Thursday, December 20, 2012

English Toffee


My folks came home for the holidays from Arizona last night. They came over to our place just a couple hours after landing in beautiful snowy Bismarck. Although I like to think they sprinted right over because they were excited to see Yours Truly, their faces really lit up when their only grandchild ran up to them and gave them big hugs.

I can't really blame them, can I?  Cutie patootie.



We sat around the dining table drinking beer and nibbling on roasted chickpeas (one of my favorite beer snacks) and walleye "salad" on Triscuits (one of hubby's favs, made with canned walleye, mayo, a little pickle and onion). They told us tales of life in AZ's Maricopa County, which we now know entails lots of driveway chats with the neighbors, daily bike rides, Tuesday senior discounts, and Canadian neighbors "who really party hardy".  And then I put the tray of English toffee on the table, and there was that quiet moment as everyone leaned in to grab a piece, break off the first bite, and then declare it "addictive."

I'd never made toffee before - a stroke of Christmas cheer made me do it - and was surprised how easy it was to make.  Granted, it was probably made easier by the fact that I spread the hot candy on a Silpat mat, so zero stickiness issues.  And although the toffee itself is crisp, buttery, sweet goodness, the fact that I added a generous layer of chocolate and covered the whole mess with roasted almonds didn't hurt it one bit. Nope, not one iota. 


Here's wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

English Toffee
Adapted from the Miette cookbook. You'll need a Silpat mat and a candy thermometer (or do what I do and use your meat thermometer). Makes about 3 and 1/2 pounds. 

1 and 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 Tbls. vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 c. water
1 and 1/2 pounds chocolate (the better the chocolate, the better the final product. I prefer dark chocolate, but milk chocolate is fine too)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned, about 8 minutes (you'll start to smell the divine roasted almond fragrance, telling you - no, urging you - to take them out of the oven). Let cool and chop finely. 

Line a baking sheet with sides (a jelly roll pan) with a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine butter, sugar, vanilla, salt and water over medium low heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook, whisking, until butter has melted. Increase the heat to medium high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 300 degrees, about 15 to 20 mins. 

Pour the hot toffee onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread into a thin, even layer (you may not fill the entire pan, depending on the size of your pan), and let cool for at least 45 minutes before adding the chocolate. 

Place the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave to melt, stirring every 30 seconds until it has melted completely, looks smooth, and is no more than 110 degrees. Wipe off any excess oil on top of the toffee with a paper towel. Spread the top of the cooled toffee with the warm chocolate and sprinkle with the nuts. Let set at room temperature until hard, about an hour. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 

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