Country Club Crackers, Chocolate Saltine Toffee & Firecrackers - No. 134
Magic happens when you mix Saltines and melted butter…
I once had a lunch date at the Capital City Club in downtown Atlanta with a guy whose name I can’t remember. But I’ll always recall the crackers.
It was in the fall because the air was crisp on the short walk from the newspaper office on Marietta Street via back streets to the club, and I am thankful I didn’t know much about this private enclave because I would have been terribly nervous. But climbing those grand front steps, stepping into the lobby, and being escorted to a table on a random Wednesday seemed otherworldly to me at a time when I usually lunched on a pimento cheese sandwich at the library cafe nearby.
And I will forever remember the crackers, served by the waiter on a silver tray lined with a starched white napkin. Or were they in a silver caddy lined with a napkin? This little detail I can’t recall, but what spoke to me that day, and spoke louder than my growling stomach, was that this warm wafer assuaging my hunger was just a Saltine bathed in butter.
I just new it.
And so food sleuthing would become my M.O. When the opportunity arose, and it still does, I would break apart a good recipe. Distill it down to the core ingredients. Figure it out. I really should have been a detective.
Country club crackers, firecrackers & even toffee
That fancy cracker recipe would go unpublished for years, and I tried making them at home. But I didn’t know at the time it was a nibble served just in private clubs, a sign you had arrived (or your grandfather had) if you were snacking on one around lunchtime. And I could come up with all sorts of cultural statements surrounding these crackers, but it was Atlanta in the early 1980s, a much different place than today.
I baked those crackers once and again, but really the recipe was too fussy and I learned through some trial and error you had to clarify the butter first to get rid of those milky bits that burn as the crackers bake to deliciousness. So, it wasn’t something I made often until looking at Rebecca Lang’s cookbook last year and seeing she knew these crackers and baked them with ghee, the clarified butter used in Indian cooking and, frankly, sheer genius!
And that was just my first Saltine awakening.
One year at a holiday cookie swap, a platter of what appeared to be chocolate and pecans swirled on top of crackers caught my eye. The maker called it her ‘’toffee,’’ and as our family makes legit toffee each Christmas, I zeroed in for a bite.
Which was interesting and good so I followed the woman who made the toffee to the kitchen and asked how she did it.
“Saltines,” she blurted under interrogation. Butter, brown sugar, chocolate, pecans. Again, genius!
And then there was the Atlantic Beach Pie, a recipe I shared Tuesday, which I tasted not at Crook’s Corner but in testing recipes for my Skillet Love book. The Saltine crust is salty and buttery and the perfect foil to the sweet lemon filling.
And lastly, a few years back my friend Dayna gifted me with a jar of her homemade “Firecrackers.”
I came home from a holiday party, checked email, and ate half the jar, full knowing they were not a smart midnight snack. But I was drawn to the seasoning and just couldn’t stop until I figured it out…
I’d find out from Dayna her secret to this no-bake snack was a mix of Ranch seasoning, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Dayna used the small Saltine crackers, mini ones, terribly hard to find on the shelf and I hear prone to hoarding around the holidays.