Happy holiday season everyone! I feel like the holidays have been upon us for a while now, but one of my favorite ways to wish everyone in our building happy holidays is to make a small treat and hang it on their door. We live in a relatively small building for Chicago. It is a mid-rise building with 19 units in it of all different sizes. So each year I think of a treat that can be made in a large batch and portioned in a cute way to share with the building.
Last year, I made salted caramel. I cut each piece into a large square and put it in a decorated bag, added ribbon and a tag and we hung them on our neighbors doors. This worked great, except if our neighbors were traveling when we delivered them….the longer the caramel hung….the more it changed shape and went from a nice, neat, pretty square to a huge blob of caramel in the bottom of a bag. Not pretty. Still tasty, but no longer as nice looking as I had envisioned.
So, this year, when deciding what to make, I thought about recipes that I have wanted to make for a long time and the one that came to mind was cracker toffee. I have tried it in the past and a co-worker of mine at the last school I worked at in Chicago, made it for me as a holiday treat. I remember when she gave it to me, I thought naively, I’ll just take a bite and save the rest to share with Kevin, when I get home. Well….my one bite turned into two and before you knew it…it was GONE! I searched the internet for a while to see what recipes I could find. There are tons of varieties out there! I ended up texting my friend and asking her for her recipe. I knew this recipe was a winner so as soon as she sent it, I bought the ingredients to bake it and the craft supplies to wrap them up and I got to work!
The recipe has only a few ingredients which makes creating it in a large scale relatively easy. I did end up adding some more chocolate chips from a bag I already had open in my cabinets and adding some more topping varieties because I can’t seem to keep things as simple as I plan once I get started.
A quick word of warning and apology….the pictures in the post are AWFUL!!! I think I had my camera on the wrong setting and I just didn’t check very carefully while I was working yesterday. So sorry that they are so terrible. I promise you the final result is delicious even if the pictures do not tell the same story.
The first thing I did to get started for this recipe was to preheat my oven to 350 F degrees. Then I threw 4 sticks of butter in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove. Once it melted, I used a pastry brush to brush melted butter over the bottom and sides of my foil lined jelly roll pans. I used the two biggest I had in my kitchen. I also layered several layers of foil over my pan because I didn’t want the toffee to bake onto my pan if it got through the cracks that happen when you layer foil that isn’t wide enough for the whole pan. This made it really easy to get the toffee out of the pan when I was finished since the foil was nice and thick. It held up easily to the weight of the toffee. Then I layered 4 sleeves of graham crackers over the buttered pans. I used the broken pieces to fill in as much of the pan as possible.
To the already melted butter I added 2 cups of brown sugar, stirred it all together and cranked up the heat on my stove to medium high. I continued to stir and watch it bubble till it reached a caramel like consistency, about 2 to 3 minutes. I actually think mine could have gone a little longer while on the stove. Next time, I will look for a smoother consistency, mine was still a little grainy when I pulled it off.
Next, I poured the caramel mixture over my graham cracker lined jelly roll trays. I smoothed it out with an offset spatula and put the pans into the oven. The recipe called for 5-7 minutes – or until it is bubbling – but my notoriously cold running oven needed closer to 10 and again, I think it could have gone for longer.
While the pans were baking, I gathered together my toppings. First, I had my red, green, and white non pareils, then I pulled out my trusty flakey sea salt and finally some Belgian pearl sugar that I found a local fine grocery store here called Paulina Meat Market. They have some of the coolest stuff on the shelves if you take your time to shop around and do not get distracted by the enormous meat counters they have (way more Kevin’s thing than mine).
After I pulled the trays out of the oven, I waited about 30 seconds topped them with chocolate chips. I gave the chocolate chips a few moments to begin melting and then I used my offset spatula again to smooth the chocolate out all over the pans.
I then topped the chocolate with the sprinkles, half of each pan with the sea salt and the other half with the pearl sugar. The toffee needs to refrigerate, so I used every Chicagoan’s favorite winter refrigerator/freezer – the back porch. My trays needed about an hour and a half outside until they were completely solid and easy to cut.
While the trays were chilling, I gathered my supplies for packaging them up. I used small decorated ziplock bags, narrow grosgrain ribbon and craft paper tags that I wrote on with gold sharpie. I used my stapler to attach the ribbon to the bag, it makes it quick, but not the most stable final product. My sons may have broken a few while hanging them, but they were easy to run back home and fix. I do know that it will be easy for my neighbors to get right into their treats when they find them!
We had a great time going throughout the building, hanging the treats and hopefully spreading some cheer. A few of our neighbors came out to say “Hello” when they heard us (ever so quietly) hanging up the bags and causing our general chaos wherever we go. I hope you are having a great time getting into the holiday season and hopefully you can spread some cheer to your neighbors soon too!
- These cracker toffee bars are just as addicting as I remember and wish that we had fewer scraps left over!
- I think that mine needed a little more cooking time and baking time for my toffee to harden a little more
- This is a simple recipe, with few ingredients and steps, which makes it easy to make a large batch of for a large crowd
- Many of the varieties I found on-line were made with saltines, ritz or club crackers. I think this would add a yummy salty element to the toffee and would be worth trying next time
- You could also use ANY TOPPINGS you wanted to make these your own and decorate them for any holiday or event
- I LOVE everything about the holidays, especially finding excuses to do nice things for the people in your life!
Recipe – Cracker Toffee
Ingredients – this can easily be halved or doubled
- 2 cup unsalted butter or 4 sticks
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 4 sleeves graham crackers (original flavor)
- 2 bags semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- toppings of your choice (sprinkles, nuts, flakey sea salt, crushed candy canes, other candy)
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees
- Melt butter in a heavy bottomed medium sized pan over low heat
- Line jelly roll pans with foil to make sure the bottoms and sides of pans are covered
- Brush the bottom and sides of the jelly roll pans with butter and lay graham crackers over the pans in a nice even layer – feel free to piece together crackers to fill in gaps – set the pan aside
- Turn the heat up on the butter to medium-high and add in the brown sugar- stir
- Cook the butter and sugar until it is thick and bubbly and a smooth caramel consistency
- Pour the hot caramel over the graham crackers and spread evenly with an off set spatula
- Put the pans into the oven for 5-7 minutes, or until the whole pan of caramel is bubbling
- Remove the pans and let cool for 30 seconds to 1 minute
- Sprinkle chocolate chips over the caramel and allow the heat to begin melting the chocolate
- Smooth the chocolate over the caramel with an offset spatula and sprinkle toppings over chocolate
- Cool the pans in the fridge (or outside if winter) until they are set firm
- Slice or break the toffee into piece and serve
- The extra can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container
Recipe adapted from Gretchen Shepard
7 thoughts on “A Holiday Treat for the Neighbors”
What a great idea to hang on the doors of neighbors. Sort of like a May Basket only for Christmas.
Thank you! I don’t know about May Baskets- can you share more about them?
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In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the first of May was celebrated by secretly leaving a little token of flowers on someone’s door usually in the form of a small cone or basket of flowers hand decorated by the secret admirer. My grandmother taught me this practice and when my daughter was young we left May baskets for a few of our older neighbors that remembered having a secret admirer leave on when they were much younger.
Country Living Magazine had an article with photos of may baskets this past spring. You can check it out here: https://www.countryliving.com/life/news/a35407/do-you-remember-may-basket-day/
That sounds like a great tradition – thank you for sharing!
I am so jealous of your neighbors! These look delicious.
I wish we were neighbors!