Easy Christmas “Cookie”–Cracker Candy (w/gluten free option!)

2012 update: Thanks to the power of Twitter and a recommendation from Mary Ann Vadnais, this recipe now has a gluten-free option. To make gluten free, substitute the saltine crackers with Yehuda Matzo Style Squares. I’ve been told since from several people who tried this, that it worked very, very well!

2011 note: I originally posted this recipe nearly 2 years ago in 2009. It’s probably the single most popular post on this website, and I still get people asking me about this recipe, sharing the link and talking about making the cracker candy. It’s just that easy to make and just that good. So I decided to pull it back to the top for all of you who never saw it the first time. In the comments are discussions for variations, and I’ve tried them all, including the club crackers, adding crushed candy canes, etc. Honestly, my favorite cracker candy is still the kind that’s just the saltines and chocolate, not even any nuts on top. But this is a forgiving recipe, so experiment and find your own favorite way!

I think most of you are going “uh…what?”. I had never heard of cracker candy until about 3 or 4 years ago, when we did our first cookie exchange for our playgroup. My friend Jennifer did this for the exchange and I fell so madly in love with it. It’s probably just about the easiest Christmas cookie you can make (it took me twice as long to write this post as it did to make the actual candy) and super tasty.I have, in the past, made these and sent them to people who think I’m crazy when I talk about them. But the combination of the salty cracker and the butter/sugar that turns into a toffee, with the sweetness of the chocolate is so addictive! Here’s how to do it, complete with (bad) photos.

Spread out your crackers in on a jelly roll/cookie sheet pan. One with edges that you’ve lined completely with foil. Trust me on this, line the pan with foil. I decided to do a mix of soda crackers and club crackers, because I thought the buttery taste of the club crackers might be divine in this recipe.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and bring to a boil for at least three minutes. It may take a bit longer, but you’ll see it thicken and get a bit more gooey. I think there’s an official candy-making term for this. Soft ball stage? I don’t know, I’m totally making crap up now.

Warning!! Do NOT walk away from your pot. You must stand and stir the entire time or you’ll end up with a huge mess on your stove and probably burnt butter and sugar.

Pour the butter mixture over the crackers. All over the crackers. You won’t be able to get them all coated just by pouring, you’re going to have to pour it as evenly as you can (I didn’t do that and made it a little harder on myself) and then go back and spread it out with a spoon.

It should look like this, all cracker surfaces covered with butter goo. Now put the crackers in the oven on 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Set a timer. You’ll be ticked if you leave them in too long and burn them. And that can happen.

While your crackers are in the oven, grab your commercial-size can of cashews–what do you mean you don’t have one? Everyone has one, right? Well, anyway, at this stage, if you’re going to use nuts like pecans, walnuts or cashews, even peanuts, you’re going to want to chop them up.

Like this. I used my handy countertop Black and Decker chopper. You’ll see this featured a lot in my cooking posts. I just chopped the cashews until they were appropriate for topping. I use cashews because I like them best, but you can use whatever you want. A cup of cashews unchopped resulted in enough chopped cashews for the entire pan of cracker candy.

Here’s a shot of the crackers in the oven. This was longer than five minutes because I had to run upstairs and tuck Brianna in.

I pulled them out of the oven, see how they look kind of brown? That’s not bad, but you don’t really want them to get any darker than that. Don’t try to go for any particular color. Just bake them for five minutes and pull them out.

Now sprinkle the chocolate chips over as soon as you pull them from the oven. I also had an industrial size bag of dark chocolate chips (hey, I shop at Sam’s Club) so I had to guess at how many to put on, but it’s hard to have too much chocolate. I use dark because it’s my favorite. The chips will begin to melt immediately, but get them sprinkled on and then worry about spreading. You have lots of time. I spread one side out, the other side looks like they’re still formed but really they’re melted too. Spread the chocolate evenly. I had to move some around because I had a bare spot after I was done.

Look to see if anyone is around.

Lick the spatula. You’re done with it, it’s okay. Now put it in the sink and wipe the chocolate off the corner of your mouth. Be glad no one saw you.

At this point, you can just leave your cracker candy naked. You don’t have to do anything more to it if you don’t want. You can be done now.

I added cashews to only half, because I do like naked cracker candy too. Instead of adding nuts, this year Jennifer added Christmas color candy sprinkles to hers. I almost put some fancy sea salt on one corner of this, because dark chocolate and sea salt? Yum. But I didn’t want to get the salt out (I’m lazy).

