Tan Square


One of my most treasured possessions is my Grandmother's recipe book. I'm sure I've said this before. Each member of my family has a printed copy of her recipes. But I am lucky enough to own the REAL DEAL. It is filled with pages and pages of her writing, which started to deteriorate as she lost her eyesight. There are little notes such as "good", or "tried and tested" noted alongside recipes. You can always tell whether it is her recipe or not, as she was the queen of credit where credit was due. There are a few in there written in by Mum, and a few more on loose pages written by my cousins. There are also some super weird ones - I came across a recipe today for 'fruit salad base' which contained 4kg of gherkins. But my favourites are the ones that we used to bake together - me standing on a chair pulled up to the bench, and her rushing round the kitchen and loosely following the recipe, always turning a blind eye to me licking the bowl or eating the mixture. Damn, I miss her SO MUCH. 

I've made it a wee goal of mine to bake my way through it - adding my own wee adaptations, or decoding the recipe a little. It is an incredible feeling pulling something out of the oven and having it taste just as you remembered it. 

And this one is no different. Tan square (or tan fingers, or tan slice) is super simple - a basic shortbread base, a condensed milk caramel, and then a little more of the base sprinkled over the top of the caramel. I tweaked the recipe a little from the one in Grandma's book (It was actually a recipe of her friend's so I'm not altering the family history or anything here), by changing the makeup of the filling. The original called for 3 Tbsp of condensed milk, but nothing is more annoying than half cans of things that are a pain to measure, so I wiggled the recipe a little to include the whole can. I also finished it with a little flaky sea salt to help cut through the sweetness. 

The recipe calls for golden syrup - which I find that I have to order online here in the States. It is totally worth it if you haven't tried it before - it has a different depth of flavour / sweetness to corn syrup or honey. You could sub liquid honey in a pinch. Either way this slice is perfect for a morning tea, with a cup of coffee, or for taking to a picnic or friend's house. This one's for you Grandma. 



Tan Square
- Makes a 9" x 13" pan (approx 12 large squares, or 24 smaller fingers)

Base / crumble
225g (2 sticks + 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g (2/3 cup) sugar
425g (3 cups) flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract

One 400g (14oz) can condensed milk
75g (5 Tbsp) unsalted butter
3 Tbsp (68g) golden syrup

Flaky Sea salt, such as Maldon, for finishing


Preheat the oven to 350˚f/180˚c. Line a 9"x13" (23cm x 33cm) tin with parchment paper, leaving some overhang to help with removal of the slice once cool. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until thick and pale, approximately 5 minutes. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and mix on low until combined. Place 1 cup of the base mixture into a small bowl and set aside. (This will form the crumb later). 

Press the remaining base mixture into the baking tin, using a spoon or bottom of a glass to compact and smooth down. Place in the fridge to chill while you prepare the caramel. 

In a medium pot over low heat, combine the condensed milk, butter and golden syrup. Stirring continuously, bring to a boil. Cook until the mixture has thickened and is light golden brown in colour. (It will colour up more in the oven). Remove from the heat, and pour over the base. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. 

Using your fingers, press some of the base mixture together in the bowl to form lumps - you want a range of sizes of 'crumb'. Sprinkle the base mixture evenly over the caramel. 

Bake the slice for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is a deep golden brown and the crumb is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and finish with a flaky sea salt. Cool completely before removing from the tin and slicing.