This time last year I was in Edinburgh, one of my favorite places on Earth. I arrived a couple of days before my tour to the Shetland Islands for Up Helly Aa (the Viking fire festival, which I strongly encourage you to attend sometime) and it just happened that I was there for Burns Night.
Burns Night is held to commemorate the birthday of Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns. Burns suppers are held all over the world and usually involve nips, tatties and haggis, and it seemed that all of Edinburgh was out celebrating while I was there.
I joined a friend for drinks at the Royal Oak and we listened to some local musicians while I chatted with some university students who were all dressed up in period costume for a supper they were going to. Then we had some more drinks at the Rabbie Burns pub on the Royal Mile. It just seemed appropriate.
I didn’t get any haggis, which was alright by me, but I did have some whiskey. And by “some” I mean the smallest of sips that burned the whole way down and made me swear the stuff off forever, or at least until I saw my first Viking.
Vikings are awesome.
To commemorate that trip I decided to make Millionaire’s Shortbread, a dessert that I first tried in Edinburgh at the Elephant House (where J.K. Rowling did a bit of writing about a boy wizard). I’ve made shortbread before, and adding layers of caramel and chocolate isn’t too difficult. It’s delicious with a cup of tea, but would probably go nicely with whiskey as well, if that’s your thing.
I started with this recipe from food.com, but it makes two 8×8 pans and I didn’t really need that much. My coworkers have been finicky lately, cutting even small brownies into half and sometimes half again. And then coming back for the halves they left behind, but I try not to point this out to them.
I cut the recipe in half and it worked just fine. Well, up until the part where I didn’t cut the chocolate in half and wound up with a too-thick layer of it on top, but is that really a problem? No, didn’t think so. It was harder to cut, but I managed.
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (and a little more for greasing pans)
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (and a little more for preparing pans)
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 can (14oz) dulce de leche
- 6 oz. milk chocolate chips (or use the whole bag if you really like a lot of chocolate)
If you’ve never made shortbread before, don’t panic that your dough looks crumbly, like it’s never going to hold together:
Make a fist and press it all down and it will be fine. Try to get it as flat and even as possible, so that it’s not thick in the middle of the pan and thin around the edges:
Bake for 20 minutes, then take it out and let it cool before adding the next layer.
Now, if you’re doing some weekend baking and want to take your time with every step, go ahead and make your caramel from scratch. But if like me you’re baking on a Thursday night for coworkers who won’t notice the difference, just use a can of dulce de leche. It’s still delicious and oh-so-much faster. I’ve found it at a couple of grocery stores with the Mexican food. You can also get these awesome tins of guava paste, but that’s for another recipe on another day.
Next, melt your chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and spread it over the caramel:
Let it cool about 10 minutes and then put it in the fridge to fully cool the chocolate. After about 30 minutes you should be able to get a knife through the chocolate, but if it’s still runny then let it cool a little longer. Cut into slices and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it.
And that’s it! Now just print out some pictures of Robbie Burns (because baking should be educational for everyone) and practice your Scottish accent. And if you’re really ambitious, get your hands on some Irn Bru (Scotland’s favorite soda) and make Irn Bru cupcakes.
Here are some more Burns Night resources if you really want to make a show of it:
- “Address to a Haggis”, the poem that’s traditionally read at a Burns Supper, can be printed out here: activityvillage.co.uk.
- You can read more about Robert Burns at Scotland’s official site about Burns Night.
O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,