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Salted Almond English Toffee


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By Life Pastry - September 29, 2020

 




Salted Almond English Toffee


Makes enough for 4 or 5 nice-size gift packets

Everyone has their movie candy of choice—for me it was always a toss-up between a box of Raisinets and a Skor candy bar. I loved the chewiness of the Raisinets and how a box could last at least through the first quarter of the movie. The crunchy, buttery milk chocolate–covered toffee of the Skor usually got devoured during previews and I always wanted more. You might think that making something like a candy bar is complicated and out of reach. But far from it—as with most baking recipes, as long as you read the recipe carefully and have some patience, you can pretty much make any kind of candy bar you want. I played with the basic flavors of my childhood Skor bar and added a hefty dose of salt, lots of candied brown sugar almonds, and bittersweet chocolate to contrast with the sweet, rich toffee. Packed in little tins or cellophane bags, it makes an excellent gift.


3 tablespoons firmly packed/40 grams light brown sugar

2¼ teaspoons kosher salt

1½ cups/210 grams whole almonds

2 cups/400 grams superfine sugar

1½ cups/3 sticks/340 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

6 ounces/170 grams bittersweet chocolate, shaved fine (about 1 cup)

½ teaspoon flaked salt (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven.

In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Mix in 1 tablespoon water and stir until you get a soupy glaze. Stir in the almonds until well covered. Spread them out on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until light golden brown and shiny. Remove from the oven and let cool. Roughly chop the almonds and set them aside.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or butter it generously. Set it aside.

 

Combine the superfine sugar and about ½ cup/120 grams water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir to moisten the sugar with the water. Add the butter. Place on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil without moving the pan or stirring. When it comes to a boil, watch it carefully until it starts to take on a little color, 8 to 12 minutes. As soon as you see it starting to color, you can stir it; whisk the syrup to even out the caramelization. Reduce the heat to medium-high, keeping the syrup at a rolling boil, and swirl the pan to keep the caramelization even, watching the color as it darkens and deepens. Cook and whisk until the syrup is a deep rich amber, the color of cherrywood; it will take 4 to 6 minutes from the time it first starts to color to reach the right color.

Remove the syrup from the heat and whisk in the remaining 1¼ teaspoons salt and the vanilla. The vanilla will cause the toffee to sputter and spit, so stand back!

Immediately pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet. Tilt the sheet back and forth to even out the toffee and fill most of the pan. Let it sit at room temperature until it is firm to the touch but still hot, 5 to 8 minutes.

Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the toffee. The chocolate will start to melt on contact. Use an offset spatula to evenly spread the chocolate on the toffee. Sprinkle evenly with the chopped almonds and the flaked salt, if you’re using it.

Let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours, until firm. Break into bite-size pieces to serve.

The toffee can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.



Chocolate Almond Cocoa Nib Caramels

Makes about 32 caramels




I grew up reading James and the Giant Peach and fantasizing about living inside a juicy, fragrant peach and having to eat my way out to survive. The plot of this popular children’s book is actually a bit different from my memory, but when you are a food-obsessed girl you focus on the things that matter—and for me that was always anything edible. Fast-forward many years later, to 2016: That year marked the centenary of Roald Dahl, the author of James and the Giant Peach. We were invited to take part in a campaign called Dahlicious Delights to celebrate his birthday. We would create a confection to sell at Flour and part of the proceeds would go to Partners in Health, an incredible nonprofit cofounded by Dahl’s daughter Ophelia. As a huge PIH supporter and admirer of Ophelia, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this celebration. We created these “hornets stewed in tar” as a nod to the line in the book: “I’ve eaten many strange and scrumptious dishes . . . [like] scrambled dregs and stinkbugs’ eggs and hornets stewed in tar.” The almonds and cocoa nibs look like the bits and pieces of a hornet strewn throughout the dark caramel tar. Dahl calls hornets stewed in tar among the “finest foods in the world.” We think these caramels taste like the best Tootsie Roll in the world.


1 cup/100 grams sliced almonds

10 ounces/280 grams bittersweet chocolate

2 cups/480 grams heavy cream

1¾ cups/350 grams sugar

½ cup/160 grams light corn syrup

3 tablespoons/40 grams unsalted butter

1 cup/130 grams cocoa nibs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 6 to 8 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Line a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, making sure the parchment hangs over the edges of the pan; you may need two sheets of parchment, one widthwise and one lengthwise, to cover the sides completely.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium metal or heatproof glass bowl. Place the cream in a small saucepan and bring to just under a boil over high heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is totally melted. Set aside.

 

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stir together the sugar and about ½ cup/120 grams water, enough to moisten all the sugar. Add the corn syrup and bring to a boil over high heat. Don’t stir or jostle the pot at all once the syrup comes to a boil. Let it boil until the mixture starts to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Usually one part of the pot will start to color a bit; at this point you can safely swirl the pan to even out the caramelization. Swirl and continue to cook until the sugar is a deep, dark golden brown (if you are a beer aficionado, the color is the same as Sam Adams lager), another 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk in the chocolate-cream mixture all at once and stir to combine. Bring back to a boil. Use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature. Boil until the mixture reaches 255°F, whisking constantly. This will take another 5 to 8 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, set a glass of ice water near the pot and spoon a little of the caramel into the water to test the consistency. If you can gather it in your fingers and roll it into a hard ball, it is the right temperature.

When it reaches 255°F, whisk in the butter all at once until well incorporated. Remove the mixture from the stove and stir in the sliced almonds, cocoa nibs, vanilla, and salt.

Pour the candy into the prepared baking pan and spread it out with a wooden spoon or spatula. Let the candy cool for 2 to 3 hours or up to overnight at room temperature, until firm. If the caramel is not firm enough to cut, place it in the fridge for a few hours.

Pop the caramel out of the pan, peel off the parchment, and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife greased with a little vegetable oil (such as canola), divide the caramel into 8 strips, then cut across into 4 rows, resulting in 32 individual caramels. Wrap each caramel in a piece of waxed or parchment paper about 4 x 4 inches square.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for soft caramels, or in the fridge for firmer, chewier caramels, for up to 1 month.

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