Toffee Bars and Gratitude

Yes, may I have another?

Yes, may I have another?

I fully intended to post this before Christmas, which is when I actually made these and delivered them…but you know, it’s a busy time! Even so, I think this is a great idea for any time of the year, so this post is timely.

It all started with reading about Cooking Light magazine’s “Bake a Second Batch” challenge in the December 2013 issue. The idea was to make a second batch of whatever your holiday baking entailed and give it to your favorite teacher, worker, policeman, etc. This brought to mind that I really wanted to do something to say thanks to the firemen and first responders that came to our home when lightning struck last summer. So in the midst of holiday preparations, I decided to make these Turtle Bars from a recipe I wanted to try that I’d saved in my files from the 2003 issue of Bon Appétit magazine.

The bars came out well, but not like Turtle Bars at all really, in that the caramel wasn’t soft. Yet in spite of being really hard to cut, the bars had a wonderful dark chocolate coating with a hard toffee and pecan layer on top of a delicious crust. We loved them, so I packaged them up and got them ready to go to the fire station.

Now I’m going to digress and tell you a little story, because there are a few things I learned that one must consider when attempting to deliver goodies to a fire station. First and foremost, these guys are really busy. They not only respond to fires, but also are first responders to 911 calls to aid in any emergency. And as a result, they are very hard to catch.

Our first attempt to deliver the goods was met with an open, but completely empty, fire station. Not wishing to enter uninvited or leave the plate, we decided to come back the next morning. Fortunately, these bars keep well when wrapped well.

The next day around lunch time, we decided to try, try again, piled into the car and headed back to the station. (This particular fire station is about 1 mile from our house, and they actually heard the explosion when the lighting hit our home.) As we rounded the first corner on our way, I heard a siren, looked at my husband and said “surely that isn’t our firemen on their way somewhere.” And in the very next moment, they passed us in a huge ladder truck followed by an emergency vehicle and sped down the road in the opposite direction. Not deterred, we drove on to the station to see if anyone stayed behind to mind the store. Foiled again.

So on to the grocery we went, being halfway there already. Thirty minutes later, we had to drive back past the station to go home, since it is along our most traveled route.

We stopped a third time, knocked on the back door and a charming young man answered, hurrah! The smell of something good to eat for lunch was wafting out of the doorway from behind him, and he was still chewing as he came the door. (These guys cook regularly for themselves, you know, and must eat quickly before the next call.)

We stated who we were, where we lived and that we were there because they’d come to our aid in a time of need, and we wanted to say thank you again by dropping off a goodie, and wish them a happy holiday. The young man called out towards the back room for his Superior to come forth, and out came…the very guy who lead the team that responded to our call in June! He remembered us, shook our hands and said how very lucky we were that our house didn’t catch on fire (and we know it). He was also quite the charmer, and seemed so profusely pleased and grateful to be remembered. We were assured that firemen always LOVE sweets and they are welcome any time, and at that very moment he was finishing up lunch, so this would be dessert. Perfect timing.

All-in-all it was just a great feeling to reconnect, reach out and do something nice for someone as a surprise.

And more importantly in some ways, it reminded me that very few of us—certainly I am guilty of this—think about finding ways to do something nice for someone, just because. We get so wrapped up in our day to day lives, or the holidays, or whatever…that we just don’t think of it. I, for one, plan to do this again. In fact, I’d like to start with resolving to do it twice a year at least, and am already thinking on who my next recipient (victim) of kindness might be. It’s a good thing.

So on to this easy recipe for toffee bars and a few tips on making them. You can read the original recipe from the link by name in bold above, and I’m going to reprint it below with my judgement calls and the rename of “Toffee Bars,” because that’s what they were. Do enjoy these if you make them…they are addictive, so perhaps best made for a party or a crowd—or even better, your next intended kindness victim! Have a happy weekend.

