If Memory Serves: Secret Toffee

If Memory Serves chronicles moments from my dining past, perhaps explaining what's wrong with me.

Every year around the holidays, my mom sends a tin of what she calls "Secret Toffee."

Actually, I learned the name of this chocolate-toffee cookie thing just last week, having spent a few decades requesting it by description whenever I'd make a trip to see the folks. But if forced to list what I really like about the season, Secret Toffee would rank ahead of vacation days, time with family and bowl games.

It's so good, in fact, that well-behaved kids from strict families confronted with a tray of Secret Toffee will forget such niceties as sharing, honesty and that it's wrong to bludgeon other people--toddlers especially--with a baseball bat to prevent them from gaining free access to the fridge.

The secret?

Saltines, of course.

The way I understand it, you create a simple syrup by melting butter and brown sugar. You pour this evenly in a pan then arrange a layer of saltines on top. As it bakes, caramel seeps through the crackers and hardens. Finally, you spread melted milk chocolate morsels on top, sprinkle with pecans (I've also had them with walnuts and almonds) and pop in the fridge.

As it works out, the crackers allow traces of soda and salt to creep into the mellow, bittersweet mass. The caramel-soaked saltines also take on an interesting chewy-crispy texture. And it's impossible to convey in words just how good this becomes.

I do know that my brother made it home for Christmas this year and tried to keep his kids from getting into the candy/cookie (whatever it is) through a series of ruses, a few outright lies and at least one threat of violence.

Fortunately, my mom mailed a large tin of Secret Toffee to me before he arrived. It's already empty.