My Mom’s Turtle Bars


November and December are times of justifying nutritionally inadvisable courses of action. “I really shouldn’t,” you think to yourself, as you ponder grabbing another slice of pie/heap of mashed potatoes/whole entire goddamn turkey leg. When you inevitably make the splurgy choice, and shove yet another over-sized wad of empty carbs and grease into your facehole, you take the last swallow and immediately retire to the nearest couch, bed, or other furniture piece that facilitates lying in a prone position, so you can lie down with the Rock of Gibraltar now nesting comfortably inside your GI tract.

You ask yourself, “What have I done? Is there no depraved excess whose temptations I can resist? How am I ever supposed to poo again?”, but then immediately remind yourself, “It’s the holidays, it’s fine.” Now fully relaxed, and with your stomach and anxieties sated, you drift off into peaceful afternoon sleep, the best kind of sleep.

It is in this spirit that I offer up my mom’s recipe for turtle bars, which were instrumental in making me 1994’s happiest fat kid.

You will need:



-Brown Sugar

-Chopped Pecans

-Milk Chocolate Chips

And that’s it. I don’t mean to patronize you, dear reader, but in case you couldn’t tell, these are super good for you.

This recipe is prepared in three phases. Phase one consists in making the crust. Preheat your oven to 350F, then measure out two cups of flour, one cup of brown sugar, and one half cup (a whole fucking stick!) of cold butter. Dump all of these into a medium to large mixing bowl. I strongly advise that you cut up that whole entire fucking stick of butter into manageable, tablespoon-sized chunks before proceeding, because we are mixing this shit up entirely by hand. That’s right, you heard me. Listen, these bars are veritable sucrose grenades, and you can get the Type 2 from them just by flashing fuck-me-eyes in their general direction from across the table. If we’re to even think about actually eating any (in our 30s, no less!), we better get a decent workout in the process.

To that end, you’ll need to grab one of those old school hand pastry blenders, the kind that looks like it could be used as a weapon in an underground martial arts tournament. Grab your murder knuckles and blend the flour, brown sugar, and butter together, until they form a loose powder that is roughly the texture of sand, but can still hold it’s shape if it’s pressed into a mold. This will take a bit – be especially patient with the butter. Since it’s cold, it’s gonna clump together very aggressively early on, and some of these chunks will inevitably get stuck in the blender. Once you have big chunks in your blender, scrape them out to reincorporate them into your mixture.

Again, we’re looking for a sandy consistency. This means that we have to keep mixing until the visible clumps of butter are all but out of there. That said, if it gets to a point where the mixture is basically homogeneous, save for a couple of little tiny butter dabs here and there, that’s fine. Once your crust is mixed up, dump it into an ungreased, standard issue 13×9 baking sheet. Seriously, do NOT grease the sheet in any way, or put down any parchment paper. As you are now acutely aware, this crust is mostly butter. It’s not gonna stick to anything. Press your crust mix into every corner and side of the sheet so that’s it forms a mostly even layer, then sprinkle chopped pecans over the top. Aim for generous but not universal pecan coverage by leaving the crust around the edges uncovered.

Time for phase two, which is making our caramel sauce thing. Combine half a cup of brown sugar and a two-thirds cup of butter (which, holy fucking shit, is an entire stick PLUS another motherfucking third of a stick!) into a medium saucepan. Put the pan on the stove and turn your burner on to medium heat. You must, must stir this mixture constantly. For the entire rest of the cook time, you must keep stirring. No stoppage in stirring is allowed, for any reason, under any circumstances, short of a single engine Cessna careening into your kitchen. If you stop stirring for even a second and a half, you will burn the fuck out of your caramel sauce, and that would be a goddamn tragedy.

So keep stirring and stirring and stirring. Your caramel sauce will go through two distinct transformations. First, your butter and brown sugar will melt, forming a single, unified substance. Keep stirring. Second, your sauce will start bubbling. Once it is bubbling, keep stirring for exactly one minute as the sauce achieves a rolling boil. If at all possible, have a timer set for exactly one minute ready to go so you can start it immediately. During this minute, the sauce will come to a full boil and deepen in color somewhat. The very second that minute is up and your timer goes off, remove the sauce from the heat and drizzle it over the crust and pecans, again leaving the edges uncovered.

Bake this at 350F for twenty minutes, or until the caramel sauce on top is bubbly, but not too bubbly. Yank it out of the oven and let the caramel sauce calm down. Once the sauce is still hot but no longer bubbly, sprinkle one cup of milk chocolate chips on top. Let the chips rest on top and soften up for two minutes, then spread your now-melting chips all over the top (except, as always, for the edges). Let cool completely before cutting into small squares, then grab yourself a piece and dig in.

Holy shit, right? It’s just brown sugar and butter and some window dressing, and yet it’s so fucking good, isn’t it? Each bar you eat will shorten your life ever so slightly, and yet it’s totally worth it. Your waistline will expand and your aorta will consider exploding, but it’s totally cool. It’s the holidays, isn’t it?

A very, very special thank you to my mom, for making these for me a million times and then showing me how to do it myself. Thanks mom!

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