A la my mom. (Via her friend Liz Simons from back in their married student housing days).
She’s been making this since I can remember. Every year we gave it to our teachers for Christmas, wrapped up in a little tin canister. Though if it was up to my brother and I, we would have eaten every single batch on our own. It’s so buttery and salty and sweet and just delicious. And it’s simple as can be, once you get the timing and stirring down.
I’ve made this many times with my mom, but for some reason when I tried to make it myself it kept separating. Which is like the worst thing that can happen. But my failings proved an excellent teaching moment for sharing the recipe with others. Had it worked perfectly with little thought, I wouldn’t have had step by step photos to share. And I wouldn’t be able to tell you the key pointers for success. It’s a blogland miracle!
Okay, so here we go.
1 c salted butter
1 c sugar
1 T water
chocolate (dark or milk, depending on your preference) roughly broken up or chopped
1 1/2 – 2 c chopped, toasted almonds
See? Simple. 4 ingredients.
Also, you need to prep your equipment.
2 cookie sheets lined with foil. You absolutely must do this before you start.
This recipe is extremely time sensitive, which means it’s the perfect example of when to absolutely employ the time honored cooking concept of mise en place. Which translates roughly to “everything in it’s place”. Which translates functionally to “have everything 100% prepped and ready to go BEFORE you turn on the stove”. I’m serious about this. Once the butter melts, you cannot walk away from the stove.
Another note, use the salted butter. It makes for a perfect balance of salty and sweet, plus when I tried it with unsalted I failed. Though my mom and I find it hard to believe the salt was the culprit, but just stick to the recipe and things will turn out fine. Also, on chocolate. My mom usually uses Hersheys milk chocolate bars and it’s perfectly delicious. I made this batch with Green & Blacks dark chocolate. Also perfectly delicious. But I think dark chocolate melts slower than milk, so if you’re going to use it, chop it into thinner chunks than shown in the photos so you’re not frantically trying to get it to melt before the toffee cools.
Okay, now that we have those notes out of the way…
Melt butter, sugar and water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat. At this point you can stir casually until the butter has melted. Once the mixture starts to foam a little around the edges, you are committed to stirring for the next 15 – 20 minutes. Your wrist will be sore. But don’t stop.
Stir mixture continually in a figure 8 motion at a relatively fast speed. Not as fast as you can stir, but not leisurely either. This was a mistake I made with my first batch. If you stir too slowly, the candy will separate. The mixture will get nice and fluffy and start to move as one unit (you’ll see what I mean). This is good. Your candy is coming together.
It’s going to looking pretty much the same for a while. Don’t worry. As long as the butter doesn’t start to separate, you’re on the right track. (If it does start to separate, stir faster. Perhaps it will come back together). The goal is keep stirring until your candy is the color of peanut butter. We don’t use those new fangled candy thermometers in my family. We use the jar of peanut butter. It hasn’t failed us yet. But to do this, you MUST get the peanut butter out of the cupboard and use it as a visual aid.
Once you’ve reached peanut butter color, turn off the heat and start moving like lightening. Poor the hot toffee onto the first cookie sheet (lined with foil, don’t forget) and spread it using a spatula until it’s pretty thin. 1/8 of an inch is about perfect, but there will definitely be thinner and thicker parts. Just get it done as fast as possible. One batch covers most of a standard sized cookie sheet.
Next, lay your chocolate pieces over the top of the toffee and using the spatula spread the melting pieces around until the chocolate is totally melted and the toffee is covered. Again, move as fast as you can without tearing the toffee. It will still be a little soft for the first side. The goal is to get to the other side before the toffee has cooled too much to melt the chocolate.
Then, sprinkle the chopped almonds over the entire thing.
Turn the second cookie sheet foil side down over the top of the toffee and flip the two sheets over. Now peel off the foil from the second side of the toffee and repeat the chocolate and nut process.
If you’re moving fast enough, your chocolate is thin enough and you’re not stopping constantly to snap photos, you should have enough heat left to melt the chocolate on this side too. But it will take a little longer. If by some chance your candy has gone cold, the hair dryer will work. But it will also spray chocolate all over your kitchen counter and everything on it.
Once you’ve got the second side coated, into the fridge it goes. Leave it for at least a few hours before you attempt to break it up. Overnight or all day is better.
Then break it up into lovely organic pieces and either eat yourself or pack into cute jars and give away.
I should also note that this recipe is easier if there’s another person around to help out occasionally. For instance if you need to take a break from stirring or need help holding the pot of boiling candy while pouring and spreading it onto the cookie sheet. Though it is possible to go it alone.
Happy candy making!