Toffee Bars, Slightly Adapted from Bon Appétit
Makes about 70

2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups light brown sugar (packed), or a mix of 3/4 dark brown and 1 cup light brown
(Note: I used the mix because that is what I had. Many commenters like the light brown only because it doesn’t get so dark, especially the crust)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 tablespoons whipping cream

1 cup pecan halves, toasted
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
(Note: the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup chips which won’t begin to spread and cover this. If you need more than I’ve recommended, add it, but keep in mind the extra sweet factor.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, 1 cup of the brown sugar and 3/4 cup of the butter in a processor until well blended and crumbly. Press mixture evenly into an ungreased 9 x 13 x 2 inch metal baking dish. Bake until the crust is light golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and maintain oven temperature.

Meanwhile, bring remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup butter and cream to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove caramel from heat.

Sprinkle the pecans over the crust, then pour the caramel evenly over the pecans. Bake until bubbles form and color darkens, about 20 minutes. (Note: here is where you go from Turtle to Toffee. At the full 20 minutes recommended in the original recipe, the caramel will be hard crack stage…which I liked. For a softer version, only bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over. Let stand until the chocolate melts, about 5 minutes. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over top. Chill bars until the chocolate sets, about 20 minutes. (I didn’t have to do this because the house was so cool at the time.) Cut into 1 inch squares. (Note: If you take this to the full toffee stage, as I did, these will be hard to cut. Use a very sharp knife and take your time, and you’ll be rewarded. The cut squares will be a little jagged, as toffee is when you break it. If you do the “Turtle” route, your squares should cut more cleanly and the caramel with be softer.)


34 thoughts on “Toffee Bars and Gratitude

  1. I love this story… it reminds me of the year that we had to have our local fire company at our house two times within 1 month (once for carbon monoxide, and the other time because I had a person hit me from behind while I was pulling into my driveway, and flipped me and my car three times!!). The fire chief happened to respond both times, and told me later on that he was putting in to have a “Sub-station #2” put in my back yard, so they didn’t have to travel so far next time!! Lol..

    That year, they were rewarded with a few goodies… 🙂

    What a wonderful recipe.. I should whip them up and take them to the fire house.


    • Okay, that’s weird…my comment didn’t show up on my own blog! Thanks, Prudy and oh my goodness, your story brings shivers to my spine. I’m so glad you’re okay after flipping in your car 3 times. How terrifying! I hope you, and the fire house, enjoy these bars if you make them and thanks for sharing your story and comment. 🙂


    • Thank you, Nancy. I’m not sure we could ever forget them, actually, but I’m so glad we went over there. It was kind of life affirming and also felt like closure to a very long incident, if you know what I mean. I’ll keep in mind that you’re not a toffee fan. 😉


  2. I wound not mind being on your recipient/victim list. Anytime you want to send/drop off a batch…please feel free! That was such a thoughtful gesture. I’m sure the firemen appreciated your kindness and gratitude. The toffee bars look delish…



  3. Holy cow! I hadn’t read about your home being hit by lightening. Noting that it sounds scary is I’m sure, a total understatement. I think it’s fantastic that you went to the trouble to bring something like these toffee bars to the firehouse and that you were undeterred after a couple of unsuccessful visits. I imagine these bars would be delicious at any point in the year, not just holiday time!


    • Hi Allison and thanks for your comment! Yes, it was scary, and then the whole experience of putting the house back together was frustrating because of a lengthy battle with our insurance company. But we finally got it all back together, and we were so lucky the house didn’t catch on fire. (Lightning hit a tree first, then leapt to the house.) It was kind of funny trying to catch the firemen, but felt great when we finally did. I hope they liked the bars! 🙂


    • Thanks, Norma, it was a two-way street in that I feel the return on the gesture was equal to or greater than the effort! 😉 I’m glad I saw the article, otherwise I would have been so wrapped up in other things that I would have forgotten to do it.


