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In lieu of gift giving this year, I’ve opted to channel my inner Martha and bake a variety of Christmas cookies to send to family and friends.  I plan to package them nicely in tins with festive labels (I love the ones from www.myownlabels.com – very professional looking), and ship them off around the country.  The newest addition to our family is due to arrive mid-January, so I don’t want to make myself crazy with this endeavor; I tend to get overambitious.   Therefore,  I’ve decided to narrow the variety of cookies to 4 kinds that meet a certain criteria.

  • They cannot include difficult to find ingredients that I will use only for that particular recipe.
  • Making them must not be overly time intensive.
  • The recipe can be doubled or tripled without sacrificing quality.
  • The finished product must travel well to it’s final destination.

In the coming days I will try out cookie recipes and see which 4 make the final cut to be included in this years gift assortment.  Last night was my 1st attempt to find the perfect cookie bar for the mix.  I’m a huge fan of the 7 layer cookie bar, and it is always a crowd pleaser, but I wanted to try something new.

I combed through the website Joy of Baking for cookie bar recipes and settled on one called Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars – described as tasting like a Twix and appearing simple to make I figured I’d give it a try.  I was really getting geared up for this “cookie experiment”!  One problem….no butter – I guess I used it all at Thanksgiving.  Thank goodness my husband was willing to head to the grocery store at 9 at night to indulge me in my latest obsession.

Off to work!  The recipe is broken down into 3 separate sections: Shortbread, Caramel Filling, & Chocolate Topping.

The shortbread was straightforward and simple enough.  Just 5 ingredients: Flour, sugar, butter, vanilla extract & salt…all things that I, in general, have readily available in my kitchen (thanks again hubby for running to the market at 9pm for butter!).

For the caramel filling, you can use dulce de leche or cajeta, which is a sinful Latin American caramel sauce that comes ready made;  or you can make your own heating sweetened condensed milk.  I opted to make my own.

The recipe said that this could be done either stove top or in the microwave.  I wanted to save time and 16 minutes sounded a lot better than the 90 minute stove top alternative.  Microwave instructions state to use a large bowl for heating the condensed milk – the largest one I have to put in the microwave is a large cereal bowl…and it looked big enough for a 14 oz can of condensed milk….well it worked out until about 10 minutes in when then condensed milk boiled over and caused a minor mess.  Note to self:  Invest in some plastic mixing bowls in addition to the set metal ones I have.  Once thickened and a light carmel color I slathered it over the cooled shortbread.

Next, I melted some bittersweet Ghiradelli chocolate in one of my handy metal bowls over a warm water bath and topped the set caramel layer.  It looked beautiful and shiny in the 9×9 non-stick pan I had sprayed with canola oil.  I restrained myself from digging into these immediately, covered the pan with plastic wrap, and put it the fridge until the next morning.

I guess they call them Millionaire's Shortbread Bars because they are so rich!

I was excited to get to the fridge and judge my handy work.  In my overzealousness I tried to cut these before letting them come to room temperature – but was able to contain myself, back off and wait.  The result:  The Millionaire Shortbread Bar does indeed taste a bit like a Twix candy bar…but there was something missing…I think it needed a bit more salt in the shortbread mix.  I used kosher salt, so perhaps using sea salt would help.  The second issue is that I am not sure these will be shipping friendly.  The shortbread is flaky and I’m not sure they would hold together on a long trip to Ohio…but perhaps if packaged tightly they will arrive intact.  I’ll save this one as a contender…

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