Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Cookies #3: English Toffee

OK, I know English toffee isn't actually a cookie, nor does it involve any baking, but I'm taking the liberty of including it in the Christmas cookie section since I don't plan on making any other types of candy this season. It was my first time making it and surprisingly easy and delicious! The ingredients are pricey, if you're using quality, but it makes for a great gift. I couldn't find our candy thermometer, which would have come in handy. Luckily, it turned out well nonetheless. I go the recipe from a new site that I found by googling "English toffee recipe" and I really liked the format of it and how everything was explained - from an engineering perspective! Who knew...

6 oz. (170 g) 72% organic dark chocolate bar, chopped
1 cup (200 g) evaporated cane sugar
1/3 cup (40 g) almonds, chopped in food processor
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic unsalted butter

Select a small saucepan that is large enough to contain about double the volume of the butter and sugar. Melt the butter in the saucepan with the sugar, salt and a about 2 teaspoons water over gentle heat. (Low heat is important to prevent separation later. Just be patient and let it melt together.)

Once melted, increase to medium-high heat, stirring constantly. The butter and sugar will bubble and foam as the water boils off. This can take several minutes because butter contains a decent amount of water. The volume of the mixture will increase dramatically at this point.

Once the water has boiled off, the mixture will collapse and thicken. The temperature will also start to rise again. The goal is to remove the pan from the heat once the mixture passes 300°F (150°C) and before it reaches 320°F (160°C). Use an instant read thermometer or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature as you heat and stir because the temperature can change pretty rapidly once the water boils off.

When the mixture reaches 300°F (150°C), remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and 1/3 of the chopped almonds (the biggest chunks). Pour the mixture onto either a silicone baking mat or a large sheet of parchment paper set on top of a sheet pan. Immediately after pouring, use a spatula (again silicone works best for working with toffee) to spread the toffee into a rough rectangular shape.

While the toffee is still hot, sprinkle the surface with the chocolate. Use your spatula to spread the chocolate once melted. Sprinkle the chocolate surface with chopped almonds.

Let the toffee cool to room temperature before refrigerating the pan. Once completely cooled and hardened, remove and break into pieces.