Monday, December 7, 2009

Slightly Salty Almond Toffee Crunch

Toffee is one of my all-time favorite confections, probably because it combines some of my favorite flavors: buttery caramel, toasted almond, and chocolate. It’s one of those recipes, however, that requires your full attention while you’re making it. I made the mistake of casually calling my mother while I was making this batch, and realized that I had forgotten to chop the chocolate. So I poured the toffee out and chopped the chocolate in record time—luckily the toffee was still hot enough to melt the chocolate nicely. Next time I'll wait until the toffee's done before phoning up Mom. I recommend that you read the recipe through at least once, and have all your ingredients measured out and prepped before you begin. Coarsely chopped, this slightly salty toffee also makes a great topping for or addition to vanilla ice cream (add it during the last minute of churning) for Almond Toffee Crunch Ice Cream.

Almond Toffee Crunch

Makes about 1 pound

1 ¼ cups blanched slivered almonds

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons water
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 minutes, until lightly golden. Cool, then process in food processor until some of the nuts are finely ground and some are coarsely chopped.
2. Finely chop the chocolate and set aside.
3. Have an ungreased 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet ready (it needs to fit in your refrigerator). Sprinkle half of the nuts in a rough 8-by-12-inch rectangle on the baking sheet and set aside.
4. In a small, heavy-duty saucepan, combine the butter, water and sugar and cook over medium heat, stirring gently just until the butter is melted. Insert a candy thermometer and cook until the mixture registers 300°F. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and vanilla. Immediately pour the hot toffee over the nuts on the baking sheet, using a small, offset metal spatula to spread it evenly.
5. While the toffee is hot, sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over it evenly. Let the chocolate sit for 2 minutes to melt. Then spread it over the toffee using a small offset spatula. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and a little coarse salt over the melted chocolate. Refrigerate the toffee for 20 minutes, just until the chocolate is set.
6. Use a piece of waxed paper to break the toffee into shards. Store the shards in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.