Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - I don't have a sweet tooth. And for some crazy reason, I like to make desserts. Maybe it's just because I like to cook. Anyway, here's a dessert that's super easy and positively addictive. Sometimes even with sweet-toothless me, I have a "jones" for it, and once I start, it's hard to stop.
You may have had this before - it's been around a long time and it's a classic. Some of my friends named it Chocolate Crack. I was originally turned onto this in a book by the Boss Queen, Jill Connor Brown, who wrote several hilarious books about the Sweet Potato Queens, from Jackson, Mississippi. If you have the time (she said, tongue in cheek), just for fun you might want to check out what they've been up to on the internet. It beats watching the news.
You only need 4 ingredients to make chocolate crack - saltines, butter, dark brown sugar, and chocolate chips.
As usual, the quality of your ingredient is muy importante. For starters, I never use Mexican butter. I've tried them all, the so-called gourmet stuff, everything. They're all awful. If you read the ingredients on the label, you will see that they contain oil. Aceite? Gag me. Real butter is made with cream. Period. Maybe some salt. That's it. Here are a few brands of real butter available in Puerto Vallarta and they're all imported - from the USA, France. Ireland and Denmark - Kirkland, Presidente, Kerrygold, Lurpak.
And that reminds me. You must read any label carefully to determine the country where a product is made. I know of two European brands that produce certain items in the Americas. The French company President, which touts itself as "Europe's Leading Cheese Expert," makes brie and other cheeses in EUA. That's right, in the good ole USA and you're paying for an import! Check the label. You might need to put on your readers to decipher the small print. However, President brand butter is produced in France and it is excellent. Another company is Barilla, whose package states "Italy's #1 Brand of Pasta."
Here in Puerto Vallarta I've inspected their labels and noticed that some types of Barilla pasta are made in Mexico, others in the United States, and yet others in Italy. Again, you must read the label closely. Personally, I will only buy pasta produced in Italy. The soil and minerals that nourish the wheat, plus the water the pasta is made with all make a huge difference. If you've been to Europe, you have probably noticed that the bread is fantastic. It's for the same reason. Anyway, Mexican pasta might be cheap. But cooking it, one minute it's al dente - perfectly firm - and a minute later, it's mush. No thanks. I'll stick with an Italian import.
So, getting back to butter, use a good brand, preferably salted.
And, getting back to 'Chocolate Crack,' here's the super easy-to-make recipe:
1.Prepare a large cookie sheet - one with an edge - preferably a quarter sheet, approximately 12 x 16 inches. Cover with aluminum foil. Butter it super generously. Be sure to cover every nook and cranny. If the foil sticks to your confection, it's a real bugger to peel it off. Better too much butter than too little. Heh heh heh.
2.Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C
3.In a saucepan melt 1 cup of salted butter (225 grams = ½ pound = 2 sticks). If using unsalted butter, add ½ teaspoon salt. Add 1 cup AMERICAN style dark brown sugar, such as DOMINO or C&H brand. Blend well. A wire whisk is good. Let it bubble uncovered about 5 minutes. You will have a luscious, toffee-like creation.
If you use another type of brown sugar, such as Mexican sugar - lovely as it is - it is different from American brown sugar and you won't get the same result. Trust me. I've tried it. You need the American stuff for this.
4. Quickly cover the cookie sheet with one layer of saltines. A 186 gram package of Gamesa Saladitas saltines is the perfect amount for a 12 x 16 inch quarter sheet.
5. Pour the butter and brown sugar mixture on top of the saltines. Working quickly, spread it with a metal spoon. This is extremely hot and will melt a rubber spatula.
6. Pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it. You don't want the butter to burn.
7. Remove from oven and immediately pour 2 cups of chocolate chips on top. Wait a couple minutes. Smooth the chocolate around. Cool to room temperature. Break into pieces, like peanut brittle. Store in the fridge.
Chocolate crack is even better frozen. It's also wonderful broken into small bits and sprinkled over ice cream. To crumble, put a few pieces into a sturdy plastic bag and bang with a hammer. You might want to double the bag or put the plastic bag inside a paper bag before going to town with the hammer.
Last but not least, a comment about your selection of chocolate chips - if the package states the percentage of cacao, that's a good thing. It's as if the company is bragging. Personally, I give high marks to Kirkland (51% cacao), Ghiradelli (60% cacao), Guittard, and Trader Joe's, to name a few.
Unfortunately, in recent years my old standby, Nestle chocolate chips, has gone to hell in a handbasket. I was positively horrified recently when their chocolate chips would not melt on my chocolate crack. I tried a couple times. I even tried putting it back in the oven, which really should not be necessary. It felt like I was working with plastic. So, my friends, shop carefully for a good brand of quality chocolate chips.
In closing, I have zero interest in promoting one store or another as to where you can find ingredients. BUT. If you would like help finding specific items, send an email, and I will do my best to steer you in the right direction.
Copyright © 2020 by Andrea Jupina. All rights reserved.
Andrea Jupina lives in Puerto Vallarta full time. Previously she wrote the "Accidentally Delicious" column for the Vallarta Tribune. Great thanks to Patsy Meyer for her inspired idea for the name "Pan Cooking." Send questions or comments to andreajupina(at)gmail.com.