Now the hard part. Waiting. Let it cool in the fridge or freezer. Possibly overnight on the counter if it’s cool in your house, but you might need to stash it in the freezer for a few minutes to firm it up. You don’t want the chocolate to be soft at all. You want it totally set. Now break it apart. You can be anal and break it into the cracker squares, or you can just break it into random pieces. It really doesn’t matter. It all tastes the same. Addictive. Oh, and next time? I’m making them all with club crackers. The extra buttery taste made them insane!

Cracker Candy

35-40 Saltines
2 sticks of salted butter -do NOT use margarine
1/4 cup sugar (I use white but some people use brown. Your call!)
1 bag of milk (or semi or dark) chocolate morsels
Sliced almonds or any other nuts

Line cookie sheet with foil (sides too). Lay saltines side by side in one layer, sides touching. Melt butter, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Drizzle over crackers, (keep crackers together). Bake 5 minutes @ 400°. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate over baked crackers. They will start to melt – spread over crackers. Sprinkle top with nuts. Refrigerate until cold, even overnight. Break into pieces.

S’mores brownies

S’mores brownies

I was supposed to post this recipe over a month ago, but as we can all tell, I haven’t been blogging much! I’ve made this s’mores brownie recipe twice now, and these brownies are amazing. I took them to the Toronto Harlequin office recently and they didn’t last more than a day. They sound really rich, and while they kind of are (I serve them in smaller than normal brownie pieces) they’re not any more rich than your average s’more or gooey brownie. And they’re just…so good There are a lot of s’mores brownie recipes out there. I took mine from Picky Palate (she has a lot of pictures of the process) but I changed it ever so slightly.

Ingredients:

1 box of brownie mix, prepared according to directions on box. I use Duncan Hines dark brownie mix because I’m a fan of dark chocolate.

1 sleeve plain graham crackers (this is not the time to get fancy with the cinnamon ones). It will take about 5 whole crackers.

4 plain full-size chocolate bars or 2 of the baking size bars. Again, I use dark chocolate.

Bag of large marshmallows, You’ll need around 10 or so, and I cut mine in half to make the marshmallow layer more manageable.

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F while you’re preparing the brownie mix according to the box directions.

2. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with foil (the nonstick kind is good here). Line the entire pan and spray whole inside of pan, bottom and sides, with cooking spray.

3. Pour half the brownie batter into pan.

4. Layer graham crackers over brownie mix. Break them up only when you need to fill in small spaces.

5. Next layer chocolate on top of graham crackers.  Break chocolate up only when you need to fill in small spaces.

6. Last, put cut marshmallows (really, you can use whole if you want) on top of chocolate.

7.  Pour other half of brownie batter over marshmallows.

8. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Toothpick should be mostly clean (minus the gooey marshmallow) from center.

9. Remove from oven and cool completely.  No really, completely. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.

10. Using edges of foil, lift foil and brownies from pan.

11. Peel foil from away from edges and cut brownies into small squares.

   

 

Cooking the Books: Lemonade Pie from Editor Mallory Braus

Sometimes you just want a simple, easy, delicious dessert that you can whip up. Freelance editor Mallory Braus shared this one with the Carina Press editors recently.

I bestow upon you the fabulous recipe for Lemonade Pie:

1- graham cracker crust
1- 8oz container of lowfat coolwhip
1- 0.23 oz packet of lemon or lime koolaid
¾- 14oz sweetened lowfat/nofat condensed milk

Mix coolwhip/koolaid/condensed milk together until smooth and blended. Pour mixture into the graham cracker crust. Put in freezer overnight. Then enjoy!

It’s quick to make, delish, and best of all, it’s low fat/low calorie. A slice is about 2 points on the weight watchers scale…

Mallory has always had a passion for reading romance. But she never considered that the books she loved could lead to a future career. Until one fateful day she was offered an internship with a fabulous literary agent. A position as reader for a romance editor at St. Martin’s Press soon followed. She graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a BA in English. After a brief stay in New York, in which it was discovered that city life did not agree with her, she returned to California and feels so blessed to have found a home with Carina Press and a job that lets her work with her one true love—romance.

