in the kitchen with tara

shortly after returning from my thanksgiving “break,” i went to the grocery story to stock up on all of my holiday baking essentials. this included, but was not limited to:

  • 3 packs of butter (that’s 12 sticks, aka 6 cups), plus the one we already had in the fridge
  • 2 disposable aluminum pans
  • a gazillion ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 bags of bits ‘o brickle heath bits
  • 2 bags of pretzel rods
  • 3 assorted bags of candy melt chips

i don’t take my holiday baking lightly, people.

my first task was on december 1st, when i made christmasy compost cookies, club cracker toffee, AND my very requested bacon-cheddar bread for various parties and get-togethers that weekend. (butter count: 5 sticks)

a few weeks later i had a last-minute dinner party and threw together some delicious chicken spaghetti (adapted it, i used bacon and parsley [leftover from the bread], and 1 can each cream of chicken and cream of mushroom. secret ingredient: 1 tbsp. sriracha) (butter count: 0, thankfully)

chicken spaghetti

which brings us to last night, when i had the entire kitchen to myself to create the delicious goodie bags and platters my coworkers and friends have come to expect. this year i did candy-dipped pretzels and oreos (chocolate, red velvet/chocolate, and PB flavor) with sprinkles, along with another batch of my famous/addicting/most requested cracker toffee, aka CHRISTMAS CRACK.

since i can’t give you ALL a taste of this sweet buttery goodness, i’m going to post my “secret” recipe and instructions here in hopes of spreading holiday cheer worldwide. (warning: lots of butter ahead)

step one: preheat oven to 350. on an edged cookie sheet (i use the disposable ones because this can get messy), line up as many keebler club crackers as you can, with as little overlap as possible (or saltines, if you prefer). i usually end up using about a sleeve (protip: i use reduced fat crackers to save a few calories. not that it will make a difference after the next step, but ya know. just in case. and nobody can tell!)

step two: in a small saucepan, melt 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter over low heat. when melted, add 1 cup of brown sugar to the butter, stirring constantly. bring to a low boil and simmer for just a minute or two. make sure this doesn’t caramelize!!

step three: pour the butter mixture over the arranged club crackers, making sure to cover the entire surface. use a rubber spatula to even it out. as soon as this is done, stick the pan in the oven, keeping an eye on the crackers. i usually keep mine in for about 5 minutes, or until i see the butter bubbling and the crackers have turned golden brown.

photo 2

pre-oven

step four: as soon as you take the pan out, quickly rearrange any crackers that may have slipped around (my oven is tilted to this happens to me, but is easily remedied!). as soon as possible. pour chocolate chips over the whole thing. i eyeball this, but i think it usually ends up being about 1-1/12 cups of chips. let the chips melt a little, and using a rubber spatula, spread the melted chips around the entire surface, making sure to coat it evenly! follow this by sprinkling heath bits ‘o brickle over the chocolate, as much or as little as you want (some people also use walnuts, but i’m a purist and prefer to stay as simple as possible).

photo 3 photo 4

photo 5

that’s it! you’re done! well, actually no, i lied. stick the pan in the fridge for a half hour or so to set, THEN you’re done. you can cut it up evenly (a pizza slicer is nice), or do as i do and just start at one edge and start to break it up with my hands into imperfect chunks.

butter count: too much. satisfaction: 100%

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