Last Friday, the day after my birthday, Sam texted me asking if I wanted a cookbook. I said yes. But of course! She said couldn’t find any by Giada de Laurentiis or Ina Garten but there was one by Bobby Flay. I knew she was joking when she mentioned Bobby Flay because he’s one of the celebrity chefs on TV that I like the least. But, never mind, she texted again, she already chose one. What it was, she didn’t say.
Later that night, she posted a photo on Facebook of herself holding a gift bag. The photo caption was a message that I please return the gift bag to her because she would reuse it next year for my birthday.
There’s the photo.
On Saturday, as planned, we went to Chinatown for dinner. We picked up Sam from the condo (Alex came home on Friday evening) and she gave me my birthday gift. I started opening the gift bag when she warned me not to pull out the book in an upright position. I asked why. She said that “things” would fall off. And I wondered what those “things” were. Was the cookbook an old one with pages falling out? Not an old cookbook, as it turned out. A spanking new one. With bookmarks that she was afraid would fall off. Sam had scanned through the pages and placed bookmarks on the recipes she liked. Each bookmark said, “Bake me!” Smart girl. She made me happy with her gift. And she’s going to make herself happy (and her father and sister too) for a long time by making sure that the recipes she likes gets baked at home. Very, very smart.
The book is 101 Fuss-Free Bakes by Hilary Biller, Jenny Kay and Elinor Storkey. These toffee squares was among the recipes that Sam had bookmarked.
These wonderful cookies contain no eggs. The crust and topping are made with a crumbly buttery dough; the filling is a thick caramel. The top and bottom are crisp; the center is soft and chewy. Wonderful. Simply wonderful. And, true to the cookbook’s title, it is fuss-free.
- For the caramel filling:
- ½ c. of firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsps. of butter
- 2 tbsps. of honey
- 2 generous pinches of salt
- 1 c. of cream
- For the crust and topping:
- 125 g. of butter, softened to room temperature
- ⅓ c. of white sugar
- 1 and ¼ c. of cake flour
- 1 tsp. of instant coffee granules
- ½ tsp. of baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- In a thick-bottomed pan, mix all the ingredients for the caramel filling until the sugar dissolves. Set over medium heat and bring to the boil.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened (takes about ten minutes). Set aside.
- Make the crust and topping.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar.
- Add the flour, baking powder and coffee granules. Mix until blended. The mixture will have the appearance of pea-sized crumbs.
- Take two thirds of the mixture and press onto the bottom of a 7" x 11" pan.
- Pour the caramel filling over the crust.
- Level off the caramel with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.
- Sprinkle the remaining third of the crumbs over the caramel.
- Tilt the pan to distribute the crumbs evenly so that the entire surface is covered.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
- Cool in the pan for about 40 minutes. Cut into squares while still warm.