Toffee is one of those absolutely irresistable candies for me. I can pass up some things. OK, not very many things. But homemade toffee...oh goodness. I love that it uses such simple ingredients, ones that you're very likely to have on hand. Not a nut lover? Leave 'em out. Don't like the chocolate on top? (Shame on you!) Forgo that luscious melted layer of happiness. The plain and simple basic toffee is just butter and sugar with a dash of water and vanilla, cooked to the best possible state. I have used recipes that don't include the water and vanilla, but find that the water helps it homogenize more quickly.
The one downfall of toffee is that once it reaches the perfect point, you've got to be quick on the draw and get it off the heat. 30 seconds too long and it burns, rendering it nastily bitter. I actually purchased a candy thermometer this week for the first time (since I was at the store anyway to purchase a meat thermometer after I melted the old one in the Thanksgiving bird...yes, I do have kitchen disasters too), but realized once I was actually making this that the thermometer wasn't going to be terribly practical for this size of batch. It is supposed to be submerged 2 inches into the mixture, which was quite impossible in my shallow pan that only had an inch and a half at best and at full boil of sugary syrup. I guess that means I'll just have to make a double batch next time!
Anyway, the key to success with it, if you don't have a thermometer, or if you aren't going to use it like me, is to keep a close eye on it. It seems to take for-stinkin'-ever to get to the caramelization stage. As soon as it starts to deepen in color, you're very very close. The way I can tell is by stirring, then stopping for a moment. If trail behind the spoon immediately turns to a darker brown than the rest, it's done. You can verify this by dropping a bit into a glass of ice water. It should turn into a brittle thread or lump. It'll darken up a bit more after you pour it out into the pan to cool.
I got the recipe for this on the Land O Lakes website, which happens to have many other lovely looking candy recipes based on my very most favorite ingredient, butter, so I'm sure I'll be back for some more browsing. Without further ado, here's the recipe:
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup slivered almonds
Prepare a jelly roll pan by lining with parchment paper and laying down 3/4 of the slivered almonds in an even layer. In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, heat the sugar, butter, water and salt over medium heat until it comes to a full boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 18-22 minutes until mixture reaches 300 degrees on thermometer or hard crack stage. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and immediately pour mixture over the almonds. Let set for 1-2 minutes, then sprinkle the semisweet chips over the hot toffee and let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the chocolate around evenly. Sprinkle the remaining slivered almonds on top and let cool until the chocolate is set. Break into chunks and store in an air tight container.