There was time for a wander up and down the aisles of the vendors’ stalls, selling everything from tartan ties to penny whistles, silver jewelry, clan maps of Scotland, butterscotch and shortbread, letter openers in the shape of claymores, lead Highland figures, books, records, and every imaginable small item on which a clan badge or motto could be imprinted.
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn (Chapter 4 – A Blast from the Past)
Someone put their butterscotch on my shortbread!
And just like the chocolate/peanut butter scenario, the results are pretty outstanding. If you make just one candy/cookie for Christmas this year, make this.
Sweet, crumbly, chewy, buttery and salty – Salted Butterscotch Shortbread has 2 layers and 5 taste experiences.
Butterscotch is a rare breed these days…in the battle of cooked sugars, caramel seems to have edged butterscotch out in the 30 years since my childhood, when you couldn’t offer me a bigger treat than a Dairy Queen butterscotch-dipped ice-cream cone.
What’s the difference, anyway?
Caramel is generally granulated sugar that has been melted and heated until it is brown but not burned, ranging from 320 to 350 degrees. Some people mix in a little brown sugar, and if you add cream, you get soft caramels or even a luscious sauce.
Butterscotch, on the other hand, is usually a mixture of brown sugar and butter, but recipes can also include sugar, butter, cream and/or vanilla. It is cooked to similar temperatures as caramel, and is actually easier to work with because of the stability the butter provides to the mixture. Once you cook butterscotch beyond the hard-crack stage, you have toffee.
Corn syrup lends a chewy texture to both caramel and butterscotch, and is included in most modern recipes.
Contrary to some hopes and dreams, it’s not called butterscotch because of it’s whisky content.
Scotch is an old word for “scorch,” so it could come from the process of browning the sugar. Alternatively it also means “to score,” so it may refer to the traditional practice of marking the soft mixture so it could be broken later.
Certainty on the name’s origin is lost to history.
This is my Outlander twist on Millionaire’s Shortbread, a tri-layered confection consisting of a shortbread base, caramel middle and chocolate top. I decided to garnish it with sea salt and leave it there, but if you want chocolate, then do it. I would probably drizzle it from a spoon rather than coating (and covering) the beautiful shiny gold of the butterscotch, but I leave the important aesthetic decisions up to you.
If you prefer to separate your butterscotch from your shortbread, no worries! Either can be made separately. See the notes at the bottom of the recipe.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
: A sweet, crumbly, chewy and buttery holiday treat.
Yield: approx 5 dozen 1” pieces
- Unsalted Butter, soft – ¾ Cup
- Powdered Sugar – ½ Cup
- Salt – ½ tsp
- All-Purpose Flour – 1½ Cups
- Sugar – ¾ Cup
- Brown Sugar, lightly packed – ⅓ Cup
- Light Corn Syrup – ⅓ Cup
- Water – ¼ Cup
- White Vinegar – 1 tsp
- Salt – ½ tsp
- Unsalted Butter – ⅓ Cup
- Vanilla – 1 t
- Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel for garnish
Read the instructions through at least once before beginning, and have all your ingredients measured and ready.
Centre the rack in the oven and preheat to 350°. Lightly grease an 8”x8” pan, then line it with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer (or a wooden spoon) cream together the butter, powdered sugar and salt on low speed. Add the flour, then continue to mix on low until well combined and fluffy.
Press the dough into prepared pan, poke 15-20 holes in the dough here and there (to prevent bubbling) and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are golden.
Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before starting the butterscotch.
Combine the sugars, vinegar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir while the sugars dissolve, then insert a candy thermometer. Cook the candy without stirring until it reaches 230° F on the thermometer.
Once the candy reaches 230° F, add the butter and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches 240° F. (Be careful, once the temperature starts to come back up, it rises VERY quickly, and it will continue to rise once you’ve taken it off the heat.)
Remove the pan from the heat immediately and add the vanilla, stirring until it is well-incorporated – be careful of splatters. Pour the candy over the shortbread and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Cool on a wire rack and allow to set at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) at room temperature.
Use a large sharp knife to cut into one-inch, one-bite squares.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- Hot sugar syrup is dangerous. Always have a large bowl of ice water nearby in case of accidents.
- Do you HAVE to use unsalted butter? No. But professional bakers/candy makers & cooks use it because salted butter can contain up to 3% salt. Professionals prefer to control the amount of salt by adding it themselves.
- You can certainly try this without a candy thermometer — use my photos and this candy temperature guide to help.
- Turn these into Millionaire Butterscotch Shortbread by drizzling the tops with melted chocolate.
- Both components can also be made separately. Prepare the pan the same way for either. If you prefer to roll the shortbread dough out and cut cookies, wrap it well and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes, up to 1 day.