Toffee Bars

Toffee bars

Back when this blog began (Four years ago. Can it be?), I felt some sort of compunction to vary my entries--cookies one week, soup the next, perhaps. Now, in my blogging dotage, I've realized what you have known all along. That this blog is really for me--my ramblings, my musings, my opining. And yes, my cookie baking. Variation be damned.

Loretta has an art room off the kitchen, and she is constantly--every spare second, some days--creating things. Books, paintings, 3D kites and houses, cards. After each one, she puts down her pens, runs to me, and says, "Look, Mom! It's for you!" When I'm being a good mother, I stop what I'm doing, hold her creation, and tell her what I like about it. And then I hang it up in my office. (Don't worry, fellow mothers. I then recycle most of it the next day. She has a short memory.)

But the excitement is in the creating, and that's what filling up the cookie jar does for me. If everything else in my week fell flat--I said the wrong thing to my client, I forgot to send Wyatt's field trip money, I fell asleep during every meditation attempt--at least I baked. It has a beginning, an end, and I can say to my children, "Look! It's for you!"

In a world of consumption, it's increasingly important that we create something. I have friends who are creating geniuses. They sew, they build chicken coops, they felt. And I'm so inspired by them. But you don't have be a DIY person to create! Or go spend a bunch of money on objects that will allow you to "live simply and beautifully." Maybe you arrange the cheese and crackers in your children's lunchbox. Or send a letter, assemble a colorful vegetable platter, or make a shrine of found objects in your office. Something that reminds you of your power to impact the world around you. All of us have that power, but screens and chatter and perfectionism drown it out sometimes.

As for me, you know where I'll be. Thumbing through Alice Medrich's cookie book, looking for something that will survive the tumult of a kid's lunchbox. These did the trick this week.

P.S. Wyatt got a lead role in his school musical, "Once Upon a Mattress." After counless rehearsals, the productions were this week. Look at this 10 year old putting himself out there. Blowing me away. 

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 Toffee Bars
More from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich. These are crazy easy.

For the crust:
12 Tb. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/3 c. sugar 
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. flour
2 c. pecan halves

For the topping:
1 Tb. water
3/4 c. packed light brown sugar
8 Tb. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks
2/3 to 1 c. milk or dark chocolate chips (I used 60%, but I think milk would be delicious, too)

Line a 9x13 metal pan, bottom and all 4 sides, with foil. Prehat oven to 350.

To make the crust, cut the butter into chunks and melt it in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Scatter the pecans over the dough without pressing them into it. Lay an extra piece of foil over the nuts to allow them to toast without buring while the crust is baking.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned at the edges. While the crust is baking, make the topping.

To make the topping, combine the water and brown sugar in a small saucepan and whisk until the sugar is moistened. Heat the mixture over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally Whisk in the butter and remove from the heat.

When the crust is ready, whisk the topping until smooth. Remove the foil from the crust and scrape the hot butter mixture over the pecans on the crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the topping is dark and bubbling vigorously. Remove the pan from the oven and scatter the chocolate chips evenly over the top. Cool the bars in the pan. Lift the ends of the foil iner and transfer to a cutting board. Use a long sharp knife to cut into 24 bars.