Break-Up Bars Are Sweet Revenge, with recipe

I’m not mentioning any names, but a close friend of mine has recently checked into the Heartbreak Hotel,  getting dumped in a cruel and unusual way after giving some jerk a few of the best years of her life.   It sure is hard to stand by helplessly and watch someone you care about suffer!

Although I don’t normally advocate self-medicating with food, there are some situations where a decadent, sticky, gooey, creamy and chewy dessert is just what the doctor ordered – and a broken heart is one of them.  Allow me to introduce you to just such a treat – Break-Up Bars!


Break-Up Bars have a tender, buttery shortbread base which is studded with crunchy toffee bits and topped with layers of voluptuous, golden caramel and creamy, deep, dark chocolate.  I was originally introduced to the first cousins of these bars, called Millionaire’s Shortbread, in Scotland.  The main differences between the two are that I put toffee bits in my Break-Up Bars, and I make them when I’m sad.

I also have a handy, dandy little trick for making the most delectably light and crumbly shortbread that I learned from a lovely Scottish lass in Inverness. The secret is adding cornstarch to your dough.  I kid you not!  For some reason mixing in a healthy dose of cornstarch works some kind of shortbread magic like I’ve never seen before!

If you’re feeling blue, why not give these Break-Up Bars a try?  I’m not saying they can mend a broken heart, but they’re a damn good distraction!


Break-Up Bars


For the shortbread:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) room temperature butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup toffee bits

For the caramel layer:

14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups packed brown sugar

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter

6 tablespoons golden syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the chocolate layer:

12 ounces good quality milk or semisweet chocolate, cut into small bits

1 tablespoon softened butter


For the Shortbread:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine flour, cornstarch, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl (and whisk them together violently).  Add butter and work out your aggressions by using a your hands to mix the butter into the dry ingredients.  (Try imagining that the mixture in the bowl is the face of your lost love and go crazy on it!) When you’re done, not only will you feel a lot better, but your shortbread mixture will have a crumbly and “sand-like” texture.  Don’t worry that it doesn’t look like a smooth traditional cookie dough. It’s not supposed to.  (Besides, you have more important things to worry about, such as plotting a slow and painful revenge!) Gently mix in the toffee bits until evenly distributed.

Dump the shortbread dough into a quarter sheet pan and gently press down evenly.  If you don’t have a quarter sheet pan, you can use a 9? x 12? cake pan, though the sheet pan will promote more even browning.   Using a fork, prick the shortbread dough about 1? apart across the entire top.  (Pretend that the dough is your ex’s heart, so he/she knows how it feels to be battered and tossed aside.)

Bake until uniformly lightly golden brown, about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool completely, while you make the caramel layer.

For the caramel layer:

In a medium saucepan, add condensed milk, brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt.  Heat over medium-low heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.

Bring mixture to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture darkens and reaches 237 degrees F. on a candy thermometer. (Pretend that the bubbling caramel is a vat of boiling oil that you are getting ready to dump your ex into.  That’ll teach him/her to f#@& around with you!)

Remove from the heat, and whisk in vanilla.  Pour mixture evenly over the cooled shortbread crust.  Set aside until cooled and firm.

For the chocolate layer:

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir in the butter until completely combined.  Pour the chocolate mixture evenly over the caramel layer and set aside until completely set.

Cut into squares using a sharp serrated knife. (Imagine this is the same knife that your former love has plunged into your back.  Visualize yourself slicing off little bits of his/her heart with it, while you laugh maniacally.)

Store in the fridge to keep the bars nice and firm.

Makes about 24 2-inch squares.


Few things in life are certain.  We’re born.  We die.  And somewhere in between the two, we all get our hearts broken at least once.  There’s no escaping it.  It’s as inevitable as the rising and the setting of the sun.   This is the risk we take for that giddy, glorious feeling of being in love.

I’ve certainly experienced my share of heartbreak, beginning in the 5th grade when Benny Buffamante threw me over for Mary Rose Kelly.  Who could blame him, really?  With her big blue eyes and long, golden curls, she was adorable.  Plus, she had three first names!  How could I compete with that!?!?

I survived being spurned by Benny and lived on to love again.  And of course, my heart got stomped on many more times in the process.  I’d like to think that it made me stronger and more resilient.  I’d like to think that, but the truth is that each time I lost in love, it hurt just as much as the time before.  Thank heavens I met my Mr. Right before my tender heart was completely pummeled into a quivering, bleeding mass of mush!

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