Monthly Archives: December 2014

Butter Toffee Recipe

This toffee has chocolate and almonds only on ONE side. My husband says that's enough... I'm not so sure.

This toffee has chocolate and almonds only on ONE side. My husband says that’s enough… I’m not so sure.

I clipped the original recipe for this toffee from the Arizona Republic in 2002;  it’s attributed to Lee Ann DeGrassi. However, I use more almonds in the toffee than she called for, and she had no temperatures listed, and some of the instructions were really unclear. So, I’ve altered it a bit.

I know this recipe seems LLLOOONGGGGGG. There are two reasons for that: Firstly, it takes a long time. If you’re pressed for time, don’t make toffee. The second reason is I’ve included a lot of parenthetical information — stuff I’ve learned the hard way, and I’m trying to spare you from ruining your expensive ingredients and wasting your time by ruining the toffee!!

I typically make a triple recipe of this. For a pan, I use heavy duty aluminum foil and fold long ends together, crimping them and folding them twice, kind of like rolling them. Smooth out very flat, especially the middle area where you’ve folded the two pieces together. Then, I fold up the edges triple-thick, about 1 1/2″ high, to form a giant pan. If you want, you can get all mathy with it. I get out my measuring tape and figure out the square inches… The recipe calls for two 9″ x 13″ pans, which is 234 square inches. My giant aluminum foil pan is 24″ x 30.5″, so 732 square inches. So, I knew a triple recipe would fit just fine.

The toffee just after pouring.  You can get a good idea of the aluminum foil pan construction from this picture.

The toffee just after pouring. You can get a good idea of the aluminum foil pan construction from this picture.

Butter Toffee
makes 7-8 lbs

  • 5 cups C&H (or other white cane) sugar — no raw or unwashed sugar;  it needs to be free of all molasses and totally white
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 lbs (10 sticks — yes, that much) SALTED butter
  • 3 cups raw almonds, whole shelled
  • 36 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (typically, three bags)
  • 3 cups raw almonds, rough-ground (I use a Cuisinart Mini-Prep)
  • Shortening to grease your pans (I use Spectrum organic non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening)

Necessary tools:
Large pan (6-8 quart)
Long-handled, sturdy wooden spoon or wooden or metal spatula
A candy thermometer
A silicone basting brush (please, you don’t want to risk the thick melted chocolate pulling hairs out of your standard basting brush, believe me!!)
Parchment paper
2 – 9×13″ baking pans with a lip on the edge OR heavy duty aluminum foil
Several bath towels with which to line your counter top

Smooth out 3-5 bath towels on a wide counter top or table. Grease two 9 x 13 inch baking sheets and line with parchment paper (or fold heavy-duty foil, as mentioned above, to make a big pan, grease and line with parchment paper). Place pan(s) on the towel-lined counter top. I cracked our quartz counter top one year because it wasn’t insulated. So, please! Use those towels!!

Cut each stick of butter into 3-4 chunks and set aside.

Combine sugar and water in a 6-8 quart pan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring gently but constantly, until the mixture reaches 231° on a candy thermometer. Add butter slowly, stirring gently while you add, until all the butter is melted. (I kind of slide each chunk of butter down the spatula I use for stirring so I don’t get splashed by boiling sugar-butter!)

Turn heat down to medium and continue to cook, stirring every five minutes or so, until the temperature reaches 260° degrees. This will take 30-60 minutes. Then, stir constantly until the temp reaches 270°. (I use a long-handled metal spatula to stir — so my hand is far away from the boiling mixture, and so that I can thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan so no sugar burns on the bottom.)

When the temperature reaches 270°, add the 3 cups of whole, raw, shelled almonds, about 1/3 of them at a time, stirring with each addition. Continue to stir constantly until the thermometer reads 290°. (Note: Toffee must reach a minimum of 285° to set. It can go up to 300° degrees and still be toffee, however, the hotter it gets, the more you risk burning the whole batch. So, I cook it to 290°, to ensure a good set, but to not risk burning.)

Take out the candy thermometer and quickly but carefully pour the toffee into the waiting pan(s). Do not spread it; the toffee will level itself. (If you try spreading it as it cools, the butter can separate from the toffee and it will ruin the whole batch.) Use a silicone scraper to get all of the toffee out of the hot pan, scraping the bottom of the pan first (it burns there the fastest — you want to get the toffee out before it burns).

