Heath Bar Cookies – The Ultimate Chocolate Toffee Crunch

I swear this has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day. If you love someone you will NOT make them these killer cookies, a frighteningly addictive combo of all four basic food groups: sugar, salt, fat and crunch. Plus chocolate.

half candy, half cookie - all good

I got the recipe from my friend Carol (no, not the Wine Colored Dahlia and Barbecued Shrimp Carol, another Carol), who calls them Aunt Emma Lee’s Heath Bar Cookies “The exhaltation of lowly saltine.”

Not sure if that’s Aunt Emma talking or Carol herself, but either way the description is accurate. Only mystery is why the title doesn’t mention “easy” and/or “quick.”

A great super-simple recipe based on saltines sounds like something that would be right there on the box or at least out in general circulation, yet I’d never seen it before. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s obscure; until fairly recently I was the only person in America who didn’t know about single-serve coffee pods.

But when I Googled saltines heath bar there were only 12,400 hits. Not a lot as these things go; chicken cornflake crust brings up well over a million.

The first 20 recipes – sufficient, I felt, for casual research – described a great many variations. Impressive considering that there are only five ingredients and two of them (butter and brown sugar) must be used as-is for success.

Chocolates were all over the map although chips predominated. Toppings included every nut you could think of  as well as actual heath bars. My favorite?  Several sites mentioned a kosher version with matzoh instead of saltines and since saltines are already kosher that must mean kosher for Passover – no mean trick for a confection that was more than once (I’m sorry to say) referred to as Trailer Trash Toffee .

Oh well. Mild for the internet, I suppose.

And now that we get to the nitty gritty l have to confess there is a Valentine’s aspect, Carol’s recipe came on the February page of her annual gift Calendar.

Georgy the cat’s perfectly ok, but Lizzie’s the darling of all our hearts, the greatest dog in the world.

The cookies are on the left, under some pecan bars I’m now afraid to try.  E. B. Browning’s How Do I Love Thee…(For Georgy from Lizzie) is on the right. But just in case you didn’t bring your magnifying glass – and because I changed it a little anyway – here’s the recipe for


sufficient saltines to pave a 10 x 15 ” jelly roll pan – 1 sleeve , conveniently enough

1 c. butter

1 c. dark brown sugar

6 – 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate ( 55 – 65 %), as chips, feves or chopped

1 heaping c. ( 4 oz) almonds, toasted and chopped.

1. Heat the oven to 400. Line a 10×15 ” jelly roll pan with tinfoil. Pave it with saltines, cutting as necessary for complete coverage.

2. Combine butter and sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a low boil, stirring. Allow to boil, stirring often, for 3 minutes. Mixture will be smooth and thick, bubbling and heaving. It’s about soft ball stage if you use a candy thermometer but this isn’t a recipe where you really need a candy thermometer.

3. Spread the butter sugar mixture over the saltines. It will seem scant. There is enough. Try to get the layer as even as possible. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes, depending on your oven. This is bringing the candy up to hard toffee temperature, so it’s better to err slightly on the overcooked side.

4. Sprinkle the chocolate over the surface and let it melt – return the pan to the turned off oven for about a minute if the chocolate chunks are so big they need a little encouragement. Spread the melted chocolate evenly, then scatter on the nuts and gently press them in. Chill until firm.

5. Reverse the sheet of material onto the work surface, peel off the foil and break into irregular pieces.

the recipe makes a little over a pound and a half, about 200 servings if you were being sensible

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  • Christine Said,

    I adore these cookies! I make them all the time at Christmas. That is pretty much the only time I will let myself because they are so addicting that I can’t stop eating them! I like your addition of almonds. The original recipe I have includes walnuts but I leave those off sometimes. I love almonds so I’m not sure why I didn’t think of that before!

    Merry Christmas, Christine. If it’s any consolation, I share your “can’t make ’em because I’ll eat ’em” problem. Best to get them into the gift tin and get that wrapping paper on, asap post-creation.

  • Julia Said,

    When I first read the title of this post, I thought it read “Health Bar Cookies.” Certainly not the case! A friend brought these over to a party once and thankfully people forgot to eat them because they were too busy drinking. I had never heard of them. I ate the whole container. I think they’re genius.

    Hi Julia – love the Freudian mis-read. But who’s to say happiness isn’t just as important to health as sensible eating (and also maybe not so much drinking)? But then when we get to the genius part I’m back to your exclamation and thinking the genius is an evil one.

  • Bonnie Said,

    Aloha from Maui, Leslie,
    I bake for friends ALL THE TIME. I have a regular repertoire of dozens and dozens and of baked goods. I even went back to school to get a pastry certificate when I was in my 50s. I made these this past weekend and shared them with several friends. Every single one said it was the best thing I ever made. So, I’m making more this weekend. And probably next. Mahalo a nui (thanks so much) for sharing this fabulous recipe.

    Aloha to you, too, Bonnie.

    I’m so glad to hear the bars are a hit. Wish I could figure out how to make a pineapple coconut version, but so far…

  • Billy Said,

    I’ve made this recipe twice, and I have to say: LOVE IT! Seriously, I have gotten 100% rave reviews; these bars rock.

    One suggestion I would have is to use parchment paper instead of foil as a liner for the pan. I used foil the first time, and it was pretty nightmarish to get off (we could pretty much only pry it off when the toffee was completely frozen). But, the second time, and it peeled off the freezer cooled toffee like a dream. Takeaway message: parchment paper > foil for this job.

    Hi Billy –

    Delighted to hear the recipe is a hit – and to get the hint about the parchment paper. I’ve never had any trouble with the foil, but so what? Parchment paper is SO useful in other cookie applications people might as well use it here, too. “Easy” is an important hallmark of this recipe…As I write, wonder if the freezer has anything to do with it. I’ve always just chilled in the fridge.

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