The first time I made toffee, it turned out beautifully: a crisp sheet of caramel-coloured ice that snapped into shards of buttery bliss. The second time I made toffee, it crumbled in my hands. The third time, it turned a grainy mess… I’ve had my issues with toffee. Fortunately, I discovered a few tips and tricks along the way to help you get it right the first time — and the second and third.
Temperature plays a key role in candy-making. Here in Vancouver, we enjoy a temperate climate, with plenty of humidity. Candy doesn’t work best when it’s too humid so take this into consideration when making toffee. If it’s only slightly humid, cook the sugar a few degrees beyond the recommended 300 F (hard crack stage) for best results. You’ll want to read your candy thermometer at eye-level for an accurate reading. And, at the risk of sounding too pedantic, first test your thermometer in boiling water to ensure it’s properly calibrated (water boils 100°C or 212°F). If you’ve wasted as much sugar as I have, you won’t mind double-checking your thermometer for accuracy.
As with any recipe that involves cooking sugar, read the recipe from beginning to end before you start. Then read it again. You’ll need to have your ingredients measured and your tools in reaching distance before you start. And, make sure to use a heavy pot, otherwise, you risk burning the sugar.
It may seem like a lot of rules for a little treat, but the recipe is really easy, comes together quickly, and is sure to become a holiday favourite.
Recipe adapted from Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.
Makes About 1 1/2 Pounds
■ 2 cups (200 grams) sliced almonds
■ 1/2 cup unsalted butter
■ 2 cups sugar
■ 1/4 cup water
■ 1 tsp molasses
■ 1/2 tsp salt
■ 1/2 tsp baking soda
■ 150 grams bittersweet chocolate (I use Lindt 70% dark), melted and cooled (but still spreadable)
■ candy thermometer
■ baking sheet lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat
■ lightly oiled off-set palette knife (a regular knife will do, but an off-set knife is easier)
■ a silicone pastry brush placed in a cup of water
Preheat oven to 375F.
Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet, in a single layer. Bake about 7 – 10 minutes until the nuts are golden and aromatic. Set aside. When they’ve cooled, ensure the nuts are spread evenly on the parchment as you’ll be pouring hot toffee directly onto them.
In a deep, medium-sized heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sugar, water, molasses and salt. Gently stir to combine then clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, ensuring the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan. Once the mixture starts to boil, stop stirring. Brush down the sides of the pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down any sugar crystals.
Cook the toffee until the mixture reaches a few degrees over 300F on a humid day and 295F when humidity is not an issue.
Remove the saucepan from heat, and working quickly, stir in the baking soda. This will cause the sugar to bubble up so be very careful.
Pour the mixture over the almonds. Use a lightly-oiled off-set palette knife to spread the toffee, if necessary.
When the toffee has firmed a bit and is still warm, spread on the melted chocolate. Allow the mixture to cool, then break into pieces.
Keep in an airtight container in a cool dry place. It lasts for several weeks.
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