baking bars: toffee-tastic

toffeebar-uncut.jpg.jpegAnyone else see a river of chocolate, Willy Wonka-style, in this picture? As a child, I toured a local department store’s annual Christmas display with my school. Their elaborate productions changed yearly and in my 6-year-old eyes, they’d outdone themselves that year with their depiction of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Scenes included the chocolate river — fragrance included — complete with a model of Augustus Gloop stuck in a pipe. It’s an image I’ll never forget.

What does all of this have to do with what is supposed to be a Great-aunt Helen’s Recipe Box post, you ask?

While the Chocolate Factory visit was on the school’s watch, most of my trips to the Christmas display were with Helen. Each December, my suburban family would drive to Helen’s inner-city Minneapolis home and together we’d all bus downtown to the department store hosting the display.

That bus ride was, for me, a journey to another world. People of different races, ages, and socioeconomic status were on those buses. Because our ride took us past the University of Minnesota campus, I’d see college kids en masse. One memory includes great-Aunt Helen leaning toward me, telling me that the beautiful young woman in a seat toward the front of the bus was probably a college student. I couldn’t have been more impressed if she’d said the President of the United States was in that seat. A real-life college student was royalty to my young mind.

Looking for a recipe in Helen’s recipe boxes for this week’s post, I grabbed the Toffee Squares card as soon as I saw it.toffeebars-1.jpg.jpegtoffeebars-2.jpg.jpegCrediting it to Peg (my mom!) reeled me in as did the promise of out-of-this-world flavor. A rich, buttery crust topped with melted chocolate could only be amazing. Not a fan of nuts in baked goods, I instead used flaked sea salt and cacao nibs.toffee-bars_02.jpg.jpegThe recipe offered no surprises. Basic ingredients went together easily. Instead of “3 to 4 milk choc. bars,” I laid random chocolate bars — mostly dark, not milk — and even a few pieces of a leftover chocolate Easter bunny to fit on the just-baked crust. I’m certain I used more than what was recommended in the recipe.20160606_190409.jpgPieces were cut small to yield the six to seven dozen listed on the card. Good thing, too, as they’re overwhelmingly rich eaten in larger amounts. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

The bars chilled overnight and the next day were wrapped as gifts for my daughter’s teachers. toffee-bars_04.jpg.jpegIt’s come full circle with my youngest now the age when I took those trips to downtown Minneapolis with great-Aunt Helen. My Anna Helen doesn’t have a great-Aunt Helen to expand her suburban environs, though I do what I can to fill that role. And with Helen’s recipe collection in hand, I can create the foods she created in her urban kitchen.

Next week we find a beverage with which to pair these sinfully tasty treats. I’ll expect to see you here πŸ™‚

22 thoughts on “baking bars: toffee-tastic

  1. Beautiful! This recipe is amazing and I love your story about willy wonka and the big city. I doesn’t realize you named your daughter after Helen too. So lovely. There is so much goodness in this post. I do love toffee too. And newly discovered cacao nibs.

    • Thank you, Amanda πŸ™‚ I wish I could remember more of the trips downtown. Funny how isolated a suburban kid can be. I hardly knew any world outside of the town I lived in.

      I wanted to name my youngest Helen Ann, but with Gunderson as a last name, this seemed a poor choice when looking at initials. Ha. Saved her a bit of teasing I hope.

      Thinking cacao nibs would go nicely over a matcha-type latte πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Beth. I love how you spin your words πŸ™‚ The toffee is terribly addicting, am sorry to say. It’s always “just one more piece” and before you know it you’re up another pants size, haha. Always good to have you here!

  2. Such great stories of the chocolate river (#envious) and seeing the college student. I know just what you mean when you say she warranted as much awe as the POTUS himself. It’s like being at the neighborhood pool and the seniors show up. Suddenly it’s cool.

    And who doesn’t like toffee? Makes me want to eat some almond roca (like the Helen/mom in my life enjoys). I bet the teachers loved them (even if they melted all over their fingers).

    • Have very few memories of being that young, but I remember the “college girl” well. She was pale and had long brown hair up in a tight bun. Her makeup was simple and her complexion was clear and smooth. Long eyelashes. Thought for sure she was a ballerina. Why do you suppose I’d remember that moment? That and the upside-down ice cream cone clown sundaes we’d get when the department store was Donaldson’s instead of Dayton’s. And the waitress called me “dear.” Wish we could watch tapes of our younger selves. Though much would be cringe-worthy, I’d think.

      No one. That’s who doesn’t like toffee πŸ™‚ Yes, hot and humid (93F by Friday) so the chocolate will get melty. Alas. Price to pay.

  3. I can relate so thoroughly to your young self, enthralled by the city! I have similar memories of going to cities, from the farm, and being boggled by things like . . . sidewalks! And exotic, sophisticated people like college kids. Wow! Your toffee bars look decadent and yummy–I think your cocktail better have either milk or coffee involved!

    • Thank you, Kerry. Lol sidewalks. Agreed that the paired beverage needs to be creamy and sweet and quite possibly coffee-ish πŸ™‚

  4. What a great trip down memory lane and your river of chocolate looks delicious. “Talk about your childhood wishes”. . .

    After reading your aunt’s/mom’s recipe, it makes me wonder if it came off a Gold Medal flour package. Great recipe!

    • Hadn’t considered that, about the Gold Medal label, Fannie. But I’m sure you’re right. Will ask my mom.

      Gotta love the Willy Wonka! Appreciate you being here. Thank you πŸ™‚

  5. I remember making toffee growing up, I will definitely try this recipe out. I think I used to use a recipe from home ec class maybe. I remember this c,own ice cream cones too, though I don’t remember where we got them. What a fantastic teachers gift, though I avoid chocolate since it is way too hot here by the end of the school year. This year we opted for zucchini bread using a zucchini from the garden and cinnamon maple cream cheese, though the boys were heartbroken we didn’t have any left to keep at home!

    • Garden-fresh zucchini bread with cinnamon maple cream cheese sounds positively dreamy, Gretchen! Your boys must know there will be more where that came from πŸ™‚ Hope they are enjoying the summer vacation so far and you are as well.

      This toffee recipe is more about the “bar” then the candy, but it’s still crazy good. Hard not to keep eating it. And lol, you had clown ice cream sundaes, too. So old-school!

  6. Pingback: a spirited frap | food for fun

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