Right now

I’m too late for the holiday candy tin with this one, I know. So the way I see it, you have two choices. You could either tuck this recipe away for next year’s holiday gifting, or you could come up with a compelling excuse to make this toffee right now.

Let me rephrase that: You could come up with a compelling excuse to make this Salted Chocolate Almond Toffee Right Now. With all of those official-looking capital letters thrown in there – not to mention the italics – I’d say that we have a felicitous new name on our hands for these nutty shards of chocolate, butter, and caramelized sugar: Salted Chocolate Almond Toffee Right Now. Believe me, it fits. It’s also conveniently instructive, a recipe with marching orders included. It puts our little dilemma to bed straight away, without bowing to any of that one more drink of water? and monsters-under-the-bed nonsense that some dilemmas like to pull. You can make any old toffee later. This toffee, on the other hand, all but begs you to get into the kitchen as soon as you possibly can.

All of this is to say that you don’t really need much of a reason to stir together the few simple ingredients that, in a matter of minutes, produce a rich, four-ply blanket of nuts, chocolate, toffee, and nuts again. But if you simply must have one, a reason that is, I’m sure that we can think of something. New Year’s Eve is fast upon us, after all. I, for one, could do a lot worse than to kick off 2010 with a mouthful of this toffee. Packed in a mason jar with a hand-written note, it would make a lovely gift for your New Year’s Eve hosts. (Unless, of course, you happen to be driving up to New Hampshire, to the home of a known toffee-maker extraordinaire, in which case you might want to bring this almond tart, instead.) Or maybe you have something special to celebrate. A birthday? A graduation? The engagement, perhaps, of your amazing first cousin to an equally amazing guy?* And, I mean, it is Thursday, which happens to be a very fine day for making toffee.

If you’ve never made candy before, this toffee is an excellent place to start. I find the process to be so pretty. There’s the toasting of the almonds, the smoothing of the melty chocolate, and above all, the bubbling mass of sugar and butter that deepens in color, flavor, and aroma, and gradually thickens, until it’s pushing back against your wooden spoon as you stir and, before you know it, pouring in ribbons from the pot. It’s like magic. Up until very recently, I suffered from an irrational fear of candy thermometers. Timers, oven thermometers, scales and I do just fine, thank you, but the candy thermometer, I was convinced, was secretly out to get me. Then, I realized that the exact opposite is true. The candy thermometer is like that straight-shooting friend with flawless judgment who calls it like she sees it. Its one and only job is to eliminate any and all guesswork from your stovetop. That, my friends, is a blessing. Thanks to my new pal the candy thermometer, this toffee is as simple to prepare as it is unsettlingly addictive. Well, almost.

[Speaking of blessings, happy New Year, everyone! May it be a good one for us all.]

*Congratulations, Katie and Kit! All my love to you both. xo.

p.s. – If instead of heading into your kitchen in these final hours of 2009, you’d prefer to let me make this toffee for you, there’s still time to bid on my Sweet Amandine Trio – along with all of the other terrific items – over at Menu for Hope. All it takes is a donation of $10. The campaign ends today!

Salted Chocolate Almond Toffee
Adapted from Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson

As Ms. Prueitt and Mr. Robertson suggest in their recipe notes, a not-so-sweet chocolate is best against the super-sweet toffee. I use 70% Scharffen-Berger. Once the sugar begins to caramelize, things happen fast, so it’s best to measure out all of your ingredients before you turn on the flame. It’s not as fussy as it sounds. You can measure the sugar, water, butter, molasses, and salt directly into the pot. Then, measure the baking soda and vanilla into separate glass bowls, and you can pretend you’re Martha Stewart when, smiling graciously, you spill them into the bubbling toffee. I made just one change to this recipe, which is to finish the toffee with a couple of extra pinches of sea salt. Oh baby. It’s good.

2 c. sliced almonds
1¾ c. granulated white sugar
3 T. water
½ c. unsalted butter
1 t. Blackstrap or other dark molasses
¼ t. sea salt, plus another 2-3 generous pinches for finishing
1 t. vanilla extract
¼ t. baking soda
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner, and evenly spread half of the almonds on top. There should be no visible parchment paper between the almonds. Reserve the remaining almonds for topping.

Combine the sugar, water, butter, molasses, and salt in a medium, heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers 295 degrees – no more, no less – on a candy thermometer. Depending on your heat and your pot, it will take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Immediately remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda. Stir well, until fully incorporated. The mixture will bubble up when you add the baking soda, so take care.

Pour the hot mixture evenly over the almonds. Work quickly, as it will begin setting up immediately. If necessary, use a lightly-oiled rubber spatula to spread the toffee. When the toffee is just cool enough to touch, spread the chopped chocolate over top. As the chocolate melts from the warmth, use a spatula to spread it across the toffee. Sprinkle the rest of the almonds, and then a couple of pinches of sea salt over the chocolate to finish. Let cool completely. (I’ve been known to speed things up by sliding the pan into the refrigerator.)

Break the cooled sheet into pieces. The toffee will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for several weeks. Do not freeze.

Yield: About 1½ pounds.

Bonus: Once you’ve broken the toffee into pieces and packed it away, you’ll have a whole mess of chocolate, toffee, and almond crumbs left on your pan. Don’t sweep it into the garbage. Instead, save it. It’s wonderful sprinkled over vanilla ice cream or plain, tangy yogurt.


