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The English Toffee Caper December 23, 2009

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Holidays Countdown, mirth & woe.
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It’s the holiday season and we’re pretty much down to the wire for gift-giving, aren’t we?

Now it should be noted I’m not a fan of going overboard – I think  that, regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack thereof), the level of commercialism that has come to define this season is nothing less than, well, gross.  Sinful, even.  And while I’m not quite willing to completely give up holiday gift-giving, I do think Christmas gifts should be thoughtful – after all, Christmas isn’t supposed to be about who gets the best stuff, is it?

But it’s always nice to enjoy the cookie trays and candy that show up at the office at this time of year, isn’t it?

Earlier this season, a firm that I’ve been dealing with off and on for the past several years sent a box of absolutely marvelous English toffee directly to me; after all, I’m the person here that they work with and know, and, well, I think they seemed to think I was important or something.  I don’t know.  Whatever.  It was English toffee, and it was probably the BEST I have ever had.

I don’t talk much about my job, and there’s good reason for that – and not the dooce thing – mostly it’s just not a fun thing to blog about.  There’s me, Mon Capitán, and our secretary, and that’s it.  We all pretty much go to work, do our work, and that’s that. Nothing scandalous, nothing worth talking about.

So anyway, the other day, we I received this amazing box of toffee, and, like the team player I am, I opened it up to the group (I set it next to the coffee maker and said, “hey, look, toffee!”).  We all enjoyed it, and, when it was time for me to leave, our secretary reminded me, “hey, why don’t you take the rest of that toffee home with you?”

Literally, as I was opening my mouth to say “no, just leave it for everyone  to share” (I am SUCH a sport), what do you suppose happened?

Go ahead, guess.

OK, I’ll tell you.

Just as the words were forming on my lips, Mon Capitán comes barreling out of his office (heaven help anyone who got in his way!), made a beeline for the coffee maker, where he grabbed the box of toffee, stuck the lid back on the box, tucked in under his arm, and into his briefcase it went!

Um, well, hey, OK, guy, you keep it.  You’re the boss, after all.

So why, you’re wondering, am I telling you this pitiful tale?

Well, we exchanged Christmas gifts today, that’s why.  And what do you think I included with the boss’s annual Bottle o’ Booze?

“Well,” I said this morning, “a little bird told me that you’re fond of English toffee. . . “

I went online, found a promising recipe for Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee, bought myself a candy thermometer, and gave it a shot.

And you know, it wasn’t really that complicated after all!

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You start with some blanched almonds, chopped – about half a pound, or two cups.

Toast them – either do it in the oven (which we didn’t) or in a pan on the stovetop, which we did.  Just cook them until you start to smell them – any more than just a bare waft of a scent, and they’re burnt.

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Trust me on that.

Spread half the nuts in the bottom of a parchment-lined 9×13 pan – just make a fairly even layer, and set the rest of the nuts aside.

The nuts won’t necessarily cover the whole bottom of the pan, but that’s OK .

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Measure into a heavy saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer:

  • 1/4 lb. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. light brown sugar
  • a pinch of kosher salt

And bring it to a boil.

PhotobucketDon’t stir, don’t lower the heat, don’t even look at it too hard.

I made that last bit up.  I stood there watching it like a hawk – amazed that the butter sugar mixture was boiling that hard – and I was letting it!

While you’re waiting for the boiling sugar to reach 300° measure 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of vanilla (separately) and have them handy.

PhotobucketAs soon as the candy reaches 300°, remove it from the heat.  (I mean immediately.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.)  Quickly dump the soda and the vanilla in and stir (finally!).

Then pour the molten sugar mixture into the waiting pan, over the toasted nuts.

You shouldn’t need to spread it – just pour as evenly as you can.

Oh, and when you’re done scraping the pan with your silicone spatula, don’t – DO NOT – do something so foolish as to, say, peel the slightly firm toffee from the spatula and stick it in your mouth “just to taste.”

It tastes HOT.  It’s only slightly less than 300 degrees.

PhotobucketSprinkle a handful of chocolate chips over the still-hot but mostly-set toffee, and let them just get melty – let it sit for about 2 minutes, then carefully spread the now-melted chocolate over the toffee.

If you prefer, you could use chopped bits of milk chocolate, or even milk chocolate chips – we used Giardelli bittersweet chips, which was a good choice.  Then sprinkle the rest of your nuts on top of the chocolate.

And that’s it.  Just walk away.  Let it cool – all of it – for several hours or overnight.  The toffee solidifies fairly quickly, but the chocolate – not so much.

Next day, just break your giant hunk of toffee into manageable sized pieces – small enough to fit in your container of choice, but not so small that it’s just crumbs.

Manageable.

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And that’s it.  The rich, buttery treat that looks and tastes like you slaved over it (20 minutes, tops, plus cooling!).

And my boss?  He’s getting this from me every Christmas until, well, probably forever, if I have anything to say about it!

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Comments

1. Mazco34 - December 23, 2009

Toys,

I truly know that you are the perfect mate for my friend, Peeps.

You are deliciously wicked and your ingenuity knows no limit!

Awww. . . thanks. (I think.) 😉

2. anne - December 23, 2009

Is there something unmanageable about a 9×13 pan? Since my container of choice is either my mouth or my hand, I see no issue with leaving it in one giant hunk.

Just sayin’ … 😉

Well, yeah, if you don’t have to share it! 😉


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