Toffee Bars

Makes 24

Crust:

12 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 cups pecan halves

Topping:

1 tablespoon water

¾ cup packed brown sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 chunks

6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9- by 13-inch pan with foil, leaving an overhang.

2. For the crust, melt the butter over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in sugar, vanilla and salt. Add flour and mix just until incorporated.

3. Press dough evenly into pan. Scatter pecans loosely over the dough. Cover nuts with a loose piece of foil so they toast without burning. Bake 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned at the edges.

4. Meanwhile, combine water and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Whisk in butter.

5. Remove foil from pecans. Pour caramel topping over the crust. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until dark and bubbling vigorously. Scatter chocolate over the top. (Or, melt and drizzle the chocolate decoratively over the bars after they've cooled.) Cool bars in pan. Then transfer to a board for cutting.

-- Alice Medrich, "Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies," (Workman Publishing, 384 pp., $25.95)


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