Candy making kind of scares me.
Thread stage, soft ball, hard crack. It just all sounds like it could go horribly wrong with little or no notice. And the thought of burnt sugar (or, perhaps, more importantly, trying to clean up burnt sugar) is enough to put me completely off the idea entirely.
But when I went home at Christmas (and yes, that’s how long I’ve procrastinated on this post. I have no idea why.), my mum and I thought this would be a good afternoon project. Considering about three feet of snow was surrounding the house and even the four-wheel-drive SUV was having a hard time making it up the narrow gravel road, staying in to do some baking and candymaking seemed like a grand plan. Not to mention the newly renovated kitchen was ideal for photos. Hello natural light!
We’re both big fans of English Toffee, even though I’m generally not a huge fan of almonds. My mum is more of a connoisseur than me, though; she can judge good toffee from bad. So, it was entertaining to think we could have a go at making our own.
It was great to cook with someone else. Since I have no tripod, my photos tend to be very static. Just too tricky to try to pour or stir and shoot at the same time. Not to mention that my cave-like kitchen is terrible when it comes to lighting. I actually take things out of my kitchen and shoot them by the window to get the best light. So, I took full advantage of having another pair of hands.
Also, frankly, I wasn’t going to attempt this recipe without having someone there who has some expertise.
But this has made me feel that I could attempt candy again in the future.
It’s essentially a waiting (and stirring) game. Keeping an eye on the temperature and watching as two basic ingredients transform themselves into something completely different. I liked the molten lava look of the toffee as it grew closer to being ready and then how it changed again when it was poured into the sheet pan, taking on an almost stained glass type look: coloured and glossy and flat.
Mostly, though, what I enjoyed was a chance to hang out, catch up and just spend time together. I only get back to Vancouver once or twice a year and I’m usually rushing around to see old friends and poke around some of my favourite stores.
The giant piles of snow that continued to fall almost the entire time I was there over the Christmas holidays were a blessing, in the end. There was no reason to rush off on errands or to visit. Instead, we had the perfect excuse to stay in and just spend time in the kitchen, bonding over a bubbling pot of sugar and butter.
- 3 cups salted butter (1.5 pounds)
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3 cups roasted, unsalted almonds crushed
In a heavy bottom stock pot, start to melt the butter, adding the sugar after it has started to melt. Stir to emulsify the mixture, then add the candy thermometer, making sure there is enough of a gap between it and the bottom of the pot. (A wooden spoon should just be able to sweep underneath it.) Keep stirring the mixture. As it gets hotter, the mixture will thicken and start to darken. Keep cooking until the mixture reaches 294 degrees F. Caution, the temperature will climb quickly through the final 20 degrees.
Let the mixture cool slightly and then pour into a 13×18″ pan. Let cool for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle on the chocolate chips. The heat of the toffee should be enough to melt the chocolate. It didn’t for us, so we threw it in the oven (warm from roasting the almonds) for a minute or two until it was spreadable and then used a spatula to get the chocolate covering the toffee.
Sprinkle on chopped nuts and press into chocolate.
After it has cooled to room temperature, put another pan of the same size over the toffee and invert. It should pop right out.
We used a meat mallet to break it into manageable pieces.