No sugar? No flour? – no worries, we have your back! Lockdown baking is the perfect situation to hone your creativity whilst scouring the supermarket aisles for those elusive baking ingredients; that’s how this recipe actually came about. Having made one version that was a bit like Twix a few weeks ago before our buckwheat flour ran out, I was requested to make it again this week. No buckwheat flour, gluten free flour, vanilla essence or soft brown sugar was to be had anywhere! Gasp!
I did buy, however, some caramel essence labelled natural and plenty of 70% dark chocolate. On arriving home, I inspected the cupboards for something I could turn into flour…I found that we had several likely candidates, the result of our last big shop in an Asian supermarket. That’s really our hot tip of the week- if you have an Asian supermarket nearby, go and check it out for different types of raw sugar like jaggery/ gour, shakkar (the dark Punjabi version is our favourite) and coconut sugar (because even Lidl will surely sell out of this eventually). You may also find desiccated coconut, sultanas, dried apricots and an abundance of different grain flours to help fulfil your baking desires. This recipe uses ragi (finger millet flour), some oats I ground finely and some fine cornmeal- note fine; unless you want to end up with something akin to builders’ sand, that is. The batch photographed here was made using Punjabi shakkar but coconut sugar as an alternative would work well too.
Notes: I used a 26x17x2.5cm tin lined with greaseproof paper; if you leave a little paper at the edges you can hold this to lift it out of the tin when cooled and set. This recipe is pretty easy to make, but you do need patience making the caramel and waiting for it to set. Because it’s such a concentrated slice of sweet yumminess I recommend cutting it into 16 portions. You can always go back for more 😉
First pre- heat your oven to 200C and prepare your tin.
190g ragi (finger millet) flour
95g fine cornmeal
95g fine oatmeal (it’s easy to grind this yourself)
150g Punjabi shakkar/ demerara sugar/ coconut sugar
1/2 tsp seasalt
3/4 cup (about 190 ml) melted coconut oil
water to mix, if needed
- Mix together the flours, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the coconut oil; combine well.
- If you need to (it will depend on the properties of the flours you are using) add a little water. Bear in mind that the less water you add, the crunchier and “shorter” the result. You don’t need to work the mixture into a ball; leave it like crumble topping.
- Empty the mixture into the tray, press it down evenly and prick it all over with a skewer. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. About halfway through I usually check it to press it down in the tin and make sure the edges are not over-browning. (If they are, you may need to turn the heat down.)
You don’t have to wait for the shortbread to cool completely before you add the topping, so as soon as you take it out of the oven you can get going with the caramel.
2 cups (1 cup = 250ml) shakkar/ coconut sugar/ soft light brown sugar
1 cup tahini
a little water
2 tsps natural caramel essence/ 2-4 tsps natural vanilla essence (if you prefer a more fudge-like vibe)
- Melt the sugar over a low heat, adding just enough water to ensure any crystals have dissolved. It’s worth being patient here to obtain a smooth caramel.
- Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Check for the “soft ball” stage every couple of minutes by dropping a bit into very cold water; if it gloops together on the bottom and forms a soft ball in your fingers, then it’s ready. (The harder the ball, the more chewy like toffee, then brittle like praline it will become. Watch out for that one- it happens quickly)
- When it’s reached the soft ball stage, turn the heat off, beat in the tahini and the essence.
- Before it begins to set, put it over the shortbread in the tray. tip it to ensure an even coverage- you wouldn’t want to be the one who gets the slice with hardly any caramel on it.
Break 200g vegan dark chocolate into small pieces and spread over the caramel while it’s all still warm. The chocolate will gradually melt. Return to it every few minutes to spread it evenly with a spatula.
…Now you just have to wait. If you live somewhere hot (lucky you!) or you are, like me, just plain impatient, you can put it in the freezer or fridge to set once it’s cooled enough to do so. You may run the risk of the chocolate discolouring slightly if you do this, however, depending on the type of chocolate and the humidity of the environment.
Before the chocolate is completely set, mark out into 16 pieces. that way it will slice more neatly.
When cooled and set, lift it out of the tray by holding the baking paper and cut with a large, heavy knife. It is hard to cut neatly as the shortbread can be more breakable than the other layers, so take your time. Enjoy with a hot drink and good company…