Vegan Millionaire’s Shortbread

Also known as “caramel shortbread” or “caramel square” or even in some cases “homemade twix”, this is usually very non vegan. But oh so good. Melt in your mouth shortbread, creamy caramel, and a chocolate topping? Mmm. I decided to make a vegan version of this delicious treat.

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The most difficult part, I figured, would be the caramel. There are some vegan recipes for millionaire’s shortbread out there, but a lot of them use either peanut butter, coconut milk, or dates. Peanut butter and coconut milk are too strongly flavoured for me, and dates…well, they’re alright for a fruit, but they aren’t caramel.

So I decided just to go with vegan butter (I used Pure), sugar, golden syrup, and some almond milk, and see how it worked. And it worked perfectly! I did use a sugar thermometer (you can usually get these fairly cheaply now) but I think you could make it work without one.

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First however, I made the shortbread. This is a simple shortbread recipe, and I used Stork margarine in the foil. The one in the foil is vegan – but avoid the one in the tub as it’s not! (thanks veganoo.net!) If you’re not in the UK, try to use a “solid” type, more like butter than spread. I pressed the dough it into my tin (this is a 9×13 dish) and baked until golden brown.

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Next step was to make the caramel. This is basically melting the vegan butter with the sugars, golden syrup (if you’re not able to get this you could use corn syrup), and vegan milk. Once melted, hands off, and leave until it reaches 115C/240F. This is the “soft ball” stage in sugar making, where the hot mixture will, if dropped into a cup of cold water, form a soft ball without breaking apart. You can do this without a thermometer by periodically testing small amounts of the mixture – use a cup of very cold water (put ice in if you like) and drop a bit in. If you can pick it up with your fingers and squeeze it around, it’s good to go!

Once the caramel is at the right temperature, you have to stir, off the heat,  for 10-15 minutes, non stop. This helps it thicken as it cools and stops it from being too runny or chewy. Yes, it takes a while and your arm will ache – play some nice music or have something to read while you do it!

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Next was the chocolate. After I made the caramel, poured it over the shortbread, and allowed it to cool, I melted vegan chocolate (mine is from Lidl but you can use whatever chocolate you prefer) and spread it on top. You don’t need a very thick layer of chocolate – it gets hard to cut if you do. Then, I just left the whole thing to cool before cutting it into squares!

Vegan Millionaire's Shortbread

  • Servings: Makes 30 shortbreads
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Ingredients

    For the Shortbread
  • 150g vegan butter, softened
  • 80g sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 225g plain flour
  • 35g cornflour/cornstarch
  • pinch salt
  • For the Caramel

  • 180g vegan butter
  • 200g golden syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 180g brown sugar
  • 100g white sugar
  • 150ml vegan milk (I used almond but any would work)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • For the Chocolate

  • 200g dark chocolate

Directions

    Preheat the Oven to 170C/340F
  1. First make the shortbread. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the vanilla.
  2. Mix in the flour, salt and cornflour. The mixture will be stiff and crumbly but that’s right. Use your hands to mix rather than a spoon if you need!
  3. Press the mixture into a lined tin. Mine is 9×13 size. Try to make it evenly spread so it bakes at the right speed.
  4. Place the tin in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the shortbread is beginning to go golden brown on top. Leave to cool in the tin.
  5. Next, make the caramel. In a large saucepan, add all the caramel ingredients except the salt and vanilla.
  6. Put the saucepan over a low heat and allow the sugars to dissolve and the butter to melt.
  7. Once everything is dissolved, stop stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Let it heat until it reaches 115C/240F. (If you don’t have a thermometer, see the instructions above)
  8. When the mixture reaches temperature, remove it from the heat and quickly add the vanilla and salt. Stir.
  9. Stir the mixture off the heat with a wooden spoon for 10-15 minutes, until it thickens significantly.
  10. Pour the caramel over the cooled shortbread and spread evenly. Put in the fridge to cool.
  11. Once cooled, begin the chocolate layer. Melt your chocolate (I used the microwave) and spread it over the cooled caramel layer. Again, put in the fridge and leave to cool.
  12. Finally, once everything is cool, remove it all from the tin and slice it into squares. Let it warm to room temperature before cutting if you like – this helps the chocolate on top not crack under the pressure of the knife.

Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 3.

So, here goes the final episode in our holiday to Gloucestershire.

The day after our Cotswold’s walk, we decided to venture a bit further from our base, and head down to Wales. Cardiff, to be specific. A long time ago when we were dating, we had a holiday near Swansea but neither of us have ever been to Cardiff before and it seemed like a good place to visit.

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The day was a little grey and chilly, but we walked through Bute Park, which contains the walls of the castle. We didn’t go in the castle as it was quite dear, but we saw the outside at least! After getting a bit cold, we headed inside to the National Museum, which had a lot of art exhibits including a very harrowing one on Mametz Wood, the battle in the First World War. It’s free to enter, so if you are going to be in the area, definitely pay it a visit.

 

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For lunch, we headed to the Cafe Atma in the centre of Cardiff. An all vegetarian, egg free cafe, almost all the menu items can be made vegan (and they’ll let you know too!). I don’t usually order curry when I’m out – probably because I figure I can make curry myself – but this looked too good to pass on – and it was amazing! Mild in heat but not in flavour, I had a chana dhal and a peanut butter subzi, with puri, cauliflower pakora, and rice. It was lovely! And the drink you can see in the background – strawberry & blackcurrant – was also very tasty.

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The next day – our final day – we went on a last walk around Gloucester before we checked out of the hotel. Fresh and early in the morning, the docks were absolutely beautiful. We also got to have a look inside the cathedral too, where the organist was playing some warming up music.

