So, I'll begin by saying that we will try to get a video tutorial up on this one soon if for no other reason that I would really like to make another batch of toffee.
For all my local peoples that made it out to The Valentine's Day Passport event: Thank you for coming out and supporting our local wine country and double thanks to everyone that came by Hahn to say hi and of course to everyone's favorite dirty old man, Butch Francis of Cowboy Sausage. Everyone got to sample our Chef's Palette Poultry Seasoning and some glorious English Toffee made by yours truly. A quick moment to brag, 20 pounds of toffee, first time ever - no sugar burns (oh, and mandolined over 1050 tomato slices for my main dish and still got all my fingertips! Not bad!)
We are currently buried under paperwork for permits, licenses, fees and all sorts of crazy packaging stuff to get the rubs out to the masses but stress not, gonna happen on a local scale and soon. (Plan to be at Pigs, Pinot & More in Salinas on Feb. 27th!)
Now, the reason you're here (probably, I don't know for sure you may appreciate my ramblings). I personally do not eat a lot of candy, but when I do, I kill some dark chocolate, toffee, or a combo of the two! I had a lot of pit falls on this and actually had to ditch two batches (I turned them into caramel - comment to get details on how to salvage your mess if it goes down like that for you, or new edit - click this link!). However, read thoroughly, and things should be okay. First I'll give you the rundown, and then some tips on the method because toffee is a fickle mistress but once you get it - you got it.
2 C Butter, salted
2 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1/4 C Water
1/2 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 C Chopped Almonds, Roasted
10 oz Melting Chocolate
Seriously, that's all. If your butter is unsalted, add a rounded teaspoon at the beginning with the water and vanilla. Start by buttering a 10x14 cookie sheet and sprinkling 2/3 C of almonds along the bottom. Any size cookie sheet should work, but please make sure it has sides as you will be spreading molten sugary butter goop all over and I really don't want to get an email from the burn ward on this one. Next, melt the butter on medium in a thick-ass pan. I used a Tri-Clad, some say cast iron, but you get the point. Once the butter is mostly melted swirl it up the sides of the pan. Now, pour the sugar into the middle of the butter, avoiding the sides. Dump the water, vanilla and salt if you need it into the middle. leave the heat on medium and gently stir the mixture - I used a heat resistant silicone spat. that worked great, some recommend a wooden spoon, but I noticed no variance in the product and actually found that the silicone cleaned better. Take your time here and ensure that the sugar fully dissolves, this will take at least 5 minutes. I used a candy thermometer this entire time and once the mixture was fully incorporated I let the heat start to rise to the "Confection Zone" (cue the Kenny Loggins!) and set a timer for 5 minutes. I kept it between 240F and 250F the entire time and afterwards increased my heat to just under medium high. By now your pan should be full of some weird looking foamy sugar substance that made me think of being a kid playing on a found couch in the middle of the woods. Where did it come from? Doesn't matter, it's our couch now and we're playing on it! It's a wonder we didn't all get lockjaw or tuberculosis or something...anyway, toffee, that's right.
You can get the thermometer out of your way if you like at the end of that five minute period but continue to stir, just to keep the bottom clear. DO NOT stir vigorously, too much air will cool it, and screw it up. In five minutes or so, you will notice that as you stir up the bottom it is starting to darken and you can start to smell the toffee and butterscotch notes. Now it's show time! get ready, you're only a minute or so out. Don't let it get too dark and look for little puffs of smoke as you gently stir. When its time, pour it over the almonds on the cookie sheet by scraping the bottom and pushing the toffee out from the back. Why? Well, I found that if you go from the front or middle then the stuff next to the bottom of that hot ass pan tends to get noticeably darker and in my second batch, it actually separated. I then settled the toffee by knocking it flat on a towel on the counter and popped any large air bubbles with the side of my spatula. Here's when some tell you to sprinkle chocolate chips on or smear a bar on the warm toffee. I didn't do either. I used Ghirardelli chips, 60% cocao because they're my favorite in other recipes such as chocolate mousse. I melted them in a pan over some simmering water and just spread them on when I was ready. However, my next batch I may try a bark or melting chocolate to see if I have less instances the chocolate splitting away when cut. Finish it all up by sprinkling with the remaining almonds and there you have it!
Humidity messes with the crunch. If it's humid in the kitchen, let the toffee set in a dryer area.
Use a paper towel to wipe off the surface of the toffee before dumping on the chocolate, that butter layer keeps the chocolate from sticking too..
Let it set up for at least 2 hours. If it's not set all the way it won't release properly from the pan to cut. Then you can break it or use a sharp knife to cut into squares.
Well, that's about it. I am by no means a candy maker or pastry chef, but I got a pretty good recipe and process going by third batch and thought I'd share some of the highs and lows of the whole experience.
It's now 2 a.m. and without a doubt time to turn off the computer and get some shut eye!
Please feel free to email or leave feedback.
Dyon J. Foster, Chef/Owner
Tips, tricks, tutorials, videos and odd ramblings that will probably mention food and drink!
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