Fully Loaded Toffee Saltines
As I’ve mentioned many times before, I am a lover of Valentine’s Day. Always have been, always will be. I don’t care if it’s a Hallmark Holiday—I think a day dedicated to love is an excellent, albeit touchy-feely, idea. I mean, even if you don’t have a significant other, I assume you have at least one family member, friend, or animal (slight judgment) that you love, and V-Day is an excellent reminder/excuse to celebrate them. I dig it.
Personally, I’ve experienced every type of Valentine’s celebration—the solo soirée, the collegiate theme party, the Galentine’s gathering (I’ve attended both the girl power and the crying into a vat of wine varieties), the prix fixe restaurant date, the home-cooked dinner for two—and each one has its specific charms. But I didn’t truly discover my V-Day sweet spot until two years ago.
Every Presidents’ Day weekend for the past five years, my roommate and I have gone out to Vail to “ski.” Since February 14th has fallen on this weekend since 2014, I’ve enjoyed my two favorite Valentine’s celebrations to date in Colorado, and I’m very much looking forward to a third. It turns out that my perfect holiday looks something like this: Logan and I sleep in and drink coffee in bed. The dude spends the morning/early afternoon “shredding the gnar,” while I read a book, get a massage, and treat myself to chocolate-themed snacks in the bathtub. We reunite for après cocktails before tipsily dressing ourselves up and eating way too much lodge food. It’s the best. (And I’m sorry if I just made you feel badly about your relationship with that heated tale of mountain romance.)
Needless to say, I’m counting down the minutes until Sunday. Especially since I plan to have these Fully Loaded Toffee Saltines as my Valentine’s bath snack.
If you’ve had any sort of toffee Saltines before, you already know they are pure magic, and if you haven’t…prepare yourself. They are sweet and savory insanity. Coated in buttery, brown sugar toffee, the texture of the Saltines is an awesome combo of crunchy and chewy, and that’s before they’re topped with a boatload of melted chocolate, popcorn, Rice Krispies, chopped almonds, and more chocolate. Like I said, INSANITY. (I happened to use kettle corn for this batch because it was all I had in my cupboard, but hot damn, it was a good choice. Please consider it.)
Although I’m very partial to the toppings listed, they’re merely suggestions. Mix and match as you see fit (pretzels, cornflakes, and honey-roasted peanuts are excellent subs), and feel free to up the fancy factor with a little Aleppo or black pepper and some flaky sea salt if you like. You can also experiment with Club or Ritz crackers (if you’re into extra buttery thangs) or graham crackers as the base. And when it comes to this Sunday, I highly recommend throwing a handful of V-Day M&Ms or heart-shaped sprinkles into the mix. A little kitsch is good for the soul.
I’m sure you’re all hot and bothered right now, but before you rush off to make these beautiful babies, a few words of caution…
While this recipe involves minimal culinary skill and like 20 minutes of hands on time (max), I do want to head off some potential issues at the pass. I’d never forgive myself if you ended up with toffee burns or kitchen fires on V-Day. (Or any other day for that matter.) First and foremost, this is one time you really need to have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start. The recipe moves FAST. Running around trying to arrange your Saltines or gather toppings with toffee bubbling on the stove will end badly. Trust.
Second, be present. I know that may seem like a ridiculous cooking tip, but this recipe involves a lot of scarily hot things, and I need you to be on your game. It’s all too easy to get lost in your Making a Murderer podcast (btw, am I the only one who thinks he’s guilty?) or Hip Hop BBQ Pandora and accidentally spill scalding toffee on yourself or grab the edge of a screaming hot baking sheet with a bare hand. No bueno.
Finally, you must use a rimmed baking sheet. I got cocky and made my first batch on a regular cookie sheet, which was a big mistake. Huge. Toffee dripped off the sides and alllll over the bottom of my oven, a fact I was alerted to when my kitchen was immediately engulfed in smoke. Do as I say, not as I do, people.
Happy almost Love Day, friends! Whatever your plans, I hope they involve hugs, champagne, and a giant tray of Toffee Saltines. This recipe serves anywhere from 2 to roughly 16 (totally depends on the circumstances), so share them with, or gift them to, your favorite peeps. Hint, hint.
Fully Loaded Toffee Saltines (Serves 2-16, depending on the circumstances)
1 sleeve Saltine crackers (usually 35 crackers)
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
1 packed cup light brown sugar
2 1/3 cups popped popcorn (I highly recommend using kettle corn.)
2/3 cup Rice Krispies cereal
½ cup finely chopped raw almonds
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided)
Preparing your Fully Loaded Toffee Saltines:
-Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
-Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. (If you go with foil, spray it with cooking spray, just to be safe.) Arrange the crackers in a rectangle on the preparing baking sheet.
-Place the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Allow the butter and sugar to melt together, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture starts boiling, let it boil undisturbed for 3 minutes. (Do not stir it, people!) It should be a nice amber color. Immediately pour this toffee (congrats, you made toffee!) over the saltines. Be very careful, friends. This stuff will be scary hot.
-Transfer the saltines to the oven and bake for 4 minutes. The toffee should be bubbling and slightly darker in color. As you can see, the saltines will spread, peeps. It’s all good.
-Carefully remove the saltines from the oven and sprinkle with 1 cup of the chocolate chips. Return to the oven and bake for 2 more minutes. (Use these 2 minutes to psych yourself up—the next steps are going to happen FAST. So fast, I was unable to take a photo.)
-Using a spatula, spread the chocolate chips all over the top of the toffee (they will already be slightly melted, so they should spread easily). Immediately add the popcorn, Rice Krispies, and almonds in an even layer. It’s important that you do this fast because you want the toppings to adhere to the toffee/chocolate. Briefly set aside.
-Place the remaining 1/3 cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 15-20 seconds spurts, stirring between each one, until the chocolate is completely melted. Drizzle that melted chocolate allllll over the top of your fully loaded saltines. Get as artsy as you like.
-Pop the whole tray in the freezer for at least 30 minutes until the toffee and chocolate are completely set. (You can also place the tray in the fridge, but it will take longer.) Break up the toffee saltines into any size pieces you like and serve immediately, or store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. (Personally, I’m a freezer girl. This stuff will keep in there for MONTHS. Even the popcorn will stay fresh.)
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