Thursday, December 1, 2011

Almond Toffee, the first piece is free...

This will be the first in what I hope to be a series of posts about things you can make to give as gifts for the holidays. 

I am a very big fan of homemade gifts !! Originally I did it because I had time but not a lot of money. I discovered that my family actually liked the stuff I made.

I began making this toffee when I was 26 years old, I have been doing it ever since, some people claim it's the only thing they want for Christmas ;-)

This may be the most challenging thing to make that I post. Making candy is tricky, I had been making fudge and popcorn balls since I was ten, so I was familiar with a candy thermometer. I also like to think that I am channeling my grandfather, he ran a confectioners store for a few years back in the 1920's.

That being said, if you feel brave give this a try, it does make amazing gifts. Be warned, once you start your friends may not let you stop. And if it doesn't turn out you can always buy it from me.

Ingredients for the toffee:

1 pound of butter
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. corn syrup( I know, yuck, but I have found an organic non-GMO version)
1 cup chopped almonds

Ingredients for the topping:
1 cup chopped almonds
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

a candy thermometer
1 rimmed cookie sheet ( lightly greased)
wooden spoon
heavy bottom saucepan, at least 2 quart
lots of time and patience
I know the photo shows two cookie sheets, I make two batches each time. I DO NOT double the recipe.

In the heavy saucepan begin to melt the pound of butter.

Add the sugar, water and corn syrup and continue to cook over a medium flame.
It will start out looking like this.
Keep stirring and add the candy thermometer. I prefer the heavy metal one with the clip that holds it to the pan. I have used the glass tube variety, not my favorite. You need something that can put up with all the stirring you are going to be doing.
I continue to stir it, watching the temperature. The mixture will begin to darken.
When it reaches 280 F, you will add 1 cup chopped almonds. My sous-chef chops a large bag so I can make it whenever I need to.

He uses one of those chopper thingies.

Once you add the nuts the stirring gets very serious,you must keep it up and watch the thermometer.

You want it to reach 320 F. We are actually burning the sugar.
Once it reaches 320 F remove it immediately from the stove and pour it into the lightly greased rimmed cookie sheet. Be careful the molten sugar will burn you if it touches your skin.
Don't be surprised if the bottom of your pan is burned.
My sink master has a great way to deal with that charring in the pan. First soak off all the toffee, add a couple tablespoons of baking soda to the pan and about an inch of water. Set it on the stove and bring to a boil, let it boil for 5 minutes. Let it cool and using a dull knife, the char should scrap right off.

Back to the toffee...once it has cooled slightly, it's time to cover it with chocolate.
 You can use whatever semi-sweet chocolate you like, because I make many many batches to sell, I have to sacrifice quality for cost. I use the Trader Joe's chocolate chips. Melt 1 cup of chocolate in the microwave or over a double boiler. I prefer the former as it is quicker, the trick is to do it in short bits, a minute or less at a time until it is all melted.

Smear that melted chocolate on the toffee and sprinkle with 1/2 cup chopped almonds.
Now you need to wait for the chocolate to harden. This can take a couple hours depending on how cool you keep your home. I put my toffee in a back room where it is cooler. It usually takes at least 2 hours.

When the chocolate has set, get another cookie sheet or just place waxed paper on your table. Bend the edges of the sheet to loosen the toffee, then take the leap of faith  and flip it out onto the table or cookie sheet.
If you are lucky it will come out all in one piece...but it doesn't always. No matter, just makes it a little tougher to coat with chocolate. Repeat the last couple of steps with another cup of chocolate and another 1/2 cup of chopped almonds.
The chocolate needs to set again before you are ready to break it into pieces.

You can put it into small tins or cellophane bags. Theoretically it lasts three to four months if stored in a cool dark place. At one show I do, the small bags don't even make it out of the garden.
I never put it in the fridge as I am afraid the moisture with get to it, however I do  have a customer who keeps his in the freezer ( it keeps it away from his kids;-).

So there you have it my not so very secret almond toffee recipe. Good Luck.

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