Last year I posted a recipe for the "Best-Ever Nut Brittle" that originally ran in the December 2007 issue of Food & Wine. One of the things that makes it truly the "best-ever" is the use of roasted salted nuts. So when a couple of years later the same magazine ran a recipe for Chocolate-Almond Toffee using roasted salted almonds, I sat up and took notice.
The recipe I am posting today is a slightly altered version of that Food & Wine recipe. I love the use of salted nuts and the addition of even more salt, but I wasn't crazy about the fact that the finished toffee was completely encased in chocolate. As strange as it might sound, that's simply too much chocolate—it overwhelms the flavor of the toffee. My version (like a lot of versions) only has chocolate on the top.
Another significant change I made to the recipe was to substitute a small amount of corn syrup for some of the granulated sugar. Corn syrup helps to prevent re-crystallization of the sugar. If you are new to candy making and the process of cooking sugar syrups, check out last year's brittle post for some other pointers on how to prevent crystallization.
The original recipe gave instructions for pouring the toffee into an 8- by 11-inch pan. This results in a finished toffee that is quite thick. I have made the recipe in a 9- by 13-inch pan, and while this is somewhat better, it is still too thick for me. I find that I like it best when it is on the thin side, so I like to pour it onto a half sheet pan, covering about 2/3 of the pan. This is obviously a personal preference—you should make the toffee in a thickness that pleases you.
As you pour out the hot toffee, move the saucepan back and forth over the prepared sheet pan so that the candy is spread in as even a layer as is possible. Even though it is quite fluid, it tends to want to stay where you pour it. If you pour it out into a pile in the center of the sheet, it will spread out somewhat, but it will still be very thick in the center and much thinner toward the edges. Unfortunately, it is difficult to spread or otherwise manipulate with a spatula (or spoon) once it has been poured out.
During the entire toffee making (or any candy making) process, treat the hot sugar syrup with respect—giving it your full attention. Keep small children and animals, as well as anything else that might distract you, out of the kitchen. The final temperature of the candy is 300° F. This will inflict a serious burn on any flesh that it touches.
Finally, I wanted to call attention to the fact that the recipe calls for both coarsely chopped and finely chopped almonds. The coarse almonds are added to the toffee, while those that are finely chopped are scattered over the chocolate. It is not necessary to chop the coarse and fine separately—it can all be done at once. Simply put all of the almonds on the cutting board
and begin chopping until all of the nuts are chopped and the largest pieces are "coarsely chopped". The chopping process will have naturally produced coarsely and finely chopped bits.
Scoop all of the nuts into a dish and shake it back and forth and side to side. The larger pieces will percolate to the top of the dish. Lift out three ounces of these larger pieces. Return the remaining ounce of almonds (most will be very fine) to the board and run your knife through them a few times until all are fine.
I am not certain that I would presume to call the toffee I make the "best-ever"...but I do think that it is awfully good. Suffice it to say that I am no longer on the lookout for a toffee recipe. This is the toffee that I will be making for my family and friends for many holiday seasons to come.
Chocolate Almond Toffee
1 1/3 c. sugar (267 g)
2 T. water
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, sliced
2 T. light corn syrup (41 g)
1 t. kosher salt
2 t. vanilla
1 c. roasted salted almonds (4 oz.), 3/4 coarsely chopped and 1/4 finely chopped
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil. Butter the foil, or spray with spray release ("Pam"). Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter and corn syrup and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
If there are any sugar crystals visible on the side of the pan, brush the pan's sides with a pastry brush dipped in water, repeating until any sugar crystals disappear. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the toffee is deeply golden and registers 300°F on a candy thermometer—about 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the vanilla and salt. Use a long handled spoon—the mixture will bubble vigorously. Stir in the coarsely chopped almonds, then immediately scrape the brittle onto the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to spread evenly.
Let cool for 10 minutes. Scatter the chopped chocolate over the toffee and spread into a thin layer when melted.
Scatter finely chopped almonds evenly over the chocolate.
Let cool completely. Break into pieces and store air-tight. Makes about 1 1/2 pounds Chocolate Almond Toffee.
Note: The toffee goes together more easily if you place the coarsely chopped nuts in a 300° oven while the syrup boils—that way the nuts won’t bring down the temperature of the candy syrup when they are added.
Update 12/31/13: In a recent cookie class a student suggested that it might help the candy to spread more quickly and evenly if I also warmed the prepared baking sheet in the 300° oven. It does! A fabulous idea. I wish I had gotten her name so I could thank her and give her credit!