Sometimes, you find the best recipes in the darnedest places. Or maybe it’s just me, because my eyes are always peeled for something new and fabulous to whip up. Rewind to Saturday when I was getting my hair cut, and my salon had a spread for Christmas — everything from chili to meatballs to sugar cookies to Christmas Crack, also referred to as “Franco’s Christmas Bark”. But yes, the staff called this Christmas Bark, Christmas Crack…for a reason.
Addiction isn’t a joking matter, people. Make this within hours of taking it to its final destination. Not days, hours. Maybe just ONE hour. You’ve been warned.
As I was paying for my hair cut there was a little bowl of Franco’s Christmas Bark. “You HAVE to try a piece!,” my hair dresser told me. Who am I to turn down a 1-inch square, very thin, piece of Christmas Bark? Not much caloric damage can be done in one little piece, right? And then as my taste buds registered the miracle that was taking place in my mouth, my fingers went to auto-pilot, straight to the Christmas Crack for seconds…and then thirds. Crack, people. No joking matter. Thirds? This is bad because 1) RD’s know portion control best, right? and 2) how rude of me!
“What are you doing this afternoon, Nicole?,” my hair dresser asked as I was signing my credit card receipt, and shoveling in thirds of Christmas Crack.
Without a thought I responded with, “I guess making Christmas Crack… this is PHENOMENAL!” She laughed to the tone of, “I’ve heard that a time or two already today!”
While I was prepared to comb the internet for the recipe, the salon owner overheard my moaning of enjoyment and and handed over the recipe. Apparently he was expecting his Crack samples to trigger others’ baking impulses. Thankyouverymuch!
I swung by Kroger for the only ingredient I did not have on hand: saltine crackers. Yes, you read that right. Saltine crackers. And the rest is history.
Franco’s Christmas Bark from the owner of my hair salon
1 sleeve of saltine crackers
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
12 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 Tbsp chocolate sprinkles
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Line a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Lay saltines on the bottom of the pan, sides touching, in one big rectangle. The square will not quite be big enough to cover the cookie sheet.
In a sauce pan, melt butter and brown sugar until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and add baking soda. Mixture will get frothy.
Spread the butter mixture over the saltines. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Return the cookie sheet to the oven for 2 minutes. Remove and smooth chocolate over the surface of the crackers using a spatula. Top with sprinkles or decoration of your choice. Yield: 64 pieces.
Nutrition Information (per piece): 63 calories; 3.6 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 21 mg. sodium; 7.5 g. carbohydrate; 0 g. fiber; 5.7 g. sugar; 0.2 g. protein
Result: The salon staff called this Christmas Crack for a reason — it is outstanding! It has the taste of toffee without the hard crunch. Rather, it’s flaky, sweet, and salty and creates a party of delicious flavor in your mouth. Enjoy!
The irony of this Christmas Bark recipe is that I also made my second attempt at Almond Toffee this weekend, my all-time favorite treat. Toffee is, hands down, my favorite. I never thought there would be a toffee or toffee-like treat to trump a traditional toffee.
But classic toffee is still fabulous, and here’s the recipe I (finally) found success with.
Almond Toffee from MyRecipes.com
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) whole raw almonds
3 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb) unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla
12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Place almonds in a baking pan. Bake at 350° F, shaking pan occasionally, until golden beneath skins, 10 to 12 minutes. When cool enough to handle, finely chop.
In a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-low heat, stir sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown (300° on a candy thermometer; see notes), 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla and half the almonds (mixture may bubble up). Immediately pour into a 10- by 15-inch baking pan with 1-inch-tall sides. Let toffee cool at room temperature until set, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in bottom of double boiler or a pan that the bowl can nest in; remove pan from heat. Place chocolate over water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, about 10 minutes.
Pour chocolate over cooled toffee; with a knife or an offset spatula, spread level. Sprinkle remaining almonds evenly over chocolate. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour (or chill about 30 minutes).
To remove, gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days, or chill airtight up to 1 month. Yield: 3 pounds, or 48 pieces (1 ounce each).
Nutrition Information (per piece/1 oz): 161 calories; 9.4 g. fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 42 mg. sodium; 19.7 g. carbohydrate; 0.4 g. fiber; 18 g. sugar; 0.8 g. protein
Result: This was the first toffee recipe I successfully made, and YUM! My biggest word of caution is to not over-stir the toffee as it simmers away reaching 300° F — I think over-stirring is what caused me some issues with my first toffee attempt. Also, use a large enough sauce pan or pot; the butter/sugar mixture will bubble up and splatter some…and it is HOT. This really was simple enough, and very, very good! Enjoy!
The votes are in.
Christmas Bark (Crack) vs. Almond Toffee: Which is better?
Moi: Christmas Bark.
Mr. P: Christmas Bark.
The results are unanimous. Guess my efforts in perfecting a classic toffee were all for nothing. 😉
Question: Do you love toffee, too?
P.S. One cookie recipe left, a cookie round-up, and then I’m back to all RD,
all most of the time 😉 I’ve featured enough butter, flour, and sugar for all of 2010, I do believe!
Addicted to Christmas Bark,