Good luck keeping this Christmas Crack away from the frenzied fingers of family members. Buttery toffee with a light, crispy crust, coated in rich chocolate and toasted pecans may just be the most addictive snack ever!
If you do much recipe research, you’ll find some pretty funny names for things we love to eat – Devils on Horseback, Hissy Fit Dip, and Whoopie Pie, to name a few. Truth is, they’re usually pretty aptly named based on the responses they elicit, and this candy is no exception.
Christmas Crack, a sweet buttery toffee sandwiched between a crispy cracker bottom and a rich chocolate coating, IS an addictive snack that will disappear almost as quickly as you can make it.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. You don’t need any more sugary temptations to deal with during the holidays. Well, you’re in luck. This one can tempt you all . . . year . . . long.
My Christmas Crack recipe works for so many reasons. It’s basically the perfect storm of complementary textures, sweet and salty flavors, and effortless prep time. In about 15 minutes, caramel’s crispy cousin will be chilling in your fridge while impatient snackers pace the floor asking, “Is it ready yet?” Once you make it, you’ll understand how this delicious snack earned its name.
There are a few other recipes for “Christmas Crack” – a Christmas crack recipe Chex cereal version and a Christmas crack recipe Golden Grahams version, both of which use some combination of cereals, pretzels, and nuts tossed in a sweet coating of corn syrup, butter, and sugar. This produces a lovely, munchable snack, but the texture is slightly sticky and the cereal mix-ins really are the star. (There’s also a Christmas crack popcorn recipe, but that’s basically caramel corn with some chocolate drizzled on top.)
My version is really a Christmas Crack candy, with a substantial layer of golden toffee, gilded a bit with semisweet chocolate and an extra crispy, salty crust.
That crust is made from saltine crackers. As a cracker, these really don’t offer a lot in the way of flavor, but the texture and salty quality work perfectly in this recipe. The crackers themselves will absorb some of the warm toffee mixture during the baking process, so they’ll practically melt in your mouth along with the toffee once you start crunching on a piece. They just lend a light, crispy quality to the Christmas Crack, along with the saltiness that pairs well with the caramel flavors of the toffee.
We can thank the French for the trend of salted caramel treats in the U.S., from candy and ice cream to tarts and lattes, and the salty-sweet combination is what makes this Christmas Crack so hard to stay away from. That combo hits a lot more of your eager taste buds with each bite than a typical dessert does, so basically there’s a lot more “happy” going on!
Making toffee, and really any other sugar-based candies like pralines or divinity, can be challenging. Between dealing with unpredictable moisture in the air, less-than-accurate candy thermometers, and inconsistent stove-tops, there’s a great deal of good luck required to pull it off (not to mention candy burns can be nasty).
In my recipe, the toffee starts out bubbling on the stove top but finishes in the oven, a boil-then-bake process that produces flawless, crispy toffee every time without all that hassle.
By the way, you can’t make this a crockpot Christmas Crack because slow cookers just don’t reach high enough temperatures to do the boiling part. I’m also too lazy to break up my crackers precisely enough to cover the bottom of a giant oval. (If your crockpot is feeling lonely, though, check out my Crockpot Candy for a tasty, chocolatey alternative!)
To finish off my recipe for Christmas Crack, I top the toffee with semisweet chips that spread easily after sitting on the warm candy for a few minutes. If you don’t already have an offset spatula, this is a good reason to buy one. First, you’ll make this candy a lot, I’m sure, and it’s a great tool for spreading the chips without dragging your handle through the chocolate (not that I’m opposed to licking that off). Second, though, you’ll get a chance to use it every time you frost anything.
Make sure you toast your pecans before sprinkling them on top to bring out all the nutty flavors, then pop the pan into your fridge to set. At this point, you’re free to join the parade of people in your kitchen biding their time until they can dive into this sweet-and-salty snack. You CAN speed the wait time up a bit by putting your pan into the freezer instead, for about 15 to 20 minutes, but you don’t have to tell anyone else that.
Although I mentioned enjoying this year-round, I do usually make this for Christmas because it’s such an easy recipe with wow-able results. Holiday visitors always look for it when they arrive, and it’s a great homemade gift for neighbors, teachers, or anyone else with a sweet-tooth. This candy will keep in an air-tight container in the fridge for several days, though I’m honestly not sure it’s ever lasted that long at my house!
All about that base – Saltines are my preference in this recipe, obviously, but you can experiment with other bases for this dish, just be sure to cover the bottom of your pan with whatever you choose. You can try a Christmas Crack graham crackers version and use about 10 whole graham crackers. You can also make this Christmas Crack recipe with Ritz crackers, which will take about 54 crackers, or make this Christmas Crack recipe with pretzels using mini-pretzels broken up just a bit (the twisty shape, not the sticks).
Toppings – Semisweet chocolate is great to offset the sweetness in my version, but you can try milk chocolate for a slightly sweeter treat or even a dark chocolate. I don’t suggest making this a white chocolate Christmas Crack recipebecause it really needs the bitterness from the cocoa powder to avoid being too sweet, but you can drizzle some white chocolate on top for a lovely color contrast. Feel free to substitute walnuts or other nuts for the pecans, or even skip the nuts altogether if you’re not a fan (or have an allergy). Some alternative toppings that would be great to try are crushed toffee bits, M&Ms, crushed pretzels, or your favorite colored sprinkles.
Butter – I use regular, salted butter in this recipe. Substituting unsalted butter won’t impact the texture, but you may want to add a little additional salt unless you just prefer a less salty version.