Times-tested cookies perfect for holiday giving.

photoChocolate-Cherry-Toffee Bars

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg yolk
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped candied cherries
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
20 candied red cherries, cut in half
Candied green cherries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 dgrees

Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat the 3/4 cup butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until combined. Add egg yolk; beat well. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour, the 1 cup candied cherries, and salt; mix well. With floured hands, press dough into the prepared pan.

Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer pan to a wire rack.

Meanwhile, for topping, in a heavy medium saucepan heat sweetened condensed milk and the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat until bubbly, stirring constantly. Stir in chocolate pieces until smooth. Spread over hot baked layer.

Bake for 12 minutes more. Place 40 red cherry halves on top, spacing them evenly. Add slivers of candied green cherry “leaves,” if desired. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cover and chill. Lift foil out of pan; cut into bars.

Makes 40 bars.

Times testing notes: Resist the urge to turn up the heat on the condensed milk. If it boils a lot it will burn. Let the temperature rise slowly and keep stirring. This is an impressive, but very sweet cookie.

Source: “Cookies for Christmas” by Jennifer D. Darling (Meredith Books, 1999).

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