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We then headed to Cheltenham, where we found there was a farmers market going on with not one, but two stalls with vegan options! First was the Veggie Deli where we bought a polenta bake to eat for lunch, and then we came across Flamingo’s Vegan Bakery, which was a lovely stall! They had millionaire’s shortbread and I had a nice chat with the owners about how they make their caramel (they condense their own soy milk! That’s more work than I can put in!) and of course I had to buy some to sample. I also got the pictured wonderful chocolate and peanut butter cookie sandwich. I am not sure I’ve ever had a cookie sandwich before (unless you count Jammy Dodgers and Bourbons) but this was delicious.

Finally, we headed home – and were quickly greeted by the neighbour’s cat, who seemed to have missed us!

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Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 2.

After our day in Bath, we decided to head to the nearby Bristol. The two cities are less than fifteen miles from each other, and we’d originally planned to visit them both on the same day. We soon realised though that since Bath had such a wealth of places to visit, we just wouldn’t have time! So, two separate days it was.

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But first off, we headed for the seaside! Portishead is a town just a little outside of Bristol and although it doesn’t really have a “beach” exactly, it’s still a beautiful little place with some very enviable houses!

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Next onto Bristol itself, where we prepared to explore and shop. We came across St Peter’s Church in the city centre Castle Park, an old church – possibly the oldest in Bristol – which was bombed in World War II after being used as a hospital, and is now preserved as a memorial, with lovely gardens growing herbs and useful plants.

 

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We then went on to have lunch at VX Bristol. Describing itself as “Vegan Junk Food”, it has a little shop selling vegan essentials and more – loads of mock-meats and cheeses – but also a restaurant where you can get some great food. I had the “Philly”, which is a burger and cheese in a cob, grilled! Like a toastie! The cheese went all melty and delicious. Greg had a regular burger which he said was delicious too. We also got cakes to take away (we were too full to eat dessert immediately) and they were lovely but no photos as they did get a little squished on our way back!

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Finally, we paid a visit to the cathedral in Bristol. A beautiful cathedral and mostly empty by the time we got there, it also has some lovely well-maintained gardens which we visited.

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The next day we went on a walk in the Cotswold’s. We followed a walking guide from the National Trail website, taking us along part of the Cotswold Way and through the beautiful villages of Stanton and Snowshill.

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We walked up some enormous hills, but were rewarded by some stunning views of the countryside around us. Apparently from some parts of the walk you can even see into Wales, but we weren’t quite sure!

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We packed a lunch with us – cobs with some “lunchmeat” style slices I made and salad and crisps! Good food for being out walking. We’ve done a few of the walks from the National Trail website and I’d highly recommend them.

We were exhausted when we got home from the walk and stayed in the hotel again (watching Olympics once more!), ready for the next day out, which I will post soon in Part 3!

Gloucestershire Holiday, Part 1.

This past week, we have been holidaying in the Gloucestershire/South West area. We spent five nights in a hotel in Gloucester (complete with a fridge and a microwave – essential for vegans!) and travelled to various places nearby. As always, we took a whole lot of pictures of the area and the food, some of which I’ll share in this post!

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The city of Gloucester is itself quite beautiful, and on our first evening we went for a walk in the sun. We found the cathedral – which was at the time closed due to it being quite late (ah, the deceptively bright British summer evenings!) – but from the outside it was still an awe inspiring sight.

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We walked down by the docks which were very windy and full of seagulls – but again full of lovely sites. Pictured above is the Johanna Lucretia, which starred in the film Amazing Grace (about William Wilberforce and his campaign to end the slave trade). The docks were surprisingly quiet and it was a lovely walk.

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On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by the pizza place Fat Toni’s. They offer vegan cheese on all of their pizzas at no extra cost – which is wonderful news! We decided to try it out, along with a pot of their vegan pesto dip. They also offer vegan ice cream, but it was a rather large tub and with no freezer to store it in we had to pass! I had the “La Franca” pizza, with artichokes, garlic, tomatoes. It was delicious and so good to have a pizza with vegan cheese readily available!

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After a good sleep in the hotel, the next day we decided to have a day out in Bath, since it was only slightly over an hours journey from our base in Gloucester – and having recently graduated with a history degree (and a slight focus on ancient history) I was eager to see the city!

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Bath Abbey is simply stunning, and it’s well worth having a look inside (free entry!) – pay attention to the great windows at the west and east – one depicting Old Testament stories and the other depicting scenes from the life of Jesus. They are very impressive!

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Next we walked up a very very big hill (seriously an endless amount of steps) to Alexandra Park, where we were rewarded with this amazing view of the city. It’s hard to get an idea from photos of the view, but you could see the whole city and beyond – it was well worth the walk.

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I didn’t manage to take a picture of lunch – which was a tempeh wrap from Harvest – but I did get a photo of this lovely drink I had – I love rhubarb and this had a wonderful rhubarby taste to it! We bought our lunch to take away and ate it in the Parade Gardens in the centre of Bath, alongside the river Avon. The gardens do have a small entrance fee (£1.50 per adult) but since our lunch was fairly cheap we decided to pay for the privilege of being able to sit down and eat!

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Finally, we went to the Roman Baths. These are not cheap – a £15.50 entry fee per adult (though I got a slight discount with my student card!) but if you can, they’re well worth it. It seems like they’re going to be packed, and to be honest they are pretty busy, but it isn’t a bad thing. In fact, being busy it kind of forces you to take time to look at the exhibits and appreciate them. Do take one of the audio guides – there are some fantastic commentries by Bill Bryson along the route!

At the end of the day, we were tired and didn’t fancy eating out and so just had food in the hotel room whilst we watched the Olympics – but that was good enough for us! Having a microwave and a fridge made that easy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the holiday, coming soon!