2 cups (170 grams) sliced or slivered almonds
1 1/4 cups (270 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (golden syrup)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 ounces (170 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Buttercrunch Toffee: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Place almonds on a baking sheet and bake them for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Once the nuts have cooled to room temperature, place in a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, and pulse the almonds until they are finely chopped. Sprinkle half of the nuts in an 8 by 10 inch (20 x 25 cm) rectangle on a buttered or oiled baking sheet. Place the baking sheet on a cooling rack.
In a medium-sized, heavy bottomed saucepan (10 cup) (2.4 liter) combine the brown sugar, water, butter, and corn syrup. Have the baking soda and vanilla extract ready. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cover the pan with a lid for about one minute to allow the sides of the pan to wash themselves down and dissolve any sugar crystals. Remove lid after one minute. Then clamp a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 285 degrees F (140 degrees C) (soft-crack stage) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat as the temperature will continue to rise to 290 degrees F (145 degrees C). Add the baking soda and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
Immediately pour this mixture evenly over the nuts on your baking sheet. Then place the chopped chocolate over the hot toffee. After a few minutes the chocolate will be soft enough to spread with an offset spatula (or back of a spoon) in an even layer over the toffee. Sprinkle the remaining chopped almonds over the melted chocolate. Place the pan in the refrigerator until chocolate is firm. Then cut the toffee into pieces using a sharp knife.
You can store the toffee, in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the refrigerator, for about 10 days.
Makes one pound (450 grams). Preparation time 30 minutes.
Every Christmas I make batches of this Buttercrunch Toffee to give as gifts. I like to package it in either cool looking canning jars or in pretty party bags tied with colorful ribbon. This is the perfect confection - finely chopped toasted almonds, lots of dark chocolate, and buttery smooth, crunchy toffee. It is so addictive.
I know that many approach candy making with trepidation. You can blame the problem on sugar crystallization but there are a few precautions you can take to prevent this from happening when making Buttercrunch Toffee. First, do not make toffee on a humid day. Second, the equipment. It is important to use a heavy duty saucepan so the candy will not scorch under high temperatures. Be sure to use a wooden spoon to stir the syrup as the sugar crystals will not stick to wood as easily as they will to metal. And most importantly buy a good mercury candy thermometer with a metal clip so you can fasten it to the side of the pan. When using a candy thermometer make sure the bulb of the thermometer does not rest on the bottom of the pan as this can cause an inaccurate temperature reading. It is also important to read the temperature at eye level and you may have to wipe the steam off the thermometer first in order to read the numbers. If you think your candy thermometer may be inaccurate, you can test its' accuracy by placing it in a saucepan of boiling water. The temperature should read 212 degrees F (100 degrees C). If you find your thermometer is off by a degree or two, simply adjust your recipe to take this into account. Another thing about candy thermometers are that they are fragile so after each use place in hot water (not cold) to dissolve the sugar coating. Never place a hot thermometer into cold water as this can cause it to break. And be sure to store your thermometer away from other kitchen utensils so it won't get banged around. Lastly, cleaning the saucepan can be a problem. The best way to remove all that hard caramelized sugar is to fill the saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit until the sugar dissolves.
Before you begin making Buttercrunch Toffee make sure you are familiar with the recipe and have all your ingredients measured and within easy reach. That means having the baking soda and vanilla extract at your side so when the toffee reaches the soft crack stage (285 degrees F) (140 degrees C) you can immediately stir these two ingredients into the toffee (vanilla extract adds flavor, while the baking soda helps with browning and gives the toffee a lighter texture). Also, to prevent sugar crystallization, once the sugar mixture boils, do not stir, simply swirl the pan if you find sugar crystals forming on the sides of the pan. Buttercrunch Toffee will keep for about 10 days (it never lasts that long in my house) but be sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent softening.