Monday, December 5, 2011

'Tis the Season

 Every year at this time Chez Phillips smells like butter, sugar and chocolate; I'm making toffee.  A friend taught me this recipe years ago, and I continue to make it because my family and friends expect it, and it gets me into the holiday spirit. Yesterday I finished three batches; fortunately there are no tears in it, because the Chargers didn't play....they play tonight.  Although the recipe is simple, it takes some watching; allow yourself about 45 minutes for the first can take longer, or it can be shorter, depending on your stove and ingredients.  I will give you a short list of do's and don'ts at the end. 

Christmas Toffee
Makes One 1/4 sheet pan

1 pound salted butter
3 cups granulated sugar
3 cups whole almonds
12-ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (this is a matter of taste---I just don't recommend one of the high percentage of cacao chocolates or chocolate chips which are formulated not to melt)

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and set aside on a cutting board or heat proof pan.  
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt the butter.  Stir in the sugar and cook for 6 minutes on high.

While the butter and sugar are cooking chop 2 1/2 cups of the almonds and set aside.  Finely chop (in the food processor) the remaining almonds to fine dust and set aside.

 Cook the sugar and butter mixture an additional 6 minutes in the microwave; at the 4 minute mark, preheat a heavy bottom saucepan on the stove top over medium heat.  Using oven mitts, grasp the bowl, and pour into the preheated saucepan, and turn the heat up to medium high (this will vary with the stove)  Stir the mixture constantly---it may separate, but keep on stirring.  The toffee will turn a dark caramel color, at this point, stir in the almonds (sometimes this will bring the separated mixture together, but don't give up!) and continue to stir until the mixture comes together and is a dark amber color.
Pour the hot mixture into the sheet pan, and allow to cool.

Allow the pan to cool, then clean with HOT water to get off any excess hardened toffee. 
When the toffee is cooled, melt 6 ounces of chopped chocolate (I used Scharffenberger) either on the stove top in double boiler, or in the microwave (about 2 minutes)  spread over the top of the toffee in an even layer and sprinkle with some of the almond dust.

Wait until the chocolate has set (depends on the heat of your kitchen--2 to 6 hours) and turn the toffee out onto another sheet of foil.

Melt the remaining chocolate and sprinkle with the dust.  Wait until the chocolate is completely set before breaking into pieces.  I use a clean table knife and a meat pounder to chisel it into pieces.  Wrap in airtight containers and give as gifts. 

Do's and Don'ts

  • Use aluminum foil, parchment will melt
  • Use a silicone spoon to stir, wooden spoons tend to take on flavors from other dishes, and silicone stands up to the heat
  • Use a heavy bottom, 3 to 5-ply stainless steel pan (non-sticks tend to add water to this)
  • Use high quality chocolate; I use Scharffenberger, but Lindt, Ghirardelli and Guittiard will all work here
  • Never fill the hot pan with cold water after your spread the toffee into the sheet pan; it will ruin even the most expensive pan (how do I know this you ask---experience is a painful teacher!) 
  • There are a myriad of containers to use here, simple food safe plastic bags decorated with seasonal stickers, fancy tins, paper boxes---you can find these at The Container Store, Michael's, or your local gourmet retailer and this year I'm shopping local to support small businesses.  
I'll be back tomorrow with some dynamite cookie recipes, because that is next on this Elf's list!

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