Bittersweet Almond Toffee

My husband and I had our 16th (!!!)  wedding anniversary this month and I have been thinking about how much has happened since that day. All the decisions that we have made to create this life that we are living right now. Each year builds on the last. I truly feel I comprehend the depth of the words of our vows. We have been through better and worse, richer and poorer, and sickness and health and we keep coming back to the table day after day and decide once again to choose each other.

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This toffee was one of the first recipes I remember making that wasn’t made because of our childhood experiences. I don’t remember eating toffee as a child and it wasn’t a recipe passed down from any family member. After impatiently waiting for it to cool, I snapped off a couple pieces and we each took a bite. Our taste buds lit up in satisfaction and I that this too we agreed on and would bring with us through the years.

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Halloween is the quintessential candy holiday and mine is going to include one of my favorite homemade version. I love the uneven shards of chocolate covered caramel. Like most candies, the ingredients are simple and the steps are pretty fail proof if you have a trusty candy thermometer.

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Ready to take a crack at it? Maybe it will become a part of your family as well.

Bittersweet Almond Toffee

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden – which happens to be the first cookbook I received for our wedding. Correctly reading the thermometer is the most important step in making successful toffee. Before starting the ingredients to simmer, take a good look at your thermometer and determine which line is 290 degrees. This will help you move confidently through the steps without wasting precious time deciphering the temp. Also, make sure that the bulb of the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan as this will give a false reading. As the mixture thickens you may have to spoon the mixture over the bulb to get an accurate reading.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 oz (1 baking bar) bittersweet chocolate
  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (such as Maldon)

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread 1/2 cup toasted almonds on the foil. Set aside. Combine butter, sugar, fine sea salt, water and corn syrup in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to mix the ingredients as they melt. Once the mixture boils, turn down to medium and clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan. As the mixture simmers, chop the chocolate bar and set aside. Every couple minutes give the pan a good stir with a wooden spoon.

Once the mixture starts to thicken, stir more often and keep an eye on the thermometer. It can quickly go from done to scorched. You can tell it is getting close when it is starting to get some color and smells more of caramel. Yum! Once the the thermometer hits 290 degrees, evenly pour the candy over the almonds. Use a spatula to get everything out of the pan and to smooth the candy if needed. Let cool until set (about 5 minutes).

Next, sprinkle the chocolate over the candy and let melt for a minute or two. Use the spatula to spread the chocolate completely over the caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining almonds and flaky sea salt. Place baking sheet in refrigerator to firm up the chocolate. Once cool, break into pieces and store in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep for a long time.

Caramel Cake and a Turning Point

In high school, my favorite class was home economics, well that or the pottery portion of art class. Both were messy and the end results were a bit questionable – but I enjoyed it all the same. I was particularly fascinated by the baking portion of home ec. Follow a recipe to a T and end up with a cake as fancy sounding as chiffon. We were shown how to properly measure flour (scoop and level) so as not to have a tablespoon extra. I am one of those people who enjoys rules. I enjoy knowing that if I do A, B, and C that I will end up with perfect results (with practice of course). This mindset works well with baking, but not so much with life right?

IMG_0957There really aren’t any rules. I thought I wanted to work and be in a structured environment, but I surprised myself and realized that no, I actually need freedom and flexibility. I have passions and interests that I want to pursue and to be able to do that I have to give myself time and space. I’ve spent so much time over the years being pulled along by convenience and ease, but not passion. So this time I quit. I want to spend my days doing what I love. So lets go with that shall we? Lets see where it goes, what winding path is ahead. I don’t have to have it all planned out but can take it one day at a time.

Each year, when the weather turns crisp and cool and the leaves start changing color, I get a little giddy. I love the change of seasons. Apples, pumpkins, rosy cheeks, and caramel. This being the first week of fall, I thought this recipe sounded like the perfect treat to eat while sipping my afternoon tea. After his first bite, my 5 year old asked “when are you making this again?” My guess would be very soon.

xoxo,

Rachel

Caramel Cake (Karmel Cake)

This cake comes from the author of the notorious “Cake Bible”. This recipe is out of “Heavenly Cakes” by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose suggests using a warmed knife to cut the cake since it has a slightly sticky top from all that wonderful caramel and I would totally agree.

Serves 8

Ingredients for Caramel

  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (preferably whole if you have it around), divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ingredients for Batter

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Coarse salt for serving if desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the rack in the lower 1/3 of the oven. Butter the bottom of a 9×2 inch round cake pan. Cover with a round of parchment and then spray with baking spray and then flour. Tap the pan to cover the parchment with the flour and then discard the extra flour that is not needed in the pan.

To make the caramel: In a small pan, mix the brown sugar, 3/4 cup milk, and butter on the stove top over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil and stop stirring. Place an instant read or candy thermometer in the pan and continue to boil until the caramel reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees Fahrenheit). This will take around 10 minutes. Tilt the pan as needed to get an accurate reading. Once the the caramel is done, pour into a medium bowl and then whisk in the rest of the milk. Set aside to cool. If the caramel is too hot then it will melt the butter in the batter, so be patient. I put mine in the fridge to speed the process.

For the batter: In a small bowl, gently whisk together the eggs and vanilla and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Once combined, add the softened butter and cooled caramel. Mix on low until combined and then raise the speed to medium and mix for 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Turn the mixer to medium low and add the egg mixture in two additions, mixing well (30 seconds or so) after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes. The cake will be golden brown on top and a wooden skewer will come out clean. The center of the cake will also spring back with lightly touched. Let cool for 10 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack that has been sprayed with baking spray. Re-invert so that the cake is right side up and cool completely.

Warm a knife under hot water and then dry on a towel and then cut the cake into slices. Sprinkle with course sea salt right before serving if desired.