Nearly 150 years ago, a company in the St. Joseph, Missouri starting selling a thin, leavened hardtack that would come to be known as saltine crackers. I suspect that later that day, some enterprising cook said, “I can doctor those up.”
Tasty ingredients that could be purchased instead of made from scratch were a welcome convenience in those days, and still are. Clever cooks around the country come up with brilliant ways to dress up crackers beyond serving them with cheese, peanut butter, and soup.
Sometimes the saltines used in a recipe are in plain sight, but other times they go under cover. In this case, under a thick blanket of chocolate and nuts. In a feat of delicious transformation, these saltines turn into candy that passes (perhaps surpasses) homemade toffee. Real toffee is difficult, requiring candy thermometers and facility with molten sugar. Saltine toffee is easy, requiring a baking sheet and spatula.
This candy goes by a number of names, such as Cracker Toffee, Cracker Candy, Pine Bark, Toffee Bark, Faux Toffee, Saltine Sweeties, Fooler Toffee, and Christmas Crack. By any name, this recipe is a winner. It is quick, easy, and keeps well when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. It’s a great option for family baking, because even the youngest kitchen helpers can help arrange the crackers on the pan. It’s easily halved or doubled. It makes a fine gift or sharable treat to take into the office during the holidays.
The recipe is amenable to change ups and variations, such as swapping out the type of chocolate and/or nuts. How about dark brown sugar, butterscotch morsels, and toffee chips? Perhaps crushed candy canes in place of the nuts? Hershey bars instead of chips? Keep the concept and ratios intact and all will be well. Most of the ingredients keep well in the pantry, so you can whip out a tray of this fine candy on short notice.
Ease and utility notwithstanding, the best part of this treat is that it’s crazy good. The crackers nearly dissolve in the butter and sugar, so much so that they are difficult to identify, yet continue to lend a bit of salt to balance the sweet. Should you suspect that some people will be leery of the crackers, don’t tell them. The secret ingredient can be our little secret.