I’ve loved toffee since I can remember…I mean I actually remember when my mom would take me to the neighborhood ‘five and dime’ and all I wanted (and begged for) was a Heath bar. Every. Single. Time. True confessions? I took one once when she said no and put it in my pocket. I had no idea I was stealing from the store, I was only about 4; I just thought I was pulling one over on my mom. Ahem, didn’t work. Had to go back, apologize and return it. Saddest day of my young life. I’ve always given Heath Bars credit for my first cavity too…a testimony of my love affair that started decades ago that has never waned.
So when my friend Karen offered me a piece of toffee that she had received from Peyton, one of her pre-school students, as a year end teacher gift; I think I offered that she instead take the one piece and that I would gladly take the rest. OK, maybe not but I’m sure I thought it! Now…I’ve had and made a lot of toffee over the years but this one was still especially good. Was it the technique or the ingredients or just the mastery of that mom in the kitchen? Probably a bit of all three but I had to have the recipe!
Karen requested from Peyton’s mom Christa, my new hero of the moment, if she would mind sending me the recipe and she was quick to comply. I just knew something was different even before seeing the ingredients and I couldn’t wait to discover what it was. The toffee was a lighter color and yet had been cooked enough to harden; beyond that it just had a softer bite. Barely discernible but I just felt it wasn’t quite as rock hard as so many toffees are. I was delighted to get the recipe and discover the secret…a bit of cream is used in this recipe in addition to butter and sugar; that must have been it!
Christa’s note was sweet; she was aware of ‘food blogging rules’ and even included in her email that the original recipe was from Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home by Nina Wanat. Nina used to operate a very popular candy shop in Los Angeles call BonBonBar; while that store has now closed; I’m delighted to have experienced one of her confections and the book is in my Amazon shopping cart now…I want MORE!
I could say this toffee was devoured but I know myself; if up to my old ways; the same as that little girl I once was; I would have eaten the entire batch in one sitting. So…in an effort to protect myself from myself, I gave it to a friend who commented she only wished she had time to make some for her husband as a Father’s Day treat; now she has mine to give him and my hips are forever grateful!
As anyone who reads this blog might expect I had to switch it up a bit cause that’s what I do and if I say so myself the end result was pretty outstanding. The original recipe calls for plain toffee topped with chocolate and sliced almonds; stellar just as it was. BUT. I only had whole almonds in the house and after one recent experience trying to slice them in my Cuisinart (can you say ‘almond dust?’) I decided that my almond component would be in the form of putting chopped pieces into the candy. Toasted ones. Oh yeah.
The salted thing? Does everything have to be ‘salted this’ or ‘salted that?’ No, it does not. While I love just a touch of salt with chocolate and/or caramel, the truth is if you don’t have a good finishing salt, I highly recommend you avoid this step. Maldon salt flakes are less salty than table or kosher salt and they are so pretty too so I can highly recommend them but trying the same thing with table salt would be a mistake. So either use a good finishing salt or none at all; either way I know you will just love this toffee. So will your husband, dad, or father. Or you can send some to me. Just kidding. No I’m not.
Christa provided some great tips (even info for high altitude cooking) that I’ve included and I’ve got one of my own. Gate your kids and dogs out of the kitchen. This is HOT stuff. I had two dogs and a malfunctioning thermometer; we are very lucky a casualty was not a part of our experience. Toffee can start to darken to the perfect color and then in seemingly an instant it can burn. This is one of those recipes that requires that everything be at the ready, that you have the right equipment and as importantly? Zero distractions. The reward will be worth it. Ask my friend’s husband or if my friend is at all like me, ask her; I just know she squirreled a few pieces away for herself!
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 cup butter
- 1/4 cup cream
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 oz milk chocolate, chopped or milk chocolate chips
- 1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted
- Finishing salt (I used Maldon)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Boil water, butter, sugar, cream and salt over medium heat in a 3 qt saucepan. Stir slowly but constantly until it reaches 300 degrees. (See notes for high altitude)
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and chopped nuts.
- Pour onto parchment and spread to desired thickness.
- Sprinkle chocolate on top and let sit for a few minutes; it will melt and then you can spread it to cover.
- Sprinkle Maldon salt on top of the warm chocolate; using a light hand. Just a bit is enough!
- Put the tray in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes to cool completely and then break toffee into pieces; store in an airtight container.
A few tips from Christa for those who haven't made candy before
Get a good candy thermometer every degree counts.
At high altitude you have to lower the temperature. The general rule of thumb is 2 degrees for every 1000 ft. So in Denver where Christa and I live you would lower the temp by 10 degrees to 290. If you want to be really accurate you can calibrate your thermometer by putting it in boiling water and seeing what temperature it boils at.
Water typically boils at 212F, whatever temp yours boils at is your difference. Mine is 11 degrees so for this recipe I would cook the toffee until it was 289F before it would be done.
NOTE: Some of you may noticed that it looks like the chocolate on top has ‘bloomed’ a bit and in fact it did. The appearance of a white layer or even those whitish spots is what is known as “chocolate bloom.” There are two types of chocolate bloom: fat bloom and sugar bloom. The chocolate bar in the photo above shows only a very slight fat bloom and it is by far the most common type.
Typically caused when chocolate is exposed to high temperatures – such as being left in your car on a sunny day – and then allowed to re-set. A warm environment will cause the cocoa butter to melt and separate from the rest of the ingredients in your chocolate, then rise to the surface of the bar creating an off-white “bloom.” The best way to avoid fat bloom is by storing your chocolates in a cool place, preferably one where the temperature is consistent.
So how on earth Barb…didn’t you know you were going to take photos? Why yes I did! But if you follow my personal soap opera, I’m living with friends but using my daughter’s extra bedroom for photos while I’m in between houses. This time around I made the toffee where I live and had to transport it to my daughter’s for the photos. But wait a minute…nothing is that easy! I wanted a gift box to put it in so that meant a stop by both Michael’s and The Container Store before I found something I liked.
Yes, it was warm out and I knew that the car might get too hot so I BROUGHT THE TRAY OF CANDY INSIDE WITH ME! I had every sales person and patron at both of those stores insinuate that they would be happy to help me get rid of it…but no, I was just trying to keep it from getting hot and melty. Still, when I finally got to Emily’s I decided that in order to break it apart it would need some additional refrigerator time. Big mistake but one I could hardly avoid; her place is air conditioned but not chilly enough to harden that top layer and a short of amount of refrigeration was necessary. The end result created some bloom that was thankfully minor and it tasted fine. I do want to assure you that unless you plan to take your toffee shopping with you it should not do the same!