Dec 6, 2009

Chocolate Almond Toffee

A few years ago, I took a baking class from David Lebovitz when he visited Austin. As expected, everything he made was to die for.

Lebovitz, once the pastry chef at Chez Panisse, now lives and blogs in Paris. He is also hilarious. If you ever get an opportunity to take a class from him, don't miss it. He has written all kinds of books to satisfy your sweet tooth. You know how with some cookbooks, you pick out a recipe here and there to try? But with David's books, you can count on every single recipe being a knock-your-socks off hit. If you only have one book on chocolate or one book on ice cream, they should be his.

I've wanted to make this recipe ever since I took the class. I can't believe it took me this long to try it myself. I love toffee and the combination of buttery toffee with just the right amount of salt to set it off, paired with toasted almonds and chocolate is so simple yet each element enhances the others. The sweet, buttery toffee, the crunch of the salted, roasted almond nuttiness and then the chocolate to bring it all home. Oh yeah.

And even better, this is incredibly easy to make. Just don't get intimated by the need for a candy thermometer. It's only a few ingredients and you can whip up a batch in minutes. Huge return on investment. And this time of year, who am I kidding... ANY time of year, it makes a great gift. Just be sure to package it up quick before you eat it all yourself.

I still had some vanilla sea salt from Boulette's Larder in my baking cabinet, so I sprinkled some on top. You could also use fleur de sel.

This recipe appears in David's ice cream book, The Perfect Scoop, in half this quantity. But if you're going to make it, especially this time of year when you can share it as a gift and be the most popular Santa around, why not make the bigger batch?

Chocolate Almond Toffee

2 cups toasted, salted almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
a nice, big pinch of salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
vanilla sea salt or fleur de sel
cooking spray or silpat
candy thermometer

Line a baking sheet with your silpat nonstick mat, parchment paper or spray it with vegetable oil.

Put 1 cup of the almonds on your prepared baking sheet in a single layer forming a rectangle about 8x10 inches. Set aside.

Measure out the baking soda and vanilla and have them sitting next to the stove.

Put the water, butter, salt and sugars into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir together. Heat over medium flame until the candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees. Stir as little as possible during heating. When you reach the magic 300 degree mark, remove pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and baking soda immediately.

Move quickly here... then pour the hot toffee evenly over the almonds on your baking sheet.

Then sprinkle your chocolate evenly over the top of the hot toffee in the pan. Let sit for several minutes to melt.

While you're waiting for the chocolate to melt, you're going to spy the toffee pan with it's bits of toffee turning into concrete and thinking what fun that's going to be to clean up. But take this tip from David: fill the pan with water and put it back on the heat and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit until the candy bits melt and then clean up is a breeze.

When the chocolate has melted, spread it evenly over the toffee with an offset icing spatula. Then sprinkle the top with fleur de sel and the remaining almonds — pressing lightly so they'll stay put in the chocolate.

Let cool completely until the toffee becomes solid and the chocolate sets up. Then you can chop it or break it into shards.

Wrap it up in cellophane bags with some pretty ribbon to give as gifts or serve it yourself crumbled over ice cream. To die for!!!

Adapted from David Lebovitz.

Check out David Lebovitz blog here.
Check out his schedule here to find out when you can take a class from him.
Check out his books here.

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