GBBO Bake – Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread

I am obsessed with the Great British Bake Off. Like, so obsessed I’ve probably watched each episode of EACH season about 12 times. And as a baker myself, I find what they create so inspiring.

A while ago my friend Barbara and her son made the Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread desserts that Sophie made on season 8. She didn’t make them as individual rounds like Sophie did (she needed them to be patissere window quality, while any normal person does not), but she did tell me that they were “something special.”

I found the recipe and converted the grams to ounces so that this American cook could attempt it. And then I let it sit. For ages.

Until yesterday. I just really needed to bake. I needed something that could be fussy and take my mind off of the enormous amount of stress that I’m dealing with right now and yet have a really delicious pay-off. I didn’t want to waste my time and then have more stress because one of my bakes failed (yet again. someday I will tell you all about the Yorkshire Pudding Incident. Actually that could be a great band name. Dibs!)

Anyway, I decided to make the actual fussy, individual, cylinder-shaped Millionaire Jaffa Shortbread.

I’d never heard of millionaire shortbread before this episode. It turns out it’s like a Twix candy bar. Shortbread base, caramel layer, and chocolate on top. Usually these are made in a pan and just sliced into squares and served. Twix is my favorite candy bar ever and so I was pretty excited to find out that I could actually make these in my home!

I’d also never heard of Jaffa Cakes before GBBO. (The J in Jaffa is capitalized because it refers to a particular type of orange.) It was a technical challenge in Season 4, episode 1. The base is a sort of a yellow cake and is topped by a small dish of orange jelly and covered with tempered chocolate.

This particular recipe combines the orange of the Jaffa cakes with the shortbread and caramel goodness of the millionaire shortbread.

It also calls for a tempered chocolate disk, but I skipped that part because I just decided not to do it.

Here we go…

Sophie’s Millionaire’s Jaffa Shortbread

For the Shortbread
3.5 oz cornstarch
3.5 oz powdered sugar
5.6 oz flour
7 oz butter, chilled and diced (but I found that I needed the full cup of butter because American butter doesn’t have as much fat as the European butter)
1 tsp vanilla
the finely grated zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a food processor, pulse together the cornstarch, powdered sugar, and flour to blend. Then add the butter, vanilla, and orange zest and turn the processor on until it all comes together in a sort of ball.

(I started with the 7 ounces of butter and forgot the zest, but the dough wouldn’t come together and it was a pale crumbly mass that fell apart like beach sand when I tried to get this crap to come together as a dough. In desperation I put it all back in my processor, added the last tablespoon of butter and then the zest and it came together like a dream. And the zest gave the dough a really lovely light orange color, too.)

Dump it out of the processor and onto a baking sheet covered with a Silpat or parchment paper. I suggest rolling it out from here. I think I rolled mine out way to thin. It should be twice that thickness so the layers are all equal. Live and learn. If you are NOT crazy like me and cutting these into individual rounds you can press this into an 8-inch square pan lined with parchment paper.

Dock with a fork so the dough doesn’t puff up and chill for 15 minutes. Then bake for 17 – 20 or until a pale golden color.

If you are cutting them out, use a cutter that is 6cm across and do it while they are warm. They will cut much more smoothly. Use a spatula or pancake turner to scoop them out and then place them on a clean cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Take some acetate sheets and cut them into strips of 22cm long by 4 cm wide. Wrap them tightly around the base of the shortbread and secure the edges of the acetate with tape. The tighter the better as the caramel will leak down, as you will see. Set them aside for later.  (You can do this set while you wait for the caramel to cool.)

Salted Caramel

4 oz (1 stick) butter
125 ml heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
7 oz sugar
50 ml water

In a small saucepan, slowly heat the butter, salt, and the cream together until it is almost boiling.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat the sugar and the water together on medium heat until the sugar is melted. Then increase the heat to med-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil it until it turns from clear to a lovely light brown sugar color. Careful not to let it get too brown or it will taste burnt!

Remove the pan from the heat and very carefully add the hot cream and butter – pouring in a steady stream.

Warning! This will bubble, foam, and spit! You will burn yourself if you are not careful!

Put the pan back onto the heat and bring the temperature up to 230F/110C on a sugar thermometer. Cool the caramel to between 95F to 105F (35-40C). This will take at least 20 minutes and the caramel will thicken and look a little greasy. Once it is cool measure out 2T for each shortbread round and pour into your acetate molds.

Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Orange Chocolate Ganache

300 ml orange juice (I used the juice of the orange I grated the zest off of and then used store bought juice to make up the rest. If you can’t find a Jaffa orange grown on the hillside of Jerusalem, watered by the Jordan River, and picked by the descendants of Egyptian pharaohs, store bought is fine.)
2.6 oz dark chocolate
2.6 oz milk chocolate
2.6 oz heavy cream

In a small saucepan, bring the orange juice to boiling and keep it boiling until it is reduced in volume to about 1/4 cup or 50ml. This will take about 20 minutes, but watch it because once you are near the end it can burn quite easily. (Ask me how I know!) Set it aside while you work on your ganache.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine them in a heat-proof bowl (I use metal or a Pyrex measuring cup). Heat the cream to the boiling point and then pour it over the chocolate. Let them sit together for 30 seconds and and then stir them together until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is very smooth.

Add the orange syrup you made and stir together well.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of the ganache over each layer of caramel.

Let this chill for about 20 minutes. At this point you can follow the directions from Sophie and temper some chocolate to make disks for the top, but I preferred to save my energy for the eating.

Right before you serve them, gently peel off the acetate from the rounds. The caramel, being caramel, will stick, so I had to use a very sharp parring knife to peel them away from the acetate. But here are the results!

They were gorgeous to eat! The orange in the ganache really packs a wallop of flavor. It’s almost overwhelming it’s so much orange. And the bitterness of the dark chocolate helps to cut the sweetness of the caramel really nicely. The shortbread has a nice subtle orange flavor and my oldest wanted to eat all my off-cuts. The ganache has a nice shine to it so you could get away with not having a chocolate disk on top.

You do want to keep these refrigerated as the caramel will start to loose it’s shape and bow out in the middle. But they would be lovely as a sweet treat at a small gathering with friends or as a special dessert for a larger party.

I had fun making them. I know I said they were fussy, but it was really just because of all the steps. If you have the time they are fun to make and even better to eat!

Strawberry Muffins

My boys love strawberries. Nothing delights them more than when strawberry season is in full swing and we can go berry picking.  For several days now the youngest has been asking for strawberry muffins. He’s gotten tired of the usual blueberry, my slam bang cinnamon muffins “aren’t spring muffins, Mommy,” and the chocolate chip variety is, shockingly, starting to lose its luster as well.

“But I don’t have a strawberry muffin recipe,” I said.

“Make one up!”

So I did.

I took a variety of fruit muffin recipes and figured out what they had in common that made them work. Then I road tested my own version with strawberries.  The results were amazing. A fluffy, moist, delicate crumb loaded with punchinthemouth strawberry flavor. And I used only fresh strawberries! No extracts or jams!

So, here we go…

Strawberry Muffins

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup butter)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or a packet (1 Tbs) of vanilla sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 & 1/2 cups diced strawberries, fresh only, coated in 1 T flour

Preheat the oven to 375F/180C (170C if you have a fan oven setting). Line a muffin tin with paper liners. I don’t recommend buttering or spraying the tin instead of using the liners. These have a tendency to stick because of the strawberries and you will cry.

First cream the oil and sugar together. [Butter is fine as a replacement, but be aware that you won’t get the rise I did. And don’t add more baking powder because you will end up with a metallic aftertaste.]

Add the eggs, one at a time, blending very well between each. Then add the vanilla and cream it all together.

Add the baking powder and salt and give them a quick stir to incorporate them just a bit into the butter/sugar/eggs. Then add the flour and mix very well. As soon as it starts getting too thick to stir add the heavy cream.  Blend it together until just smooth. Mixing it too much will cause the gluten in the flour to activate and the muffins will be tough.

Add the flour-coated strawberries and fold them carefully into the muffin mix until evenly distributed. The flour will keep them from sinking to the bottom as the bake.

This batter will be thick. Do not panic and do not add more cream.  The strawberries will release more liquid into the batter as they cook. If you add more liquid they will just fall apart when you unwrap them. Again, you will cry.

Fill the muffin tins to a generous 3/4 of the way full and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the muffin comes out clean.

Once done remove them from the tins and cool on a rack.

These are so delicious. They are almost into cupcake territory with how good they are. And like all muffins they are best enjoyed at all times of the day.

