For me, this toffee is the epitome of the Christmas season (we start badgering my aunt Tina to cook it the day after Thanksgiving), and something I look forward to nibbling on every year. Nothing is more depressing than reaching for my family's toffee tin and finding it empty, like a dead Christmas tree in the gutter. So please cook up this toffee until your kitchen is heavy with the scent of butter, sugar, and the holiday spirit.
1 pound unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing the pans)
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups dark chocolate, chopped
2 cups milk chocolate, chopped
2 cups finely chopped toasted almonds
Melt the butter, sugar, water, and salt over a low flame, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat up to medium. Meanwhile, grease two cooking pans with butter. After 15–20 minutes, the mixture has reached 350°F. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla, stirring to incorporate. Be careful not to burn yourself or the mixture, but if you do (and I have), run your hand under room temperature water (never cold or hot water) to subside the pain. Immediately take the hot toffee and pour into two greased cooking pans and smooth until evenly coated and about 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick. Put the pans into the fridge to let the toffee cool (this will take several hours, or leave the toffee in overnight, uncovered).
Once the toffee has cooled, remove it from the refrigerator and carefully loosen the pieces (you can do this by hand or with a knife). If it cracks, it's not a big deal.
Melt the two types of chocolate over a double boiler, stirring to combine. Once the chocolate has melted, use a spatula to coat one side of the toffee, and then immediately sprinkle heavily with the chopped toasted almonds. This must be done immediately because the cold toffee can cause the chocolate to harden before the almonds can stick. Put the toffee back in the fridge to cool the chocolate. Once it has hardened (it takes about an hour), flip and coat the other side with the chocolate and almonds. You will probably have chocolate and almonds left over, which you can use for more toffee. Let the toffee cool in the fridge until hardened again. When it's ready, take the toffee out, and using your hands crack it into irregular pieces. Bag them or stick them in a tin for your own enjoyment.
The secret to my aunt’s toffee is combining milk and dark chocolate. There are a lot of fabulous brands out there, but a classic is the Belgian brand Callebaut. For bulk chocolate needs, they’re great. But good luck when you open the milk chocolate. I don’t even like milk chocolate and I still GO TO TOWN whenever that one is around.
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