It’s December, so for the past three weeks already food has been appearing at random; it arrives at my house, my workplace, my church. And it’s not just food, it’s special food, the kind that people make from a recipe written down in impeccable looping script by their grandmothers on a 3×5 card that is now crust-covered and stains from years of whipping up a batch on the countertop admist various and sundry ingredients.
I happen to own several of these carefully guarded recipes myself and have found that batches of these decadent national secrets make wonderful gifts during the holidays.
In this life–and probably in twelve previous incarnations–I’m a teacher, and one of the hardest days of the school year is the last day of school prior to Christmas vacation. That is the day that our lovelies show up at school with gifts for us. Sometimes the gifts are truly thought out and expensive, and we feel bad that our students’ parents went to so much effort and expense. Sometimes the gifts are atrocious and hand-made from styrofoam cups, and we feel bad that our students sat up late into the night to make us another pencil holder out of an old soup can with the label only partly peeled off.
Of course, I teach in a juvenile correctional facility, so my students carve me things out of bars of soap or present me with their favorite shanks. But I digress.
As a teacher, let me tell all the parents out there that the best gifts are ones we do not have to store someplace, and dear God please stop giving us things with an apple motiff. I own apple paperweights, apple key chains, apple pot holders, and more. No, the best gifts are edible ones, since we can enjoy the caramel crumb cake then be done with it, or if we’re in a pinch, we can simply carry your inviting tray of pecan pie bars to any number of holiday functions we have to attend; best of all, we will be completely grateful to you because you provided us with the requisite food offering we had to bring but we didn’t have to take the necessary time to make them. After all, from midnight to five am we are just lying there doing nothing.
Here is the closely closeted recipe I give to every teacher every year, packaged nicely for regifting or eating in the car on the way home from school.
Lorca’s Toffee Bars
Line a cookie sheet COMPLETELY with a plastic turkey roasting bag, cut open so that it even hangs over the edge of the sheet slightly. Cover the entire sheet with the cheapest saltine-style crackers you can find. Feel free to get fancy by trying out Ritz, graham crackers, or whatever strikes you.
On your stove top boil the following for three minutes: two sticks of the cheapest margarine available, 3/4 c of brown sugar, 1/4 c white sugar, and a splash of cheap vanilla.
Pour the boiling sugar slurry over the crackers, pushing them down into the lava-like sugar until they scream for mercy or are completely covered. Bake the entire mess at 400 degrees for five minutes.
Once you CAREFULLY pull the even-more-molten sheet from the oven, immediately sprinkle the cracker mess with any flavor of chocolate chips you like. Mix it up, so that some teachers get the creme de menthe topping, some get butterscotch, some get dark chocolate, etc. Avoid the peanut butter chips, as many school are going peanut-free.
It should only take a moment for the chips to melt. Spread them into a frosting with a knife or spatula, and let the pan cool in the fridge until it is all solid.
Peel back the turkey bag (saving it, since you can use it again for the next batch) and break up the bars completely at random. Package the bars attractively, and present it to your child’s grateful teacher.