  4. After typing a lengthy comment here on my iPhone last night, it went poof and immediately disappeared into the nether regions! I will persevere and try again!
    What a lovely and generous thing to do! I’m not sure they would accept a home made donation in Toronto, I’ll have to ask my Graphic-Designer turned fireman (woman) friend and if they do, I’ll keep it in mind when I do recipe testing.
    These bars are definitely my taste, anything chocolate and caramel would be a dangerous combo in my house, for me. But I will bookmark for next year, I’ll stash a small amount for me and give away the rest.
    On another note, I am so glad for you that your ordeal is over and that no one was injured because of it. Enjoy your new renovations, at least a good thing came of it.


    • That happened to me on the first replay of this post’s comment thread…WP gremlins! Thanks for persevering, Eva and for your kind words. I’ll confess I worried a bit about whether or not they would be able to take or eat something I brought, but I put a note on it explaining who we were, what they’d done for us and where we lived…thinking that this would help them to know we weren’t trying to poison them or something! Since they recognized us, and this particular station is very close to us, no problem. And yes, we had to get these bars out of the house asap! We kept a few, and I gave some to a friend as well as this special delivery! We’re finally enjoying the new renovations and fresh look of the house. 🙂


  5. Giving is good! I know from having worked with the police that thank you’s are always welcome – and I know my local sea rescue guys always appreciate thank yous. And the recipe sounds simple, delicious and a treat!


    • I’m so glad to hear that where you live, these types of gestures are welcome, Claire. I worried a bit that they wouldn’t be able to take what we brought…you know, fear of some type of mischief, sadly. But of course they recognized us, and we gave them our address, so all went well. Gotta scope out my next thank you! And, thank YOU for your comment!


  6. What a lovely thing you did – I have a friend who used to be a fireman and I am in awe of the sort of risks they take on a daily basis for us. And what a great recipe. I will definitely be making these as I confess to having bought similar toffee bars to this (I don’t have a hugely sweet tooth but one or two little chunks of this hit the spot!) so can now make my own 🙂


    • Like you, I am in awe of how these folks put their lives on the line for us. And unlike the military, I think people forget to thank them for that. So glad you like these bars…I don’t have a huge sweet tooth either, but these were a bit addictive. 🙂


    • Cecila, you’re such a roll model for giving and doing for others. You’re definitely not one of the “most of us” who forget about thanking and remembering people! 🙂 Glad you like the bars and thanks for your comment.


  7. What a lovely thing you did. I’m sure there are many people who are grateful for how a fireman saved their home but would take it no further. It’s great that you put your gratitude (and perseverance) into action. And what a love gift you gave them too xx


  8. You’re very sweet Betsy – I bet it was very well received! How many people are in the area served by the fire department? I can well imagine that there must really be “never a dull moment” in such a job. They’re busy here at this time of year – they will often drive around certain roads checking that there have been no problems on the ice-covered roads, and of course fires can happen too as a result of the increased number of wood-fires burning in homes for heating!

    Lovely looking toffee bars! I could do with a couple myself 🙂


    • That’s a great question, Charles. We are deep in a metropolitan area and this station is located right in the middle of a University and next to the CDC, and also close to another small bedroom community, so I would guess that they service about a 15 square mile area or more? Maybe 20,000 folks? I’m not good with that type of data analysis! 🙂 This is a driving city and we have lots of accidents, so I imagine that makes up a significant portion of their calls, but weather related calls were definitely on the rise in the past year. Wish I could send you some bars…heck, I wish I had some right now myself! 😉


  9. Betsy, it was nice of you to remember the fireman. These poor men work the weekend, the holidays and nights taking care of the community. I bet those 70 delicious toffee bars lasted less than 5 minutes. Take care, BAM


    • Hi BAM, I hear the fire sirens right now as I sit at my computer. I know, they work so hard, hardly able to catch a meal in between calls. I’m so grateful for them always being there for us. I hope they liked the bars…I love the visual you’ve given me of them being demolished so quickly, thanks! 🙂


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