Barbara's Toffee Bars

Did you ever lose track of a recipe? Something you used to eat as a kid, that you almost forget about as an adult, until one day you remember it and all the memories that came along with it? For me, those are Barbara's Toffee Bars. Barbara was my mom. She passed away when I was 17 and she was many wonderful creative things. One of those was definitely being a baker.

I remember she'd make these toffee bars for friends and special occasions. They were never really baked for me but I'd always sneak a bite or two. They had this sophistication to them of being for special people and/or adults and they were one of those signature dishes that people still mention to me and my dad today.

I thought about these recently and realized I didn't have her recipe. At my bridal shower a few months ago, my wonderful cousin Ashley presented me with my mom's recipe box. It was something I had just completely forgotten about until suddenly it was in my hands again. In that moment, it was almost as if my mom had walked right into the room and reminded me of this very special and integral part of her: a part of her that that was now a part of me.

I was sure that the toffee bars had to be in the box somewhere, written on one of the recipe cards in her signature calligraphy (Mom had phenomenal handwriting). Unfortunately, this one wasn't written down but I was able to piece it together by memory and the internet. Turns out the recipe was a pretty easy find so it was probably something Mom was given by someone else. Really that's okay, though. To me, they'll always be Barbara's toffee bars. It makes me smile even now, almost 10 years later, that I know others will too.

Here's the recipe. I hope you enjoy it and make it your own in some little way. For my part, I've included a way to make it gluten-free so my husband can enjoy this memorable treat too.

The photos in this post are mine, a daughter taking on the mantle of chocolate and shortbread. Nom.

Ingredients (makes about 20-25 small bars)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (or 4 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour plus 1 tsp xantham gum)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, delicious with or without)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups chocolate chips (dark or semi-sweet // your choice)


Heat the oven to 350F and grease a 13x9 pan for your bars.

Using a mixer, combine the butter, vanilla, and sugar until smooth. Then add each egg yolk until both are incorporated. To this mixture, begin to add your flour in 1 cup increments until all flour has been combined.

The dough will be very sticky! Use a spatula to spread the dough across the bottom of the pan. If needed, use your fingers to flatten the dough and ensure it's evenly distributed. Bake your pan of shortbread for about 25-30 minutes or until it turns golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven once this has happened and immediately get your chocolate and walnuts! This is the fun part. Sprinkle your chocolate chips over the entire pan. Leave for 1-2 minutes then spread chocolate as it melts uber deliciously across your shortbread. The heat from the cookie does the melting for you. While your chocolate is melty, sprinkle your walnuts across the top.

After this step, I recommend going ahead and cutting your bars into squares before the chocolate sets. These can be refrigerated but are best enjoyed at room temp.