What’s For Dinner?
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2001 GOLDEN WHISK AWARDS
(Our top 10 recipes of the year)
Last Christmas, John Kessler set out to master this buttery, almond-studded candy, and trust those of us who devoured his experiments: He succeeded. Beware -- one nibble and you're hooked.
Hands on time: 30 minutes Total time: 55 minutes Serves: 25
1 pound whole, skin-on raw almonds
1 pound unsalted European-style butter (such as Plugra) or imported butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (or kosher salt) or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt
Remove about half and set aside; grind the remaining almonds into a coarse meal. Set aside.
Melt butter with salt in a medium saucepan over a medium flame. Stir the sugar in slowly with a wooden spoon.
Continue cooking, stirring pretty constantly, for about 15 minutes. The sugar will at first sink to the bottom of the pot. It will gradually melt and begin to incorporate into the butter. The mixture will turn from yellow to off-white and begin to look like taffy -- gaining slightly in volume and turning slightly elastic. It will then gradually darken to tan, keeping a pearlescent appearance. When it turns tan, stir in the large chunks of almond and the vanilla, which will darken the toffee. Continue stirring until the almonds begin to toast and become very fragrant, about 5 to 10 minutes (your nose will tell you when it's ready). If it begins to "sweat" a few beads of butter on the surface, take it off the heat. Stir it vigorously off the heat and pour into an ungreased nonstick 11-by-15-inch baking sheet and help it to settle into the corners of the pan.
Cut chocolate into chunks and melt over a double boiler. Spread half the chocolate over the surface of the cooling toffee with a pastry spatula. Cover with half the finely ground almonds. When cool enough to harden (about 20 minutes at room temperature), invert the pan over another pan and bend it to loosen the toffee. (Don't worry if it cracks.) Spread the other side with melted chocolate and dust with the remaining ground almonds.
Place in refrigerator to harden thoroughly. Break into pieces and pack with any excess ground almonds into airtight containers or bags. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve.