I love this time of year. I love the chill in the air, how our breath lingers a little longer than it did the month before. I love the parties and the desserts and the pretty lights. And most of all, I love how the holidays make us all feel a little more generous- with ourselves, with others, and with our measuring cups.
This year, I’ve decided to give handmade gifts for the holidays. This is in part because it makes me feel good, but also because it keeps me out of the mall, which I can assure you, after last year’s incident (Jimmy stop laughing), is good for everyone.
Now, I can’t promise that all of these gifts will be made by my hands (thank you etsy) but one thing that I can promise is that there will be toffee- and lots of it.
I love toffee- the intrinsic balance of sweet buttery caramel, roasted almonds, and bittersweet chocolate- for me, it is the ultimate holiday candy. There are tons of recipes out there, but I like this one, mostly for it’s simplicity. The hardest part, I find, is making the caramel. To me, caramel is sort of the extreme sport of cooking- balancing on a fine line between danger and a delicious lot of fate. Don’t let that deter you though- with the help of a sturdy mitten, these tips from David Lebovitz, and a good candy thermometer, you’ll ease right through it.
1 cup whole raw almonds
3 1/3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups unsalted butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place almonds on a baking sheet and roast in oven, shaking pan occasionally, until golden beneath skins (about 10 minutes). When cool enough to handle, chop finely.
Add sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt, and ¾ cup water to a large, heavy bottomed pot ( I use a dutch oven). Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and registers 300°F on a candy thermometer. This should take between 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla and half of the almonds. Be sure to wear an oven mit, and stand back a little as mixture might bubble up. Immediately pour into a 10 by 15 inch baking pan with at least 1 inch tall sides. Let caramel cool at room temperature until set, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in bottom of a pot that the bowl can nest in. Remove pan from heat, place bowl with chocolate over the water, and let stand, stirring occasionally, until smooth and fully melted.
Pour chocolate over cooled toffee. Using a knife, or icing spatula, spread level. Sprinkle remaining almonds evenly over chocolate and let cool at room temperature until chocolate is set, at least an hour (or chill for about 30 minutes).
Gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store airtight at room temperature for up to 2 days, or chill airtight for up to 1 month.
Adapted from Sunset Magazine