Chocolate Almond Buttercrunch Toffee

Eccomi! It's been a while since I've posted a new recipe here, but I've had a bit going on lately, all of which has made for a busy but also lovely last week or two. I'm in the midst of my annual scramble to get my Christmas shopping done before heading back to the U.S (current count as I write this: a whole lot of Parmesan cheese, bottles of heavy, not-so-suitcase friendly olive oil, and a Guy Fieri visor -- long story). I've done an end of the year round of catch-up with friends, made time to visit the newly opened, highly anticipated Marigold, and have done my late night stroll around St. Peter's square, to see this year's Christmas tree and the nativity scene, made even more splendid with the basilica as its backdrop. Most fun of all, I've had the pleasure of helping out at the Latteria Studio's annual holiday pop-up kitchen, where Carla Tomasi and Alice Adams made and sold a heck of a lot of cookies, jams, chutneys, Christmas cakes, and mince pies, as you can see below:
In short, it's been a hectic, yes, but also festive and downright nice two weeks, a solid mix of friends, good food, and time to enjoy Rome at its best, which has decidedly put me in the holiday spirit. As if all this weren't enough, I've also made, for the very first time, (and definitely not the last) my own homemade toffee (!!!) which has decidedly been the icing on the cake in the midst of all my Christmas cheer. 

I'll cut to the chase here; this toffee is sublime, heavenly, unbelievably good, because really, can toffee be otherwise?! It's buttery and caramel-y and just the tiniest bit salty, it's covered in a layer of chocolate, its full of crunchy, wholesome almonds that balance out the the richness of the toffee and chocolate, and all together, it's moreish, addictive -- it will be a Christmas miracle if you manage to eat just one piece. Now: if you're scared off by the idea of homemade candy and words like "candy thermometer" and "celsius", I beg you not to be! This toffee is incredibly easy to make, promise -- I myself sprinkled the sea salt on the chocolate instead of on the toffee; I used dark brown sugar instead of light; I spread the toffee over all the almonds instead of just half, realizing my mistake seconds later; I may or may not have gotten distracted finding the perfect Christmas playlist to listen to, and let the toffee cook a few degrees over Long story short, I didn't follow the recipe to a T, and this candy was still superb (that being said: New Year's resolution for next year is to read the recipe through carefully, of course).This recipe is faster and easier than making a batch of cookie dough -- really! -- and a box of this makes a perfect edible, homemade Christmas gift, not to mention a welcome guest at a Christmas party, or on your dessert table for Christmas lunch. Bottom line: between a plate of cookies and milk or a tin chock full of Buttercrunch Toffee, I'm pretty sure Santa would choose the toffee.  Consider this recipe my Christmas gift to you all, and make this, asap.

A couple of notes: Feel free to use hazelnuts here instead of the almonds -- I bet pecans would work well too. Using a candy thermometer here is advisable; you can find them at the supermarket and they don't cost much, promise! You can use either salted or unsalted butter here; I myself used salted. This recipe can be halved easily to make a smaller batch (which is what you see in the photos here). Finally, the toffee can be stored for up to 10 days in an airtight container.

Looking for other edible gift ideas? I've got this pistachio and cranberry chocolate fudge, this almond white chocolate and apricot biscotti, these dark chocolate gingerbread bars, these gingerbread cookies, this gingerbread shortbread, this classic shortbread, these red wine chocolate truffles, and these sable' alla nutella

Recipe from David Lebovitz - Makes 2lbs (900 grams)

2 cups (8 ounces, 225 grams) toasted almonds chopped between 'fine' and 'coarse'
2 tablespoons water
8 tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into pieces
a big pinch of salt
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (45g) packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (140g) semisweet chocolate, chopped
optional: flaky sea salt

Form half the nuts into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) on an ungreased baking sheet. In a medium, heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the water, butter, salt, and white and brown sugars.
Cook, stirring gently if necessary, until the thermometer reads 300ºF (150ºC) degrees. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla. The mixture will bubble up a little when you add the vanilla -- don't be alarmed! Quickly pour the toffee mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Using a small offset spatula, or similar utensil, spread the warm mixture over the nuts. If you want to sprinkle some flaky sea salt over the buttercrunch mixture, do it at this point.
Strew the chocolate chips or pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes, then spread the chocolate in an even layer. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands.
Let the toffee cool and set completely (I let the chocolate set up in the fridge after the whole thing cooled down) and then break into pieces with a knife. Try your best not to eat it all by yourself.

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