Confession: I am about to talk about something that I in fact did not make. (I did, however, watch curiously as my sister did.)
Confession (again): I can't stop listening to Taylor Swift's new album, Speak Now.
Phew. That feels good to get off my chest. Anyway, now that I've been completely honest, there's no sense in holding this back either: I don't like candy.
Yes, I said it.
I've actually never been a fan of caramel-y, toffee-flavored confections. I don't even like lollipops or hard candies. And while it's completely accurate to call this sweet a candy, it's also accurate to say that I am totally obsessed with it.
My mom's friend brought this to our house before Christmas and my mom, who similarly isn't big on candy-like treats, promptly proclaimed it to be delicious. That alone should have been my first tipping point to how good this stuff was. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I actually didn't get around to trying it for a few days, after which I scorned myself for waiting so long to enjoy its awesomeness.
At first glance including a cracker in this candy may seem a bit strange. Rest assured that the end result is nothing short of taste bud bliss. I think that the genius of this candy comes from the layering of the different components. The bottom layer of saltine crackers provides the perfect base for the candy, giving it sturdiness. The toffee-like combination of brown sugar and butter is, not surprisingly, rich but not too sweet. (Another thing that I love is that some of the sugar/butter mix seeps through the holes of the saltines and hardens onto the bottom of the crackers, too.) The crowning layer is semisweet chocolate, giving a hint of bitterness and a familiar chocolate flavor. A sprinkling of chopped pecans provides some textural contrast, too.
These were definitely the easiest things we made for the holidays this year. The ingredient list is short and the actual hands-on preparation time is minimal. Considering the end result, I'd say these are an all-around must-make. And since I don't throw around the word "must" too often here, consider it a testament to how addictive this stuff is. You've been warned.
Saltine Toffee Candy
This candy comes together quite quickly and is pretty foolproof (at least as far as candymaking goes). Instead of pecans, you could use any nut, and I'm inclined to think that toasted coconut and crushed peppermint candies would also be delicious. The candy (unbroken) can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to break it into pieces.
Yield: Lots and lots (at least 12 servings)
About 40 saltine crackers, or enough to cover a 12 by 18-inch baking pan
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
Position an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 by 18-inch (half-sheet) pan with foil. Arrange the saltine crackers in the pan so that they cover the entire pan.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat until the mixture comes to a boil, 3 to 5 minutes. Quickly but carefully pour the mixture over the saltine crackers. Using a rubber spatula, spread the butter/sugar mixture out so that it covers the saltines in as even a layer as possible. Since the toffee is very sticky, it may resist spreading in a perfectly even layer; just make sure it reaches to the edges of the pan, covering all the crackers.
Bake for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the toffee-covered crackers from the oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot and bubbling toffee as evenly as possible. After a few seconds, the chocolate chips will begin to melt. Spread the chocolate into an even layer over the toffee using an offset spatula or rubber spatula. Once the chocolate is spread in an even layer, sprinkle the pecans on top. Lightly press down on the pecans to make sure that they are suspended in the chocolate.
Refrigerate for an hour, or until the chocolate is firm and set. Break up into pieces (the more irregular the better) and eat now or store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
(Enjoy these now, before the first week of January comes around and you're bombarded with Weight Watchers ads and Special K commercials making you feel guilty about your Christmas cookie habit.)