Dec 13

2011

Almond Toffee

Since the day I decided to start this blog, I’ve wanted to share this recipe. But it turns out I only make it at Christmas, and making it at other times o year would feel like, I don’t know, cheating? I’ve been patient, but halfway through December, it’s FINALLY time.

In fact, I want to share it soooo much that I’m giving away one pound of this, my favorite holiday treat, to one of you! Yay contest!

We’ll get there. Promise. But first, some background.

My Grandma Emma has been making toffee now for decades. She taught my mom early in my parents’ marriage, and now mom has been making it ever since. I watched in awe, all through my childhood as my mom cooked batch after batch of toffee, broke it up into pieces, and carefully placed it in tins to give to our friends and family. And many a neighbor has been to our house so she could teach them to make this decadent candy.

Despite all this, I was freaked. out. the first time I made toffee on my own, without my mom looking over my shoulder. Almonds can pop, boiling sugar can sproing out of the pan, and the difference between not quite done and burned is mere seconds. Nevertheless, it CAN be done, and I totally think you should give it a try. So while I can’t stand in your kitchen to help, I’ll arm you with the tips I got from my mom so you too can make a batch on your own.

1.  Get everything ready before you begin. Grease your cookie sheet, set it on a rack, measure your ingredients, get your spoons, everything. Once toffee gets going, you pretty much have to see it through, so don’t expect to multitask.

2. Use Parkay. That’s Parkay margarine, folks. This is actually a point of some issue for me, as someone who wants to use ingredients that are as natural as possible. But we’ve tried this with butter, and while tasty, it’s just not the same. Period. Even other brands of margarine don’t produce the same result. So use Parkay. I hope I’ve made that clear.

3. Ignore everything but the candy. During the 5-10 minutes between adding the almonds and pouring the candy out of the pot, you can do nothing except stir like your life depends on it.

4. Rely on your senses, not a candy thermometer. This one is tricky. I’ve never seen my mom or grandma use a thermometer to make toffee. Technically, yes, toffee must come to the “hard crack” stage. But to truly get a transcendent batch of toffee, it should be poured out just before it starts to burn. This sounds bizarre, I know. But it’s true. The toffee will start to smell done. It will pull away from the sides of pan as it thickens, and it will quickly start to turn a caramel color, which will deepen even more as the candy cools.

5. Don’t rely entirely on the timer. Depending on how your stove cooks, your toffee might take 12 minutes to cook. Or it might be done in 5. Pay attention to the toffee more than the timer.

6. Stir like a crazy person. If your arm isn’t sore, you’re not stirring fast enough. Keep it up!

6. Wait until the toffee has cooled completely before removing from the cookie sheet. See below. Impatience is bad.

7. Accept that not every batch is perfect, nor is every batch the same. Some are dark, some are light, some are gummy, some get burned. It happens. It’s still awesome.

Okay so yes, I don’t think I can file this one as an “easy” recipe. But it is worth every minute of effort. It’s become a tradition not only in my family, but in our community. My mom made a batch for a charity auction a month or so ago, and it brought in about $300. True. Story. I should probably just make this stuff full time. Maybe we all should.

But in case you don’t feel like it, how about we start with letting someone have a taste?

This pretty little bowl of toffee is looking for a home! Want it? Here’s how to enter:

How to Win Some Toffee CLOSED
1. Leave a comment on this post to answer this: What is  your favorite holiday treat? Do  you make it yourself?
OR
2. Like 30 Pounds of Apples on the Facebooks.

Enter before midnight on Wednesday, December 14. Winner will be announced on Thursday.

Also, give it a try yourself! I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

Almond Toffee
Exactly the way Mom taught me

Supplies
2 large cookie sheets with edges
2 wooden spoons – the longer the handles, the bettter
table knife with blade wrapped in damp paper towel
heavy kettle with lid
timer or clock
wire cooling rack
glass dish for melting chocolate
spatula

Ingredients
1 pound Parkay
1 tsp salt
2 c sugar
1 c water
1 lb whole, shelled almonds
1/2 c milk chocolate chips (or chopped into small pieces)

Begin by preparing all supplies and ingredients. Once you begin cooking, you will have little to no time to retrieve anything not in arms reach. Thoroughly grease one cookie sheet and place on the cooling rack near the stove. Unwrap margarine and place on a plate, sprinkling the salt evenly over the sticks.

In your pot over high heat, combine sugar and water and stir slowly until mixture begins to boil. Cover and let boil undisturbed for 3 minutes. Set aside the spoon you used, you will not be able to use it again for this batch.

