While Paris is always beautiful, winter comes, and the city gets cold, gray, and touch dreary. In fact, it’s so cold that I refuse to go outside until spring. Believe me, all those romantic photos of Paris you see are taken during the spring and fall are very deceptive. And although it’s very pretty, it would take a mighty big levier (crowbar) to get me outdoors some of these days.
So when to do when you’re stuck indoors for three or four months? Make candy! If you’ve never made candy, this one is really simple and incredibly delicious, so there’s no reason not to try a batch. (No matter where you live.) And truthfully, doesn’t it make you feel happier just looking at it?
My recipe for Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee is easy: You chop nuts, you make a syrup, and then you pour the syrup over the nuts. Sprinkle some chocolate over it, spread it out, and finish it with more nuts. That’s it. There’s no fancy techniques and the only special equipment you’ll need is a candy thermometer; they’re easily found online, and in most supermarkets. (Yes, really. Take it from someone who lurks in supermarkets, searching for things like candy thermometers, late at night.)
I like to add a sprinkle of fleur de sel, French salt, which gives it a pleasant salty edge which is divine with the dark chocolate and toasty nuts (any coarse salt can be used). Although you can use chips, you can also chop up a block of chocolate, instead.
When making candy, here are a few tips that will help:
- Read the recipe thoroughly before proceeding and have everything ready.
- Make sure your thermometer is accurate. If you’re not sure, bring a pot of water to a boil. It should read 212 degrees if you live at sea level. I use a glass candy thermometer, although the digital ones work as well.
- Be careful dealing with hot syrups. A good precaution is to have a large bowl of iced water handy. If you spill syrup on your hand, plunge it immediately into the water to stop the burn.
- The best way to clean a caramelized pan is to fill it with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let stand until the syrup melts away.
- Every once in a while, candy doesn’t work. Sometimes it’s too humid, or the sugar decides to crystallize (don’t encourage it by overstirring), or the planets aren’t aligned. Don’t get discouraged; it happens even to professionals.
Chocolate-Almond Buttercrunch Toffee
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop
- 2 cups (8 ounces, 225g) toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped between 'fine' and 'coarse'
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1/2 cup (1 stick, 115g) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- a nice, big pinch of salt
- 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (45g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 ounces (140g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, or 1 cup chocolate chips
optional: Roasted cocoa nibs and fleur de sel, or another flaky sea salt
1. Lightly oil a baking sheet with unflavored vegetable oil.
2. Sprinkle half the nuts into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) on the baking sheet.
3. In a medium, heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the water, butter, salt, and both sugars. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the thermometer reads 300ºF (150ºC) degrees. Have the vanilla and baking soda handy.
4. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
5. Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Try to pour the mixture so it forms a relatively even layer. (If necessary, gently – but quickly – spread with a spatula, but don’t overwork it.)
5. Strew the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes, then spread in an even layer.
6. If using, sprinkle with a small handful of cocoa nibs and a flurry of fleur des sel. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.
Cool completely and break into pieces to serve. Store in an airtight container, for up to ten days.
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