Sunday, December 18, 2005
I don't do cookies, I don't do fudge. I don't do divinity or fruitcake either. What I do is this wonderfully fabulous cooked mass of sugar and butter known as toffee. My friend calls me "The Queen of Almond Roca. " I have been making this for a long time and have nearly perfected my skills. This was not always the case. I have thrown out a few batches of inedible sugar rocks.
This all began in Grand Junction Colorado with Enstrom's Toffee. Years ago, Mr. Enstrom himself taught people how to make his special candy. One of my friends, Yuba Vaughn had taken his class and made toffee every year. One special Christmas she invited me over to learn this Grand Junction tradition.
You begin with the right pan. It has to be rather heavy to distribute heat and it has to have tall sides, boiling sugar expands. A small pressure cooker makes a perfect pan. Put two and a quarter cups of sugar in the pan and a cup of water. Yuba measured the water in the same cup as the sugar. I know, dry measurement and liquid are different, but I don't fool with the wise ones, I use the same cup. Put a loose lid on the pan and set it on high heat for 8 minutes. Use this time to assemble the rest of your stuff.
You need a long handled wooden spoon. Long handled is crucial. Too short and the hot sugar leaves scars. Set an 11 by 17 pan on a protected surface. This size pan is basically a cookie sheet with sides. I have one a little smaller that I use, too, but 9 by 13 is too small.
Unwrap a pound of room temperature butter, not the other stuff, real butter. In Grand Junction there was even a specific brand. She never mentioned Salted or Unsalted. I think I use salted. Measure 2 cups of almonds into a bowl.
Are you ready? is the 8 minutes up? When the time is up dip the spoon into the syrup raise it out of the liquid and see if it makes a thread. As the goo drips off the spoon it will spin about a 2-inch thread then it is ready. Until then, keep boiling. I just stand there and keep checking for a thread.
Now it is time to add the butter. Stir constantly and add 1 cube at a time. Each cube melts before the next is added, keep stirring.
When the butter is all in and melted slowly add the almonds. (Dumping all the butter or all the almonds in at once will cool the boiling syrup too much, be patient.) Save about a quarter cup of almonds to sprinkle on top.
Continue to cook and stir until a deep rich caramel color develops. Just as it begins to smell like it is burning is the time to pour it into the 11 by 17 pan. I run water into my empty cooking pan and set it back on the stove (turned off), it is quite hot. Use your spoon to distribute the candy evenly in the pan. Then take it outside and set it on the snow…really, it needs to cool down. It is important to make toffee when it is cool and humidity is low. Cool about 3 minutes and come back in the house. Put 1 ¾ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips on the toffee. They will melt; spread the chocolate evenly. Finely chop the remainder of the almonds and sprinkle over the chocolate.. Let cool completely.
Break it up and enjoy.