Tuesday 14 December 2021

Toffee Crunch Squares

Look at these squares. You see that somewhat plain looking bottom layer? Don't be fooled. THAT, my friends, is a whole lot of delightful, toffee crunchiness just waiting to surprise you.

My husband loved English toffee. I suspect English toffee is called other things in other place but, basically, it's a delectable sweet made with a layer of hard toffee, covered by a layer of chocolate, with finely chopped almonds pressed into the chocolate before it sets. I used to buy it at Purdy's (a BC chocolatier) and give it to him at Christmas-time every year.  

Unfortunately there came a year when it wasn't within my means to buy my guy his treat from Purdy's. I searched for recipes I could make at home instead and eventually settled on this one, from a Quaker Oats advertisement in the 1993 Family Circle Christmas magazine. The oats in the bottom layer of these squares are not a traditional ingredient in English toffee but we both liked a good oatmeal cookie and the flavour combination was appealing. It was comparatively inexpensive to make too.

The squares were so well received that I've made them almost every Christmas since. The only adaptations I've made to the recipe are the way in which I prepare the pan before baking, and the use of walnut pieces, rather more coarsely chopped than the almonds on an English toffee. You, of course, can use nuts or not, as you prefer, and chop them more finely or not, as suits your taste.

Before I give you the recipe, I want to talk to you about preparing the baking pan:  

The crunch in this recipe comes from sugar, melted in the oven and then allowed to harden and cool.  It can be difficult to get the cooled squares out of the pan.  I get my best results by first buttering a 10 x 15 inch jelly roll pan and then lining the bottom of the pan with parchment. I prepare the parchment before buttering the pan, tracing around the bottom of the pan with a pencil and then cutting just inside the traced line so no pencil is on the paper that goes into the pan. Once the parchment has been cut, I butter the bottom and sides of the pan liberally and then set the cut parchment on top of the butter.

To make Toffee Crunch Squares, you'll need:

  • 4-1/2 cups oatmeal (either quick cooking or old fashioned but never instant)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Stir together the oatmeal, salt, and brown sugar until the sugar is evenly distributed throughout.

Add in the butter, corn syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir until all of the dry ingredients are moistened and the mass sort of sticks together.  It'll still be a bit crumbly.

Transfer the oatmeal mixture to the baking pan and press it out to fill the pan in an even layer.

Bake in a pre-heated 400F oven for 18 minutes, until brown and bubbly.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the baked oatmeal mixture as soon as it comes out of the oven. Let them sit for 10 minutes and then use a knife or an offset spatula to spread the melted chocolate so it completely covers the baked oatmeal mixture. 

If you're using them, sprinkle on the chopped nuts while the chocolate is still soft.

Let the pan cool completely, then cut your squares. A knife with a thin but not flexible blade will work best for this.  

I don't recommend that you freeze these bars. They lose some of their crunchiness if frozen and then thawed.

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