Make Ahead

Slum Dog Millionaire's Shortbread

February 16, 2012
Author Notes

Ever since Merrill posted her Millionaire's Shortbread, they have been haunting me, calling to me, telling me to make them. I've been having the same experience with coconut cream bars from Fran Bigelow's book, Chocolate. So many confections vying for my attention! You can only resist them for so long.
And now I've caved, big time. I decided I wanted to sort of combine the two ideas, and spice them up. Starting from the coconut, I was inspired by the Vosges Nagaga chocolate bar, which has a palate tingling combination of coconut, toasty curry, and deep milk chocolate. I'm usually one of those people who sneers at white chocolate and milk chocolate, but the white chocolate in the center layer here gives it a soft creaminess without distracting too much from the coconut. The little bit of milk chocolate in the ganache topping lightens it just a tad, making it a gentler background for the curry, which has an amazing, hauntingly sweet, almost cinnamony quality when paired with chocolate. And, I used salted butter in the shortbread, to give them a little extra saltiness to offset the sweetness in the rest of the bars, while little speckles of dried apricot add tang.
There's a lot going on here, but it all works really well together. And, while there are a number of steps for making these bars, all of them are quite simple.
And, I hope I'm not infringing on any copyrights or anything with the name! I just thought, they're a bit like Millioniare's shortbread, but with some Indian flavors, so... —fiveandspice

Test Kitchen Notes

Like their namesake movie, these bars from fiveandspice are full of exotic complexity and odd juxtapositions that are somehow fated to wind up blissfully happy together in the end. Coconuts? Apricots? Curry? Three kinds of chocolate? I, for one, was skeptical, particularly since it took me the better part of a day to make them, and not all the steps were simple. But the results were sensational. The sweet coconut cream somehow seemed cool, while the spiced dark ganache was full of warmth. The contrast of the two, on top of the nubby, fruit-studded shortbread, was an utter delight. Jai Ho! —cheesypennies

  • Makes 24 bars
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened, shredded dried coconut
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces really good quality white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup good salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon very good quality Madras curry powder
  • 2 1/2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 ounces good milk chocolate, finely chopped
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. First, make the coconut cream. Preheat your oven to 325F. Spread the coconut on a baking sheet and toast it in the oven until it is just light golden, 6-8 min. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup heavy cream just to a boil. Remove it from the heat and add the white chocolate to it. Let it sit for a minute, then gently stir until the chocolate and cream are completely incorporated into each other and you have a smooth mixture. Stir in the coconut. Then, transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface (like you would with pudding). Set aside to cool for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Next, make the shortbread. Keep your oven at 325F. Lightly butter a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a standing mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the edges every now and then.
  5. Add the dry ingredients, and stir them in at low speed. Just before they are fully incorporated into the butter mixture, add in the apricots. Continue to mix just until everything is fully blended together.
  6. Use your fingers to press the shortbread dough into the greased baking pan in an even layer. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and allow to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
  7. When the coconut cream has cooled at least 3 hours and the shortbread is cool, you can assemble the bars. First, either in the stand mixer with the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, beat the coconut cream on medium speed until lightened in color and the consistency of frosting, about 1 minute. Spread this in an even layer over the shortbread base.
  8. In a small saucepan, combine the last 1/2 cup cream and the curry powder. Bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat and dump in the milk and dark chocolate. Allow this to sit for one minute, then gently stir it until the cream and chocolates are fully combined in a smooth mixture.
  9. Let this ganache cool until it is lukewarm (around 85 degrees), then pour it over the coconut cream layer, and gently spread it into an even covering.
  10. Let the bars set at room temperature for at least an hour before cutting (it actually makes them much easier to cut if you stick them in the refrigerator for a while). To cut them, first cut through the top chocolate layers with a sharp knife where you're planning to cut the bars, then cut through the shortbread base. These bars should keep for about a week in the refrigerator in an airtight container. If they last that long. :) Their flavor develops and gets even better over the next couple of days.

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Review
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (www.vikredistillery.com), where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.