in a restaurant was a copycat candy bar.
People loved the novelty of eating a handmade treat that most people will only see wrapped in name-brand factory plastic. This dessert is sometimes known as a “millionaire bar,” but it’s more commonly known by a name that starts with a “T” and ends with an “X.”
These chewy bars are made of three layers: the bottom is shortbread cookie, the middle is rich caramel and the top and outer coating is sweet chocolate. The process is time-consuming and is not ideal for novice cooks, but if you’re up for a challenge, I encourage you to try for your next potluck or large gathering.
This recipe makes a full 9-by-3 tray of extremely rich sweets, so save it for a party.
For the shortbread:
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups butter
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the caramel:
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
For the chocolate ganache:
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup heavy cream
Line a 9-by-13 baking pan with parchment and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Make the shortbread first.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough is crumbly.
Press down into the bottom of your baking pan. Use a spatula to make it as flat as possible.
Use a fork to poke many holes all over the crust.
Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes. It should rise a little but should not brown on top.
Immediately after removing from the oven, use a spatula to press the hot shortbread down. You want the bread to be as compact as possible to help it hold its shape and not crumble in the finished product.
Allow to cool completely before continuing.
Make the caramel by combining all ingredients except the vanilla in a medium saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat and hold it there, stirring constantly. You will need to baby-sit this, so don’t start unless you are able to give it your full attention.
The caramel will need to cook until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. If you’re using a candy thermometer (which I recommend) the temperature should reach 235 degrees.
When the caramel is done, quickly stir in the vanilla extract and pour over the room temperature shortbread.
Use an offset spatula to smooth the caramel into an even layer, then transfer uncovered into the refrigerator to set. You might want to add extra salt to the top of the caramel layer at this stage for a more sophisticated flavor. Allow it to chill for 1 hour before continuing.
Make the chocolate topping by combining the cream and chocolate chips in a bowl and set over a double boiler. Stir occasionally just until the chocolate has melted, and the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
Take off the heat and add in the vanilla.
Pour over the chilled caramel and use an offset spatula to smooth the chocolate over. Try to make it as flat and smooth as possible for the prettiest candy bars.
Return to the refrigerator and let chill 1 more hour before cutting.
Remove the candy from the pan and place on a cutting board with the long side facing you.
Use a ruler to cut 1-inch bars, trim the edges so they are straight, and cut those bars in half. If you are feeling extra fancy, you could place the bars on a rack with space in between, make a second batch of ganache, and pour that chocolate over the bars to cover the sides. I didn’t bother. Keep refrigerated.