When she’s not editing, Mallory also works part-time as a PR Associate for authors. You can follow her on Twitter @MalloryCates

Holiday baking: Bubble bread sticky rolls

I don’t remember exactly when we started our Christmas traditions, but there are a few that we have: we always go out to dinner on Christmas Eve, and then to the local park to take the tram around the Christmas lights. On Christmas Day, Brianna and I always wear matching pajamas, and I make some type of sticky roll on Christmas morning. I can’t say that we consciously started doing these things and made them “traditions” but we’ve been doing them long enough that Brianna knows them now. This was driven home to me about a month ago when she randomly said to me one day, “Can you make special sticky rolls for Christmas breakfast?” I’m glad she’s getting a sense of tradition through the years and I hope that it makes the holidays special for her!

Sometimes when I’ve been using a recipe for a long time, I don’t always remember where I got it. But like the much favored cracker candy, this one came from my friend Jennifer. I think she must have brought these to a brunch years ago and everyone loved them so much, we demanded the recipe. And thus, my Christmas morning tradition was born. These are SO EASY that I can’t say enough about them. I’ve tried other recipes, but they never turn out quite the same, and this year I toyed with the idea of homemade cinnamon rolls before I stopped myself for the craziness of this thought. I can throw these together in minutes. Why spend hours when you already have perfection?

Bubble Bread Sticky Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pecan halves (optional, I usually skip the nuts)
  • 18 frozen dinner rolls (the frozen dough kind that come in a bag. NOT cooked rolls)
  • 1 (3.5 ounce) package cook and serve butterscotch vanilla pudding mix (I don’t like butterscotch anything)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) to 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup brown sugar (how much butter/sugar you use depends on how “sticky” you want them to be)

Directions

Spray a bunt pan with cooking spray or butter generously. Sprinkle nuts at bottom of pan. Spread rolls evenly in the pan. If you don’t have a bunt pan, a 9×13 pan will work as well.

Melt butter and pour over frozen rolls. Mix dry ingredients together and poor over the frozen rolls. Cover with towel. Let rise overnight. (I place mine in the oven–cold oven–to rise overnight)

In the morning, place the bunt pan on a cookie sheet (to catch spillage) and place in a pre heated oven. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Turn pan upside down over a serving plate.

Alternate directions:

Out of interest, I looked this recipe up on Allrecipes.com. They used slightly different directions, which I’m including here. I make them the above way and they always turn out, but some people prefer this method.

  1. Generously butter a 9×13 inch baking pan. Sprinkle pecans in bottom of pan. Place frozen dinner rolls in a single layer on top of pecans. Sprinkle dry pudding mix over the top.
  2. Combine butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Heat until boiling then pour over rolls. Cover with plastic wrap or wax paper and allow to stand overnight.
  3. In the morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  4. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Turn upside down onto serving platter.

Holiday Baking: Cinnamon Caramel Corn

I stumbled on this recipe last year on the Our Best Bites blog and decided to add it to my holiday baking. I’m not sure how the people I sent this to felt about it, but my family loves this stuff. My brother hovered over the first batch I made this year and I had to threaten his life to move him away from it. I made another batch yesterday for him to take to work to “share”. This is really an easy treat to make and so yummy. Makes an easy holiday snack to share at work or at a party.

Cinnamon Caramel Corn

12 C popped popcorn (about 3/4 C kernels)
1 C pecan halves, roughly chopped (I omit, wld use salted peanuts if I added nuts)
1 C brown sugar
3/4 t cinnamon (I use a teaspoon)
1/4 C karo syrup (or honey makes a good substitution)
1 stick real butter (1/2 C)
1t vanilla
1/2 t baking soda

3 squares almond bark (about 4 oz)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

Pop the popcorn. Let the dogs take care of the stray pieces that go flying out of the bowl and onto the floor when the popping gets a little wild.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium microwave safe bowl. Mix well. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour corn syrup over the top of everything. Microwave on high for 30 seconds and then stir to combine. Return to microwave and heat for 2 minutes. Remove and stir and then microwave for 2 minutes more. (Microwaving for a total of 4 1/2 minutes)

Remove from microwave and add in vanilla and baking soda. Stir to combine. Mixture will foam and rise (so make sure you have a bit of room after you’ve added the ingredients into that medium bowl!0 Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and stir very well so everything is well coated, but don’t think that every single piece has to be totally covered w/the mixture. It doesn’t!

Spread popcorn mixture onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread out on a large piece of parchment, waxed paper, or foil. Keep your family from eating it all before you can even finish it.

Melt almond bark according to package instructions. Drizzle over popcorn mixture with a spoon. Don’t worry about spreading evenly or looking pretty. Just drizzle. When almond bark is hardened and popcorn is cool, break into chunks, store in ziploc baggies and enjoy!

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