Friday, December 21, 2012

The One With the Buttercrunch Almond Roca

Christmas is an excellent excuse for making candy, and lots of it! In our house we have to make an unusually large number of batches because too much gets eaten before it gets distributed... so then we have to make more.

This year I've been making lots of Mint Chocolate Fudge, Almond Roca and Almond Roca Cookie Bars (perhaps you sense a theme...). All of these are impressive, but surprisingly simple to make. It's almost a shame to give away the secret, but I will anyway. Just for you.

First of all, however, a few comments about making candy. I don't use a candy thermometer, but rather a cold-water test, which I will explain later. I've never needed a candy thermometer for this in particular, and you don't either. Also, candy can be kind of sensitive to things like humidity and elevation and such. I don't really know the variables or how to work around them. Sometimes I find that I will make a batch of the toffee and it just won't turn out well, no explanation. A few days later I'll get several good batches. But as long as you know what you're going for, you can do a little trial and error until you find what works perfectly for you in your humidity/elevation condition. The good news is that this is a really simple candy to work with - it's not extremely expensive, nor does it require a lot of complicated steps or ingredients, so really, it's the perfect place to begin. Don't be intimidated. It's mostly just butter and sugar.

That said, I'm going to give you my most fool-proof explanation so you can give it your best shot. I've marked a few items with asterisks to give further explanation at the bottom.

Buttercrunch Almond Roca
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Unsalted almonds, chopped small 
Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a non-stick medium saucepan*, melt the butter, sugar and salt over low-medium heat. As the butter begins to melt, stir the mixture constantly and quickly with a whisk. Be sure to scrape the sides of the pot to make sure all the sugar is getting mixed in. Keep stirring until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated. You don't want any butter separated at the edges or sitting on top. Continue to stir and let your mixture come to a boil. Here, you are going to start watching for color change. Once boiling, stop stirring and let your mixture cook. It will gradually become an amber color as the toffee cooks. Once you have a medium amber color, perform your first cold water test**: Drop a bit of the toffee into a glass of cold water. Wait a moment and then remove your toffee and taste it for texture. If it is soft and easily rolls into a ball, you have reached the soft ball stage. If it is soft but crunchy, you have reached soft-crack stage. Keep cooking your toffee, stirring only as needed to keep the butter and sugar from separating, or to help the color distribute evenly. Intermittently check your toffee as it darkens by repeating your cold water test. When the toffee comes out of the water and is solid and crunchy (hard-crack stage), you know it is ready. Do not overcook your toffee or it will burn. Pour the toffee onto your prepared cookie sheet and even out with a spatula. It may not reach the edges of your pan, and that's fine.
Wait one minute and then sprinkle your chocolate chips over the toffee. Allow the residual heat of the toffee to melt the chips for a minute or two, and then spread the chocolate evenly with a clean spatula. Sprinkle with the almond bits. Once the pan is cool, place in refrigerator to set, about an hour. After it is fully set, break or cut the toffee into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!
You can store your toffee in an air-tight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

*I have found that a non-stick, coated saucepan is pretty essential for this. If you use a regular metal saucepan, the sugar tends to stick to the sides, which won't melt and crystallizes the whole batch when you pour it out.
**The cold water test basically accelerates the cooling of your toffee so that you can see the consistency that it will be when it is finished. If you like your toffee to be softer, less crunchy, remove your toffee earlier. And if you like it harder, let it cook a little longer.

See? It's really fairly simple. I think the hardest parts to master are stirring the right amount so that the butter and sugar don't separate, and removing the toffee from the heat at the right time. Some of this is a little trial and error, and will come to you as you determine your preference for consistency. If you have a difficult time at first, don't be afraid to try again. After all, it's just a little butter and sugar.

1 comment:

  1. Groan. I want some. Bad.

    Great post though! Your instructions (yes, I read through them) are so clear and detailed. Excellent for those of us who tend to create candy disasters.


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