Remove the lid and quickly wipe the walls of the pot with the covered knife to remove any sugar crystals. (At this point, I put on oven mitts because I’m a wimp and don’t get popped by boiling sugar, but use your own judgement). Using a new wooden spoon, add margarine one stick at a time, stirring until each stick is melted before adding the next. Add almonds and set your timer for 10 minutes.

Stir vigorously and constantly. Listen for the almonds to pop and crack. You will have a better chance of them cracking if they are fresh.

The tricky part: determining when the candy is done is where the art comes into play. The best toffee is poured into the cookie sheet just, and I mean just, before it burns. The almonds may pop, the candy will thicken and will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, and the candy well smell like a dark caramel. You can also bring the temperature to a hard crack stage, possibly just beyond.

Once the candy is “done” (pulling away from sides of pan, smells sweet and caramel-y, and just beginning to darken to a caramel color), pour the candy immediately into the buttered cookie sheet. The candy will spread out naturally, there is no need to prompt it with your spoon.

After at least an hour, or whenever the candy is cool to the touch, place the second cookie sheet on top of the first and flip the set over. Press the toffee out of the first and into the second. Wipe the surface of the toffee with a paper towel to remove grease from the pan.

In a small glass dish, melt chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring at each pause. Once chocolate is melted, spread evenly over the surface of the candy.

Let toffee sit for several hours or overnight. Break up into small chunks and try to prevent yourself from eating the whole batch. 

31 Comments

  1. Kathrine says:

    My favorite holiday treat is Dutch Apple Pie. Not sure why, but growing up, we rarely made cookies and candy, and usually it was just for Santa if we did. BUT my mom always made apple pie. What makes it so good is a flour, brown sugar and butter crumble on top that sets it above your typical apple pie with lattice or crust. We still make it for dessert at Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, and I’ve started making it myself and every time people LOVE it. Hope I win that toffee, looks so good, but I don’t have some of the required tools or patience.

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      That sounds amazing. I usually associate apple desserts very strongly with Halloween and Thanksgiving, but I still have tons of apples left so it seems totally reasonable that others do too. And with extra crumble on top? Lordy. Sounds delicious.

  2. Kassi says:

    My favorite holiday treat is chocolate crinkles. I fell in love with these cookies when I was little and have been making them each year since I was probably 12. In fact, I have already made two batches this year and have plans of making a third one this week. This is the same cookie that I bake for my brother’s birthday every year. After all, who needs real presents when you can eat cookies : )

    psssssst….I think the baby might like to try your toffee too : )

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      I’m not sure I’ve ever had those… New Years project?

      1. Kassi says:

        How have you never had these! I will try to save you some. I am making batches 3 and 4 tonight : )

  3. Tim G says:

    My favorite holiday treat is my grandmother’s Icebox Cake. It’s the simplest of recipes – a bunch of thin, chocolate wafers layered with Cool Whip and then stuck in the freezer to set. She’s made it every year around the holidays for as long as I can remember. It’s certainly not my favorite because of its complexity – but rather the unrestrained joy I get from eating it, and the amount of love Nanny puts into it. PS this toffee looks insanely good.

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      I’ve seen a recipe for Ice Box cake on Smitten Kitchen that I’ve been dying to try. It looks like what Oreos want to be when they grow up. Yummm.

  4. Sue Mooney says:

    your mom’s toffee, and those crazy holiday cones like she made yesterday! My dad was a chef, and my mom a wonderful Italian cook — it skipped a gneration, but both my kids and their spuses are great cooks!

  5. Ben E says:

    It’s a tough one but I would say peppermint bark is probably one of my favorites. I haven’t ever made it myself, but it’s pretty good…that almond toffee looks pretty good, too, though…

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      I’m hoping to make peppermint bark for the first time this year…. can’t be too hard, right?

  6. Suzy says:

    Yum! I must admit Toffee is very high on my holiday list! (And, I do make it!) But I also really like Snow Balls (known by many names: Wedding Cookies, Teacakes, Pecan Sandies, etc.) which are mostly butter, flour, xxx sugar, and pecans…..and I make them! I also grew up with my mother’s peanut brittle and fudge, and I finally am partial to miniature cherry cheesecakes! The list could go on and on, but I think I will go home and make toffee today! Thanks!

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      I know your favorites Mom :) Needless to say, it would be rather unfair if you won this contest, don’t you think?

      1. Suzy says:

        Yes. I am happy for Ben E.

  7. Sara says:

    They’re simple, but I adore the peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses on top of them. I am a bit of a peanut butter + chocolate fanatic. I usually make them with my family when I go home to visit during the holidays.

    1. Suzy says:

      Oh, yes…..I love those! Thanks for reminding me!

    2. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      Classic. Simple. And totally rockstar awesome.