Today the boys are getting them as a snack. I hope they are as delighted with them as I was. Let me tell you, there won’t be leftovers.

Mrs. Winters’s Snickerdoodle Cookies

Snickerdoodles. The cookie with the name that is just as fun to say as it is to eat. It’s a cookie of every Iowan’s childhood.

Today it is supposed to be spring. Yet, it is 50 degrees outside and rainy and crap-tastic. There is only one remedy and it is the snickerdoodle.

When you bake a snickerdoodle it brings the smell of cinnamon and coziness into your home. It automatically pushes out clouds and rain and brings in sunshine.

So today this is a mandatory cookie baking and is, therefore, almost calorie free. I’m saving lives, people.

So, from the 1978 Cowbelles are Cookin’ cookbook I give you Mrs. Gladys Winters’s recipe for Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening or butter
  • 1&1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2&3/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Beat in the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt and mix well.


If it hot outside chill the dough for about an hour. If it’s cold out, like today, skip the chilling and form them into 1-inch balls. Roll them in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  Place them about 2-inches apart on a greased cookie sheet of on one of those neat Silpat mats like I have.

Bake at 400F (200C) for 12-15 minutes or until set.

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And enjoy!! They are crisp on the outside with a bit of chew on the inside with a lovely hint of cinnamon.

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Sweet Bretzels: The cookie that almost beat me

By now all of you know how much I love to bake. It’s calming and therapeutic for me to cream together butter and sugar with eggs and then mix in flour to form any number of cookies or cakes. I get it from my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. My DNA isn’t pairs of ATGC like normal people, it’s BSEF (butter, sugar, eggs, flour).

As you also many have realized we’ve been traveling a bunch and I haven’t have time to bake as much as I have wanted.  This week I found myself pining for a hot oven and the smell of vanilla in the air.  It didn’t help that also this week I’ve been binge YouTubing The Great British Bake Off.  By the end of season 2 I felt compelled to bake a good Victoria sandwich cake and some kind of tea biscuit.  E wanted to help with the Victoria sandwich so that was going to have to wait until Sunday, but he showed no interested whatsoever in making a tea biscuit so I could make that myself.

I love to buy cookbooks, have the Epicurious and Food Network aps on my phone, and I surf recipe sites like other people surf for porn. My husband supports my habit and often brings me little cookbooks as souvenirs from the places he travels for work.  It was slightly prophetic, but 2 years ago he went to Stuttgart and brought me a book by Éric Zipper called Best Alsatian Recipes.

I don’t know if these the literally are the “best” recipes in all of Alsace, but the book has very typical and classic Alsatian recipes.  We tried many of these foods when I went to Ribeauville with the school’s Welcoming Committee and when we visited Colmar for the Winter Market in the Alsace region.  They are delicious and hearty eating.

There was one recipe in particular that had really interested me. The Sweet Bretzel.  Here in Switzerland the bretzel is what we call those big bready pretzels you can buy smothered with mustard from the pretzel cart in New York.  You can buy them from carts and stands here, too, and usually they come sliced and filled with a layer of butter or ham or salami for a great sandwich.  I’ve never seen a sweet bretzel before and I sort of wondered why.  Maybe it’s a Stuttgart thing?

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The picture from the book. They look so cool!

They look effortless! Neat little twists coated with cinnamon and sugar.  They looked like so much fun to make.  Frankly, I was very disappointed E and H didn’t want to help. I thought they would love the rolling out and twisting.  I guess I’d just have to do it myself.

Here is the recipe. It’s European and the measurements are by weight so break out those scales!

  • 1.1 lbs flour
  • 5.29 oz sugar
  • 7.05 oz butter, very soft
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk for an egg wash
  • sugar and cinnamon mixed together for sprinkling

Knead together the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs in a bowl.  Do not add more flour.

Roll the dough into long and thin ropes.  Cut them into pieces and bend them into the desired shape – pretzel, hearts, knots, whatever.  Put them onto a greased or parchment paper covered tray (I used a Silpat mat). Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.

Bake for 10-15 minutes at 300F.  Makes about 50.

See?  It looks totally simple!

But these biscuits are spawn of the devil.

The dough is very similar to a pie crust, except there is no water in the recipe. It’s only the really soft butter and the eggs that make it bind together. It feels sort of crumbly and like it’s not going to come together, but it does in the end. Sort of.

