December 19, 2009

Katie’s Simple Christmas Candy {Powernap}

My Day So Far: Distributed all the Christmas gift bags, weekly Friday farmers market visit, mushroom soup for mother/daughter lunch.
Naptime Goals: Write timeline for Christmas cooking next week, wrap gifts and hide them (!), make Katie’s Candy for tonight’s party.
Tonight’s Meal: Buccatini Alla’ Amatriciana – a favorite go-to dinner.
Parenting Lesson of the Day: Toddlers love unwrapping presents, even when they are not their own!

The Christmas spirit is alive and well in our house. My daughter has spent the day searching for gifts she suspects I’ve wrapped and hidden from her (she’s right) because she loves nothing more than tearing off paper and bows. Truth be told, I don’t think she really cares about what is actually underneath the paper, she is still at the stage where she just likes the act of unwrapping in general. In keeping with the holiday season we’ve been to several parties lately and we have another tonight. I am not hosting this particular party, but I do plan on taking some homemade Katie’s Candy to the hostess.

I’ve named this after the person who gave it to me because she deserves the credit. Katie has given me some of my favorite recipes over time, and this is yet another one from her treasure trove. Katie actually gave this to me when I was in high school and beginning to make homemade Christmas gifts for my friends. It was the perfect recipe to start with. It only takes a few steps to make, requires four simple ingredients and is unbelievably delicious.

I’ve seen this recipe around in other places and have sometimes heard it referred to as “poor man’s toffee” or “cracker bark.” These names come from the fact that the simple act of baking the butter and sugar over the crackers forms a pure toffee. The unsalted cracker remains as the innocuous core, giving it structure without any undesirable taste. For extra flavor sometimes I like to top the bark with sliced almonds or chopped hazelnuts, but in this particular case I used holiday sprinkles to make it party-perfect.

When I used to make this for my friends I would break up the tray of candy into pieces and put them in clear treat bags. For my friend’s party I will break it into shards, separated the layers with wax paper, and take them to her house in a Tupperware. As you can see by the directions below, the eight minutes of baking time means that preparing this candy while my daughter naps is a snap. The 15 minutes of preparation time is easily one of the fastest ways to prepare toffee that I have ever found. And, happily, the quick preparation time means I can spend the rest of naptime taking care of family holiday gifts – making sure I don’t leave a trace for my daughter to find when she wakes up!

If you have Christmas parties to attend this weekend I guarantee this will be a surefire hit. I know it was for my friend, and it was for my daughter, too. I let her have a nibble after it had fully cooled in the fridge. I think it has become her most favorite part about Christmas, next to the gift unwrapping, of course.

Recipe

Katie’s Simple Christmas Candy

Ingredients

40 unsalted saltine crackers
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. sliced almonds, or other toppings (suggestions below)

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Line a 10×15 jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. On the foil line up 40 crackers so that they fit snuggly.
3. Melt butter and sugar together over medium heat in a saucepan. Once it is all melted pour the hot mixture over the crackers. The crackers will “float” at a bit, try to keep them all lined up.
4. Bake for 8 minutes, the mixture will be nice and bubbly.
5. Remove from the oven and immediately scatter the chocolate chips on top. As they begin to melt smooth them with a spatula so that they cover the entire tray.
6. Place pan in the refrigerator until cool and set. At least 2 hours.
7. Break into pieces and serve.

Naptime Notes

Naptime Recipe Serving ideas

There are endless possibilities for topping this bark. I suggest sliced almonds, chopped hazelnuts, chopped pistachios, chopped pecans or sprinkles. I bet sea salt would be good, too!

Naptime Stopwatch

Making this candy takes 5 minutes of preparation, 8 minutes of baking and about 2 hours of cooling. Leaving the rest of naptime to get other things done!

Naptime Reviews

Adults and children alike love this candy bark. The pure toffee taste appeals to even the pickiest of candy connoisseur.