Friday kind of got away from me. Much of the day I was immersed in a proposal for a new mystery series. Hours later, I swam back to the surface and the remainder of my task list.
Then there was the chunk of time devoted to going through all the accumulated Christmas junk. At least a hundred ornaments and assorted kitschy crap are on their way to the thrift store. The place feels lighter for it, and the basement area where I want to set up a sewing area is slowly getting cleared and organized.
K has been busy most evenings at the studio. This is the time of year people want to record that original Christmas carol or compilation CD. I needed a few more gifts, so I skipped dinner and took advantage of the time to make toffee. Soon the burnt-sugar smell of a high school chemistry lab filled the house.
I doubled this recipe. You’ll need a thermometer that goes to at least 300 degrees unless you’re an experienced candy maker and know how to test for hard-crack stage without it. Also, this stuff gets HOT. Be careful, for heaven’s sake don’t try to taste it when it’s liquid, and keep little ones away, especially during the pouring process.
Oil a jelly-roll pan or 8 x 8 inch square pan. Combine 2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup butter, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 2 Tablespoons boiling water and a pinch of salt in a heavy 3-quart pot. Place over moderate heat and stir until well blended. Continue to stir as the sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil.
Cover and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and continue to boil slowly, stirring gently without touching the edges of the pot only if it starts to scorch, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (290 degrees). Don’t go beyond that temperature or the result will be too hard.
Pour toffee onto the oiled pan, spreading quickly with a rubber spatula so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Allow to cool. (By the way, all that heat will quickly transfer to a cool pan, so have the pan on towels and pot holders at the ready.)
You can stop here, but I went ahead and melted about 3/4 cup of super-dark chocolate and spread it over the cooled toffee. Yeah, I should have used a double boiler to melt the chocolate, but I’ve been melting chocolate in this little pan for over twenty years. The enameled cast iron distributes low heat quite nicely without burning.
Then I sprinkled course salt over a third of the batch, sliced almonds over another third, and left the last third plain.
It was taking too long to cool, so I put the pan out on the porch for fifteen minutes. Back inside, I broke the cold toffee into pieces by dropping it about eight inches onto the pan.
Not terribly elegant, but effective!