  8. Laurel Penwell says:

    I LOVE the almond toffee that your mom makes. She has done 2 in-services for me and I still burned my first batch this year. This my 3rd year of attempting it! Haven’t got it right yet, but am still eating it anyway! My family loves it, too!

  9. Shannon says:

    I have many Christmas favorites of course. I frequently make and give away old fashioned fudge at Christmas. It has always been a tradition in my part of the family to make what we simply call “Christmas cookies” (which are some sort of sugar cookie with frosting). And of course I like peanut brittle. AND of course I like your mom’s toffee and Aunt Kim’s rum balls! This year I don’t have access to a lot of my usual cooking supplies (apparently brown sugar is not a staple in Mexico) so I am making a lot of no bakes. I think I gained 5 pounds just writing this.

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      No brown sugar? Are you allowed to take some back at Christmas, or would it get pulled at customs?

  10. Lauren says:

    My favorite holiday recipe is my great grandmother’s Indiana homemade noodles! She made them from scratch every year for Thanksgiving and I was lucky enough to get to try HERS a few times when I was very young. My mom still makes them by mixing together the dough, rolling it out and cutting it into little slices with a pizza cutter. They have to sit out in flour to dry for a few days then you cook em up with some stock. The best part is to eat them raw when they’re on the counter! I get yelled at when ‘there’s none left to eat with dinner!’

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      A savory favorite! Homemade noodles… there’s nothing like ‘em. I would argue that eating almost any dough is more fun than the finished product.

  11. Suzy says:

    Yes, I agree with Shannon! My favorite sugar cookie recipe is called DELUXE SUGAR COOKIES (made with XXX Sugar) which originally came to me from Sheryl Cory, a teacher’s wife I knew a long time ago! Homemade frosting is best (but I usually run out of time and do store-bought frosting and/or colored sprinkles!) It is the most fun when my daughters are home and make them for me (and let me eat the almost burned ones!)

  12. Mona says:

    My favorite holiday treat and guilty pleasure is peppermint ice cream. Not home made, not the white, gourmet kind. It’s gotta be pink. It’s gotta be loaded with peppermint sprinkles. It’s getting harder and harder to find, but City Market usually carries it in Durango. I always choose this instead of birthday cake for my holiday-time birthday! Maybe it’s a bit scary? I find it better not to over-intellectualize the ingredients and just indulge!

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      I completely agree. I get over my parkay v butter dilemma the moment I put a piece of toffee in my mouth. It’s totally worth it.

  13. Greg says:

    My favorite holiday treat is the one of front of me. When I was a kid it was a candy called Creamed Filberts also called mothballs or snowballs. Essentially, they are sugar coated hazelnuts. In my early adult life my favorite treat was my Mother’s or Grandmother’s fruitcake. I know, no one likes fruit cake, but I did and do. The homemade variety is spicy and darkly sweet. Each slice looked like a stained glass window filled with candied fruit and surrounded by a variety of nuts. Now my favorite is anything with a combination of peppermint and chocolate. My homemade version is a chocolatey Red Velvet cake with a Seven minute frosting peppered with crushed peppermint. Yummmm. As a rule, I could eat my weight in any kind of Christmas Cookie. I traditionally make a biscotti with fruitcake echoes-crusty and satisfying. Thanks for this opportunity to reminisce. See you soon!

    1. Kristi @ 30 Pounds of Apples says:

      It all sounds so delicious! Can’t wait to see you!

  14. Deb Jacobs says:

    I can’t believe it! I actually popped a piece of your mom’s famous toffee in my mouth this afternoon! YUM!! Julie received it in district mail today and she was kind enough to share. Bless her!! What a great description of the creation of toffee. You are amazing …and so is the toffee! Hey, I believe I owe you a wedding cake…let me know if I can ever repay you! Best cake ever (and to think it was produced by two sweet, young girls). I’ll never forget it.
    Love you!
    p.s. My favorite holiday cookies are Santa’s Whiskers. My mom made them for us when we were young. We lost the recipe years ago, but thanks to the internet…we’re back in business!

  15. Sierra says:

    Just made my first half batch BY MYSELF! The little that dribbled and cooled on my oven-top is crunchy, so I think that it worked!! It’s actually not that hard to do, it turns out!

  16. Suzy says:

    Yum! I need to make another batch and send more to Nevada! A note……the high burner is best viewed as flexible! On some stoves it is HIGH, on mine it is slightly above 8 out of 10, and on gas stoves it is what it is…..sometimes! Hard to tell! Keep making that toffee!

  17. Ben Eckstein says:

    As last year’s winner, I will respectfully bow out of the contest this year to spread the toffee love, but I will say that after having won this toffee last year, it is definitely my favorite holiday treat.

  18. diane says:

    As a kid, my Dad’s secretary would send us Divinty every year. Yum

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