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Then I tore off chunks from the main dough ball and starting rolling them out like we used to roll snakes from play dough.

Here is where I started cursing under my breath.

The dough isn’t like play dough.  It has more substance so I needed to use some pressure to get it to start to spread out as I rolled it.  However, as I rolled the dough back and forth my hand heated the butter in the dough, causing it to melt.  The melting creates air pockets in the dough and as I rolled the snake back and forth the ends started to break apart.  I took off a bit and kept rolling, trying to get a nice 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch diameter tube, but the dough started to split down the middle of the tube and it all shredded apart in my hands.

I balled it back up and started rolling it out again, but it kept flying apart.  I had to ball it up and start over about 5 times.  10 minutes later I had a tube about 1/2 – 3/4-inch in diameter and it was pocked with holes.

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Then I tried to shape them into a classic pretzel shape.

After painstakingly rolling this pain-in-the-butt dough into a long rope it started to fall apart as I lifted it up and bent it around.  In the end I made a whopping 3 biscuits in a pretzel shape before I threw the dough again the wall with a resounding “GAAAAHH!!!!” and made comments upon the parentage of the flour and eggs.

Thank goodness the kids hadn’t wanted to help.  They would have a whole new vocabulary that I would need to explain to their teachers.

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2 of the 3 bretzel-shaped cookies. Keep this picture for posterity because you’ll never see this in my kitchen again.

After contemplation I decided that I could just leave them as tubes about 3-inches long and cleverly call them cigar-shaped.  It had “shaped” in the title and therefore was technically, and by definition, a real shape.

I had also decided I would bake only 1 batch of these damn cookies and chuck the rest of the dough into the bin.  I’ve never done that before.  I’m usually an “in for a penny, in for a pound” kind of person, but there there was no way on God’s green earth that I was going to roll more of those out.  No. Way.

On top of the finicky dough I had oven issues to contend with.  My oven is a bit odd in that it tends to be hotter than advertized and the times for different items vary an indeterminate amount.  This oven has given me banana bread that was burned on the top and raw in the bottom.  As I was only going to be baking one batch of these I couldn’t afford to have them burn, so I squatted by the oven and watched them bake like some kind of nut job.

They didn’t puff up very much and the only browning they did was courtesy of the egg wash so it was very hard to tell when they were done.  Even the sugar didn’t get hot enough to melt.  After 12 minutes of watching nothing happen I pulled them out and broke one open to test it.

The middle was sort of flaky and kind of a cross between a sugar cookie and pie crust.  They weren’t crunchy, but instead were sort of firm on the outside and soft on the inside.  They tasted buttery and sweet and the cinnamon added a nice zip to them.  I bitterly admitted they weren’t too bad.

Before I could chuck out the dough my youngest came to me and asked if I could take him to the ice cream man and get him a snack.  I was mildly offended he didn’t want to try a biscuit, but he had his own pocket money to spend and I needed the walk so I took him.  I told Mark to just leave the dough and stuff on the counter and I’d clean up when I got back.  I also told him to feel free to help himself and E to the biscuits on the counter, but I wasn’t sure they’d be very good.

It took H and I all of 10 minutes to walk to the ice cream man’s cart, buy his coconut and chocolate blended bar, and walk back.  When I approached the house I was greeted by E calling a hello from the terrace and asking if he could have more of the cookies “because I’ve only had 4.”

I got back into the kitchen and found only 3 biscuits out of 20 were left.  Mark said they were pretty good while E declared them “soooooooo gooooooooood” and “the best cookies ever.”

So, I made the rest of the batch, sighing the whole time.  A bit from how awkward the dough was and a bit from the suspicion that I was going to have to make these awful things regularly.

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By the end of the batch I had figured out a kind of trick.  I needed to alternate between rolling the dough about 3 times and gently squeezing it back together until it was the length and thickness I wanted.  After I figured that out the cigars didn’t take me too long to make.  I also decided cigars are where it’s at.  They will never be bretzel-shaped in my household again.

As I type this E is begging for some as a mid-morning snack because they are “just so good, I can’t help myself.”  I will admit I snitched some while he wasn’t looking to have with my second cup of coffee and they were really good.

I wonder how they taste with tea?  I guess I need to find out!

For science!