Monday, December 22, 2008


Every year for Christmas we get a box of toffee in the mail. It’s actually sent by someone, it doesn’t just randomly come, don’t worry. In spite of this annual happening, toffee has never meant Christmas for me. I’ve never been too crazy about it either. But let me let you in on a secret: it’s delicious. Really delicious. I mean the two main ingredients are butter and sugar, so although it’s stored in the freezer, it melts in your mouth. And it’s topped with chocolate for good measure. There’s not much to not like, and I wonder why I’m only now getting hooked.

My mom has always loved it, and I guess the mail was running slow this year, so I decided to make her some. I guess part of the reason I had shied away from it is because it required a candy thermometer. Just seeing that word in recipes means that there’s going to need to be a lot of whisking involved and extreme focus, not a degree overcooked. That’s slightly intimidating. Something I learned after making this recipe was candy thermometers are great. There’s no guess work. You won’t take the cake out of the oven underdone. It tells you exactly when it’s done. You do have to stir like crazy, but that just gives you a little more muscle.

I found a recipe that got really good reviews so I gave it a try, but just a half batch incase something went awry. It didn’t. Actually it turned out great, so great I made another full batch a few days later. The first time I only used almonds, and the second time I used almonds and pistachios, although you couldn’t really notice the pistachios, they always add a striking color. My one complaint and I’m still not sure the explanation for this is that the second time I made it, upon breaking the toffee into pieces, the chocolate layer on top wouldn’t stick, so I would in effect break off a piece of toffee and break it from chocolate. To get the full effect, you’d have to take a piece of chocolate and hold it on top of the bottom layer to enjoy your toffee. I had no problems with this the first time, I’m wondering if I spread the chocolate on too thick. I guess I’ll have to wait and try again, with a little less chocolate. I think you could also make this with any kind of nut, but almonds worked perfectly.

And one last thing, after spreading the chocolate on, I had some ground almond praline I had made that I sprinkled on top, for appearance’s sake of course.

Almond and Pistachio Toffee

1 c chopped almonds, skins on and toasted
1 c chopped pistachios, toasted
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 c sugar
2 Tb water
pinch of salt
7-8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or chips

Butter a baking sheet and set aside. In a large sauce pan over medium high heat, stir together the butter, sugar, water and salt. Until everything is melted together, you don’t need to keep your eye on it at all times, but once it does, get ready to whisk. Get out your candy thermometer and whisk together constantly until it reaches 300F. This actually takes a long time, you’ll watch the color change to a dark camel, but you don’t want it to burn to the bottom so you need to stir continually. When it does reach 300F, take off the heat and stir in the nuts, then pour immediately into the buttered baking sheet. Once it’s spread out, pour the chocolate over it, and after a minute or two it should start melting. Take a spatula and spread the chocolate to cover every bit of toffee. If you do have bits of praline (recipe follows), you can sprinkle that on. Put in the freezer and let harden for at least 30 minutes before eating, then store in the freezer.

Almond Praline

1 ½ c sugar
1 c almond

Grease a baking pan, or line with foil. In a small saucepan, heat sugar on medium heat and stir until melted. Add almonds and continue to cook, without stirring but swirling instead, until the sugar is deep golden. Pour into the pan, let cool and then pulse in a food processor until in a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

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