There’s much to love about this festive time of year, not least that it represents a moratorium on the butter and sugar police! Made with three sticks of butter and a pound of chocolate this crunchy candy is unapologetically rich and easily demolished – even by those who swear they will expire if they nibble more than a tiny piece.
Salty, sweet and buttery and blanketed in a contrasting layer of smooth dark, barely sweet chocolate, the name belies its American popularity. Deceptively easy and quick to make – especially after you’ve prepared it once – it makes a lovely last minute hostess or holiday gift. If you are so inclined, you can skip the nuts and sprinkle the chocolate with crushed graham crackers, or use shards of toffee to garnish caramel/chocolate desserts (as you will see in my next post!) There’s also no corn syrup in this version which I’m pretty sure makes it slightly healthy…
A note on the chocolate – if you want a perfectly glossy layer of chocolate you should temper the chocolate coverture before spreading over the toffee. I usually skip this step if I’m not giving it as a gift and don’t need it to be visually perfect. Tempering also increases the melting point of the chocolate and gives it a crisper, cleaner “snap”. More on tempering chocolate here, and on chocolate coverture here.
(Rather ironically, I was inspired to make this dairy laden treat by a vegan version. There’s a lovely little store in the Phinney neighborhood of Seattle called The Chocolate Shoebox that sells stylish vegan shoes and chocolate. I crave their vegan English toffee that’s made with coconut milk instead of vegan margarine, and I’d love to figure out how they make it!)
Makes one 8 x 11 pan | Adapted from a recipe by Chef Eddy Van Damme
3 sticks / 12oz / 360g unsalted butter
1 ½ / 12oz / 360g cups bakers sugar
½ tsp fleur de sel
2 tsp vanilla extract
11lb / 450g dark chocolate coverture (1/2 lb or 225g if you only plan to cover one side with chocolate)
1 cup/ toasted pistachios, chopped or finely chopped almonds
Place Silpat on 8×11 baking sheet. The silpat is your friend in this exercise. The last thing you want to worry about is sticking or peeling other lining materials off a slab of brittle toffee. If you don’t have a Silpat, you can line the baking sheet with some generously greased baking parchment.
Place butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in a heavy bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Place candy thermometer in pan, and stir mixture slowly and continuously until it reaches 292F or 144C. Remove from heat as soon as mixture hits this temperature to avoid overcooking.
Working quickly, pour mixture onto prepared Silpat or buttered pan. Spread with heatproof spatula until entire pan is covered and toffee is of an even thickness. Set aside to cool.
If you want the chocolate coating to look shiny and pristine, temper the chocolate before using. I normally skip this step if I’m making it for non-gift giving occasions! Otherwise, melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave.
Use a paper towel to blot up excess oil/moisture on the surface of the toffee, which can prevent the chocolate from sticking. Spread half of the melted chocolate or tempered chocolate over the toffee, smoothing with a spatula.
Set aside until chocolate has set all over. Carefully flip sheet of toffee over, and spread the remaining chocolate or tempered chocolate all over the other side. Sprinkle with nuts if desired.
Set aside until second chocolate coating has set. Break into pieces to serve, or wrap in glassine bags tied with ribbons or pretty boxes for gift giving. Store in an airtight container for several days (refrigerate if the chocolate is untempered), if you can restrain yourself for that long…