I almost called this “No Fail Toffee.” Then I remembered the time I was in college at the University of Southern Mississippi, studying hospitality management, namely catering and food service and such. The irony, it abounds. It was near Christmas and I wanted to make my grandmother’s toffee. I called and got the recipe. It sounded easy enough.
The recipe called for two sticks of butter. Do not substitute, Mee Maw said. I had one stick of butter and one stick of margarine. I had already been to the store once that day, or that week, whatever. I really used to hate going to the grocery store. I still kind of do. I’d rather do all the dishes afterward than go to the store before. So I’d already been to the store and the thought of battling Hardy Street in Hattiesburg, an overdeveloped busy thoroughfare with a jillion stoplights and lots of traffic, was more than I could stand. I probably stomped my foot and whined before deciding to tough it out with what I had.
Since I had one stick of butter and one stick of margarine I decided to use them. I was substituting only half. After all, I thought, how bad could it be?
Let me tell you. Really, really bad. Real bad. I have instant recall to this day as to how that mass of burned butter-margarine smelled. And how it tasted. Oh, yeah, like a fool I tasted that foul stuff. I had to.
Lesson learned. I don’t ever substitute anything when a recipe calls for butter. Sometimes I put butter in a recipe that specifies margarine or shortening, that’s how well that lesson was learned.
1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped blanched almonds (or coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts or whatever kind of nuts you prefer)
1 cup unsalted butter (do not substitute) (No joking about that.)
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup coarsely chopped chocolate
Butter a pan. The recipe calls for 9x13 pyrex dish; I’ve used that and I’ve also used half baking sheets. Anything heatproof works fine.
Sprinkle half of nuts in greased pan and set aside.
Melt butter, sugar, and water together over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often until temperature reaches 300 degrees. Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda. Pour mixture into the prepared pan and let harden.
(If you’re going to freeze the toffee, stop here. Let toffee get completely cool and hard, break into pieces, and put in a freezer zip top bag and freeze.)
Sprinkle chocolate over the top and let stand for 5 minutes. Spread chocolate over the top and sprinkle with additional chopped nuts while chocolate is still warm.
Let cool completely and break into pieces.
Keeps well in an airtight container.
When ready to serve or give away, take toffee from freezer and let come to room temperature and thaw – a few hours or so.
Melt chocolate – dark chocolate, milk chocolate, whatever you like – and pour over toffee, smoothing with an offset spatula. You can sprinkle the wet chocolate with chopped nuts and/or drizzle with melted green and red candy melts. I have umpteen pictures of this technique drizzled over sugar cookies or chocolate-dipped pretzel rods or what have you and I can’t find any of them.
You can play around with different combinations – white chocolate and toasted macadamia nuts, bittersweet chocolate and hazelnuts, milk chocolate and peanuts.