Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Best Toffee Squares That Taste Nothing Like Toffee

Yes, you read that correctly. One of my most favorites cookies are my mom's toffee squares. She makes them every year during the holidays, although these are certainly a great candidate for a cookie that needs no special occasion for enjoyment.

Whenever I make these, they are always a hit with people, although everyone reacts the same way: "Wow, these are great, but you know that they don't taste anything like toffee, right?" I agree completely, so don't worry, my friends, I don't think you're crazy. My mom got the original recipe from one of the older Betty Crocker cookbooks - a smart move always, I think. I've noticed that whenever I make recipes from older cookbooks, including old church and elementary school fundraiser cookbooks, those are the recipes that are always popular, and I definitely would never argue with the masses. Anyway, in the Betty Crocker cookbook, these cookies are called toffee squares, so maybe this is what toffee tasted like a few decades ago? In any event, the name stuck, and these continue to be toffee squares to me.

At this point, you're probably wondering...if they don't taste like toffee, what do they taste like? I like to think of these more as an inside out chocolate chip cookie. Given my general fascination with chocolate chip cookies, it's no real surprise why these cookies are such a hit with me. They are also great because the recipe is super easy to change to get either a crispy or a soft product, so cookie fans of all types can rejoice! Each year for Christmas, my mom makes two batches: the traditional way and the Alison way. In the traditional way, you use a jelly roll pan to lay out the dough really thinly, so you get a satisfying crunch when you bite into a bar. My sister loves her toffee squares soft, though, so for her, my mom puts another batch in a 9x13 pan. Since the pan is smaller, the cookie is thicker, and the final product is soft lusciousness. That's why Mom rules; she knows all the tricks to make everyone feel special.

Regrettably, I've been so focused on veganizing the original chocolate chip cookie recipe that I haven't had a chance to figure out how to remove the egg from these guys, but I hope to figure that out soon enough. In the mean time, if you're not averse to eggs, I recommend them strongly.

Toffee Squares...Inside-Out Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars...oh, what's in a name?
Yields: 4-5 dozen crispy cookies or 3-4 dozen soft cookies

1 c. non-dairy butter substitute, like Earth's Balance, softened
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
6-12 ounces vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips, like Ghirardelli
Chopped pecans, optional (for added depth of flavor, you can toast the pecans first in a 350 degree oven on a non-oiled cookie sheet for about 10 minutes)

1) Cream together butter substitute and sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla until well combined.
2) Slowly add flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until just mixed.
3) FOR CRISPY BARS: flatten dough into a greased jelly roll (10x13) pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
FOR SOFT BARS: flatten dough into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.
4) When cookies are finished, turn the oven off and remove the cookies. Pour chocolate chips on top. (Okay, so Betty Crocker recommended 6 ounces of chocolate. I usually eyeball it and put on 6-8 ounces...and my mom and I agree that sometimes, if you are in a particularly luxurious mood, that the whole 12 ounce bag might make it on there. Whoops, mistakes happen...). Immediately return pans into oven for about 90 seconds.
5) Remove pan from oven and spread out the chocolate across the top. If adding nuts, add them now. Cut into squares and let cool completely.

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