Linda said...

jess...this sounds like a pretty easy recipe...
can you please let me know whose candy thermometer you use or recommend...funny i have been anxious to purchase one & now i know i MUST!
happy 2010!!

Jess said...

Linda - I use this one, made by Taylor. I think I'll add a link to it in the post as well. It doubles as a deep-fry thermometer in the event that you would ever want to make, say, potato latkes.

You're right; this toffee recipe is easy. Surprisingly easy, in fact. It's the first "real" candy that I've ever made, and it didn't give me any trouble. Happy 2010 to you, too.

El said...

Fortunately, I feel no need for a compelling excuse. It just looks good and that works for me. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I can't wait to give it a try. Have a wonderful, happy, healthy New Year!

Char said...

salted toffee?? yum

happy new year - may it be beautiful.

oneordinaryday said...

Salted? Sounds amazing!
I love the presentation in packing it into glass jars. Very pretty.

Linda said...

thanks for the links to the taylor...& latkes.
i just purchased the thermometer from amazon...along w/ the frog commissary cookbook. :)
looking forward to baking/cooking w/u next year!!

momMe said...

love to you --- you are the perfect blend of sweet and salty with several pinches of joy and down right amazing. Happy New Year to you and your hunk!

Anonymous said...

May I know the size of pan you used for this recipe. Thanks for posting it.

Jess said...

Happy to hear it, El. Happy new year to you, too!

Char - Yes, yum, indeed. Wishing you a wonderful 2010.

oneordinaryday - Ah, I see you've picked up on the most exciting, most enticing part of this whole thing: Yes, salted. I like the mason jar presentation, too, and the fact that it saves money doesn't hurt. You can buy jars in bulk at the hardware store for what amounts to about $1 per jar. And the giftee can then reuse the jar for any number of things.

Linda - You're very welcome. Happy candy-making, and enjoy your new cookbook!

Mom, hi! Hey, I sound delicious. xo.

Anonymous - Of course. I made the toffee in a 3.5 quart enameled cast-iron pot, and poured it out onto a 16x14-inch baking sheet covered with parchment paper. The toasted almonds and poured toffee did not cover the entire pan, so I think you would be safe using a smaller one. If you think of it, let me know how it goes!

nachshonr@aol.com said...

mmm...I want to eat that toffee RIGHT NOW!

Jess said...

Nachshon - I know the feeling. You did get a few bites at the Chanukah party, didn't you? If not - and okay, even if you did - we'll have to get you some, stat.

Megan Carroll said...

I like the bowl! is it handmade? ps -the almond choc toffee (oh my) looks great too!

Jess said...

Hi, Megan. Yes, the bowl is handmade, and it's actually one of my pieces, so thank you!

Megan Carroll said...

awesome.... i am potter too. may have to pick your brain about food and ceramics in the boston area!

Julie said...

YUM. I used to make something almost exactly like this (minus the molasses) years ago - someone once asked "how did you get the sex into this?" Thanks for the reminder.

French Cooking for Dummies said...

There is always a good reason for making toffee ;-) Happy 2010!

Jess said...

Megan - Absolutely! Shoot me an e-mail and I'll be happy to tell you about my favorite spots.

Julie - I love that. Your friend is right, good toffee is sexy. Damn sexy.

French Cooking for Dummies - That's the spirit! Happy 2010 to you, too.

gina solon said...

hi, i know you posted this recipe awhile ago...but i've just recently discovered your lovely blog so i am making my way through some older stuff...anyway, i just made this today, and i promise i followed the directions really really well...but the toffee part just never got smooth, it stayed like sugar granually...i know that's not a word but you get the idea...do you think my thermometer is off? it's pretty new...anyway, suggestions would be greatly appreciated. thanks..btw, it's still pretty delicious, just an odd texture

Jess said...

Hi, Gina. Welcome, and thanks so much for reading. I'm sorry that this recipe gave you trouble. I have a few thoughts: Did the toffee harden up properly at the end? If not, then I'd say it's definitely a temperature issue. It's possible that your thermometer is to blame. Deb, over at Smitten Kitchen, offers a tip for how to check your thermometer's accuracy right here. Another possibility is the sugar. Did you use granulated white sugar? Other sugars would probably yield different, perhaps more granulated, results. (I should have specified granulated white sugar in the recipe. Apologies. I'll make the change momentarily.) Finally, I said to stir the toffee "occasionally" which, of course, is a subjective word. You might try stirring more frequently and see if that makes a difference. I hope that helps!

Ninu said...

sadly molasses is hard to cme by where i live... any idea for substitutes? Corn syrup? Honey?

Jess said...

Hi, Ninu. I've only ever tried this recipe with molasses, but Deb over at Smitten Kitchen says that you can swap in corn syrup or honey for molasses in this recipe for coffee toffee. I imagine that the same would work here. If you do give it a try, I'd love to hear how it goes.

Vicki Chislett said...

Hi Jess,

I've just stumbled upon your blog today and i've been going through some relevant posts, so sorry if I comment a lot.

I love what you've done here witht he salt taste, and i'm wondering if you've ever tried to mix sour with desserts ?

For instance, maybe some form of ice-cream withsour sweets or perhaps something like a mildy sour lemon sponge cake?

Would it work. I would love to hear from you.

Many thanks,