I’d been feeling a little blah a few weeks ago when I realized that I hadn’t baked anything fun* in a little while.
(I’d baked sourdough and sandwich bread, which are more practical than fun – they don’t count.)
So, I flipped open my Bobbette & Belle cookbook for a little inspiration. I landed on a page for English toffee with toasted almonds and thought, “Yes – this looks good.”
I’m always a little hesitant to tackle anything that requires a candy thermometer, but I figured I could use a little practice because I’m planning on doing a little candy-making for some Christmas gifts this year. I headed to Craig’s to pick up some semi-sweet chocolate and almonds, then I got to work.
I wasn’t baking this for any occasion, but the recipe appealed to me because it said that the final product could be stored in an air-tight container for up to two months, which is pretty darned good shelf life. Still, I decided to halve the recipe, which was probably a good idea – the toffee turned out so tasty that I’ll be surprised if it lasts two full days, and Cedric and I definitely don’t need to eat two whole cookie sheets’ worth, which is what the original recipe whips up.
The premise behind the toffee is pretty straightforward:
- Make the toffee, spread it out onto a baking sheet, and let it cool.
- Melt chocolate, pour it onto the cooled and hardened toffee, sprinkle toasted almonds into the chocolate, and let it cool.
- Flip the slab over and repeat Step 2 on the other side.
First, I had to chop and toast my almonds. Friendly insider tip: there are whole unroasted almonds in the ethnic food aisle at Craig’s. These are cheaper than the ones in the plastic tubs in the aisle with the rest of the nuts. For some reason, the chic peas in the ethnic aisle are also cheaper than the chic peas in the canned goods aisle. The ethnic aisle is where it’s at!
While I toasted the almonds, I got to work on the caramel. Melting the ingredients together – butter, sugar, water, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt – was easy. The thermometer was a little tricky, but I thought I had it figured out. I clipped it to the side and made sure it wasn’t touching the bottom of the pan.
As the mixture of ingredients came to a boil, the thermometer starting to rise. Things were working! The directions say it takes about 15 minutes for the mixture to reach 300 degrees Fahrenheit, but mine seemed stuck around 220 degrees. Hmmm…
I waited a few more minutes, but then I noticed the mixture was smelling a little burny. NOT good. I tilted the mixture so that the thermometer was more immersed, and wouldn’t you know – it shot up to like, 315 degrees.
I spread it out as quickly as I could and let it hardened, then I sampled a bit. It tasted a little burnt, but I felt like it was salvageable with chocolate and nuts. It was a tough call – do I waste the ingredients I used to make the toffee and start over? Or do I risk wasting the nuts and chocolate (neither of which are especially cheap – even when sourced from the ethnic aisle) by using the semi-burned toffee?
I decided to risk it. I melted the first batch of chocolate and poured it over the toffee, spreading it with a rubber spatula. This was oddly satisfying.
After sprinkling in half of the almonds, I let it sit for about 10 minutes, then stuck it in the freezer to expedite the hardening. (I seem to have lost my touch at properly tempering chocolate… apparently it’s not quite like riding a bike.) It worked.
I very carefully flipped the slab over. Only a small piece broke off, which I decided to sample. Good news: it tasted awesome – not burnt at all.
I proceeded with the second coat of chocolate and almonds, let it harden (with a little freezer help again), and broke up the pieces.
SO GOOD! It tastes like a Skor bar, but better. This is some serious gourmet-tasting stuff that is actually not too difficult to make (as long as you can figure out your candy thermometer… I’m getting there). The good news is that if my Christmas baking plans fail, I have a solid bake up.
Another win for Bobbette & Belle!
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