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Homemade Gifts: Toffee Bars with White Chocolate

Toffee Bars

Our former neighbor and dear family friend, Liz, is renowned for the plates of cookies that she prepares annually at Christmas. As kids, my sister and I would fight over our favorites, and they would – reliably, mysteriously – disappear in the night time. Blame the straying fingers of elves or a hungry Santa Claus if you wish, or just the magical, irresistible power of her cookies.

None of us live up there anymore, in the shady redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains, and we miss her cookies terribly every year. So I decided to pay her a visit, to spend a lovely, rainy afternoon in her bright, cozy kitchen, catching up and learning a little bit about the magic that goes into these cookies.

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I made the drive south, through sprawling suburbs and then into the redwoods along the disarmingly curved Highway 17 through gossamer fog, forested hills and a light drizzle. It was heavenly. I don’t think I can ever forget how to get back to that neighborhood, my very first and my favorite. It was amazing how much things had not changed – how that stretch of rural highway is still so surprisingly undeveloped, how so many of the old, funky houses are the same, and all those groves of redwoods and dilapidated buildings from a century ago still holding on.

There’s comfort in that, and there’s comfort in these cookies too, with their dense, crunchy base composed largely of butter and brown sugar, and a lovely frosting of white chocolate and toasted nuts on the top. I had always thought that I didn’t like white chocolate. And I also had no idea that these cookies were finished with them. So even if you think yourself averse, give it a try. It’s surprising in its sweet subtlety here. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate would be fine substitutions, but they won’t look as prettily like little jewels made in some magical winter wonderland if you forgo the white chocolate. Your call!

TOFFEE BARS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE

1 cup (two sticks) butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 Lindt white chocolate bars, broken into pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, egg yolk and salt. Slowly fold in the flour.

Turn the dough out onto an old 14×16 inch cookie sheet. (Liz suggests this because you will be cutting the bars while warm on the sheet, and the surface of the sheet will be scored afterwards.)

Using your hands, press the dough towards the edges of the sheet, stopping at one inch from the edge. You will want a roughly uniform surface, but don’t worry about it being totally level. It’s handmade, after all!

Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until a light golden brown.

Spread the white chocolate pieces over the hot cookie. Using a butter knife, press each piece into the crust, and when they are fully melted, smooth the white chocolate over the entire surface.

Sprinkle the toasted almonds over the white chocolate.

Cut the bars into diamonds by first slicing perpendicularly along the length of the cookie sheet in 1.5 inch intervals. Then cut lengthwise vertically to the edge of the sheet. See the photos above for reference.

Cool cookies on wire racks or baking sheets lined with parchment or waxed paper for at least 30 minutes to allow the chocolate to set.

Then challenge yourself to not eat them all immediately!

  • heather - A decadent, pretty cookie for Christmas or any time! I’ve always been partial to that cutting method, giving a dainty diamond shape. We’re not big on white chocolate by itself, but I think I’d have to try this *with* the chocolate first — just to see what the actual cookie is supposed to taste like.

    Cheers,

    *Heather*ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - Such pretty cookies! I love seeing mature hands making baked goods. The drive to Liz’s home sounds magical.ReplyCancel

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  • kimberley - @heather: me too! I love the diamond shape. I’m not big on white chocolate by itself either – I won’t judge if you opt for dark chocolate. :)
    @Nicole: it was indeed magical. Liz is quite the pro.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Franzen - those look yummy! I haven’t been cooking enough lately! I want to eat those now :)ReplyCancel

  • Angie - These are the types of recipes that you want to keep forever. Made by people you’ll never forget, during a time you’ll never forget. What a sweet thing to visit your former neighbor to rekindle this memory. Even though it probably lifted your spirts, I’m sure you have no idea what a thrill it was for her as well. What a gift. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.ReplyCancel

  • Pinkie Ray - For so many reasons, this is my favorite recipe/post of the season. Have an incredibly peaceful and blessed year. And, thank you.ReplyCancel

  • Millie - I know those hands,Liz is my grandma and a treasure in my life. Thank you Kimberly for exposing her beautiful gift. This recipe is one of about ten. Each one unique and greatly satisfying for every taste bud. She prepares care packages for everyone to take home on Christmas Eve so the cookies last until New Years. She is a remarkable woman in the kitchen and out (I think Martha got most of her ideas from Liz!)I hope one day that I may share her cookie making skills.
    Happy New Year!ReplyCancel

  • kimberley - Angie – Thank you! Such kind words.

    Pinkie Ray – Just want you to know what a treat it was to receive this comment on Christmas Eve. Truly. :)

    And Millie! – I’m so thrilled that you and your family enjoyed this post and Liz’s gifts and talents. It was a wonderful day with her.ReplyCancel

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