December 2, 2009

Christmas Toffee

Let me start by saying the candy making has always intimidated me. I'm not sure where I got that from, but I stayed away from it for a long time.

Then one Christmas season, two of my girl friends from college came over to bake, and Sara C. had brought the stuff to make toffee. It was a special evening spending time with two dear friends.

Every year since then, I've made Sara's toffee and everyone just gushes over it. And every year when I make it I think of that evening spent with Sara and Laura. Our lives have changed a lot since then, and we hardly take the time to visit, but I'll always remember them when I have some Christmas Toffee.

So...if candy making has scarred you before, I urge you to give it a try just this once. I don't make much candy, but this one is simple, and super tasty.

Here is what you'll need:

2 cups of packed brown sugar (Sara's family liked it with white better, but I like the brown sugar version)
1 cup of butter
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
12 oz chocolate chips

You will also need a cookie sheet, saucepan, and candy thermometer. (worth the investment, and you don't have to get an expensive one, but I'm a firm believer in "you get what you pay for")

To start with, lightly spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray and spread the almonds on the pan. Toast them lightly in the oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees, being careful not to burn them. Remove from oven and set aside.

Combine the water, sugar, and butter in your saucepan.

At this point, before I began cooking it, I also measure out my baking soda and vanilla. When its time to add them you have to work fast, and its easier if they are already measured out.

Now, your going to heat the sugar/butter mixture over medium to medium high heat, stirring constantly. At this point its all about your pot. The sky can fall, the house burn, world war III begin....don't leave the pot and stir stir stir! Cook the mixture to 300 degrees, which is hard crack stage. You can do soft crack if you prefer, but I like the hard crack candy better.

If you've not used a candy thermometer before, it is VITAL to make sure it is calibrated correctly. To do this, put it in a pot of boiling water. It should read 212 degrees. If it doesn't adjust as needed. Water boils at 212 degrees.

The first two Christmas's I spent in Montana I made my toffee and it was a complete flop! I could not figure out what was wrong! It was SO frustrating. Then this year I was going to make some peanut brittle for my parents visit, and in the instructions it talked about calibrating the thermometer. It was like an alarm went off in my head. I don't know if its an altitude difference or what, but when I checked, my thermometer was reading almost 12 degrees less than it should in a pot of boiling water. I'd been over cooking my toffee by 12 degrees! So do take the time to calibrate the thermometer and its a good idea to do it every few times its used, just in case it got bumped or some thing.

Back to the toffee....another tip...as your heating it, it seems to reach a plateau point where the temp. doesn't change and you think its not going to get any higher. DON'T LEAVE THE POT and KEEP STIRRING. It will get past this point and all of a sudden just shoot up and if your not careful you'll have burnt toffee.

Once it reaches 300 degrees, remove it from the heat, and remove the candy thermometer. Its starting to cool now, so time is working against you. Quickly stir in the baking soda and vanilla. (hint: even if you love vanilla, don't hang your head over the pot to smell it because when it hits the hot candy its sizzles and sends up fumes that burn your nose...I know from multiple experiences...you'd think I'd learn.)

Now carefully pour the toffee over the toasted almonds. Doesn't that look yummy?

When I'm cooking it for Malcolm I stop here. He isn't big on chocolate. But I'm not making this for him...I'm making it for us...and we love chocolate! So...sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top.And in this batch I only used about 1/2 the amount called for because I thought Malcolm would probably eat some of it, so I compromised. Yours will be much more chocolaty!

After about 5 minutes, use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the toffee. Its VERY important that you lick the spatula off when you are done with this step. Go ahead...I'll wait.

And now the truly hard part....you wait...and wait and wait for it to cool. I've been known to cheat and sit it out on the porch for a couple hours in the cold December air. However, its probably better to do this on a screened porch and since mine isn't and since I've caught the neighbors cat sitting on mine licking the grill drip pan (gross I know!)....I decided to let my toffee cool on the kitchen counter.....and it took all night! You can't imagine how hard it was to wait to see if it turned out right this year! In fact I tryed to break it up too soon, and some of the pieces had finger prints in the chocolate. And of course I had to lick it off my fingers because they had melted chocolate all over them! What a mess.

After its cooled completely, break it up into the desired size pieces.

Its very pretty in a bowl, or wrapped up in a cellophane bag with red and green ribbons as a gift for friends. But no matter how you display it, make sure you get a picture, because it won't be sitting around for very long.

makes about 1 1/2 pounds of toffee.....which sounds like a lot, but really isn't....so make at least 3 batches! (2 to share and one for you and yours!) If you try this, you absolutly MUST let me know how you liked it! I hope you will try it and don't be afraid of tring to make it! It really is simple, quick, and SOOOO worth it!

Merry Christmas!


small farm girl said...

I AM SO GOING TO TRY THIS! Toffee is my favorite. Plus I need a small gift for clients at work. Now, if only I can NOT eat it all.

Janice said...

Sounds so good and looks like uhmmm I want some.I'm not sure if I'll try to make it......I am terrible at baking just about anything.

Cindi said...

Merry Christmas thx for sharing

Beck's Country Living said...

I love to make candy to and I will give yours a try it looks soooooooo good Beck

Ed said...

Now that looks delish..:-))

Sharon Tachenko said...

WOW - you tempt us with travel exploits, good books - and NOW TOFFEE!?!?! How CAN you have such a rich life while on the road 24/7!

Thanks for the inspiration! I'll have to try it! It does look yummy and fun!

Can't wait to see you soon!

Meagan said...

MMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! You bringing some with you when you come???? Cause you should! (hint hint!) ;-)


theegggather said...

This sounds wonderful. Will have to try it out this Christmas. Maybe this will be like the "truck driver's carrot cake" that my Mom always made - it's a famiy favorite.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Mmmmmmmm! I've made toffee before. It's my fave! Your recipe seems a little different...easier. But now I know to check the calibration of the thermometer. I had no idea! Thanks for the tips.


retriever farm said...

made your recipe tonight. It is soooooo good. I cheated and sat mine out on the porch. It was so cold it set up very quickly. Thanks for the recipe. Maybe I'll make more for christmas gifts.

Jaime said...

thanks for posting this! i made it for our small group christmas cookie exchange. (stuck in the fridge to cool... i couldnt' wait to try it!) it had RAVE reviews!