Cool for about 20-30 minutes. (You want the toffee to have cooled to a non-liquid state but still be hot enough to melt the chocolate.) Sprinkle half of the chocolate chips on the slightly cooled toffee. Wait five minutes for the chocolate to soften and melt. With a silicone basting brush, brush the chocolate over the surface of the toffee to coat. Then, evenly sprinkle half of the ground almonds over the surface. With gentle pressure, press the ground almonds into the chocolate. (Otherwise, when you turn the toffee over, half of the almonds will fall off.)

Let cool thoroughly — 3-5 hours or overnight. When the toffee is completely cooled and the chocolate has rehardened, break into very large pieces and turn over, putting the toffee back together like a puzzle. Melt the remaining chocolate in the microwave or over a double broiler until JUST melted — do not overheat. Then, pour the chocolate over the toffee and spread around with the silicone basting brush. Sprinkle the remaining ground almonds on top and press in.

Wait until the chocolate is completely cooled and firm, then break into serving-sized pieces. You may need to drop the toffee on the counter top from a few inches’ height to break it. Then, eat all the crumbs and give the big, beautiful, tasty pieces to friends and family and they will love you forever and drop hints like, “I hope you’re making toffee this year!”

Spreading the melted chocolate with a very interested eight-year-old watching.

Spreading the melted chocolate with a very interested eight-year-old watching.

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Soothed and stirred by Elizabeth Gaskell

Fiction.  Who has time for it?  I wonder, sometimes, if, as a homeschooling mom of six, I should be snipping moments out of my day, allowing myself the leisure of a good read.

I just finished my new favorite novel, and am glad I made the time.  It captivated me, encouraged me, challenged me, ministered to me.  Honestly, God spoke to me through it.  The book, and my time invested in it, was so very worthwhile.

I found the book in such an odd way:  I was reading Jacqueline Winspear’s The Care and Management of Lies, which was a fine book — about 3 stars out of 5.  In it, a character I liked mentioned that her favorite author was Elizabeth Gaskell, of whom I’d never heard.  I did a little search and found that many a BBC series or special have been made from her books, but I hadn’t seen any of them.  I put several of her books on hold and started — rather at random — with North and South.

I described the book to a friend like this:

It really is like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens had a baby and that baby was inspired by deep doctrinal issues within (and without) the Church of England and then wrote a book. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that enchanting, but it’s right up my alley. Very engaging on every level.

It also helps that the heroine, Margaret, is struggling some heart issues similar to ones through which I am wading.  The only difference is that she is quite a bit braver and much younger.  🙂

Gaskell is particularly apt in selecting quotes to begin each chapter.  This one brought me to tears:

I see my way as birds their trackless way–
I shall arrive! what time, what circuit first,
I ask not: but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stifling snow,
In some time–his good time–I shall arrive;
He guides me and the bird. In His good time!’
–Robert Browning (from ‘Paracelsus’)

I keep encouraging my own heart, “I shall arrive… In His good time!”

In another scene, Margaret is visiting a beach in the wintertime.

She used to sit long hours upon the beach, gazing intently on the waves as they chafed with perpetual motion against the pebbly shore, — or she looked out upon the more distant heaving, and sparkle against the sky, and heard, without being conscious of hearing, the eternal psalm, which went up continually. She was soothed without knowing how or why.

I have felt the same about the ocean;  it is singing an eternal psalm, and compels me to sing along with it.

Shortly after the beach scene, I cried fresh tears at this:

But she had learnt, in those solemn hours of thought, that she herself must one day answer for her own life, and what she had done with it;  and she tried to settle that most difficult problem for women, how much was to be utterly merged in obedience to authority and how much might be set apart for freedom in working.

I am weighing the same issues right now — it is ever a challenge to me, balancing the pursuit of personal interests and goals and hopes with present reality and the unknown future.  Where does God want me to invest my time, energy, talents, and thoughts?  And to what end?  What’s ahead of me?  Have I missed something?  Too much dwelling on what might have been leads me to regret a very lovely present.  I typically don’t go to “what might have been” at ALL.  However, at age 41, and having very recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of marriage to such a fine man as my precious husband, I find myself a bit more retrospective lately, reflecting over my life in these last two decades.

I don’t want to ignore hopes for the future and just plod along; yet, too much time spent in wistful expectation of dreams becoming fulfilled leads me to dissatisfaction;  who can know what is in the future, anyway?  My life is truly submitted to the greater good of my whole family.  In many ways, my dreams are not my own.  I can’t just serve myself and make my dreams happen.  There are seven other people — at a minimum — whom my life greatly impacts.  To that end, I don’t believe in “follow your dreams”;  I think that’s tremendously selfish.  It’s in the American culture to serve one’s own self.  It’s not in the culture of true Christianity, though, and Mrs. Gaskell reminded me of that, frequently in how her character served others, with constant attentiveness, joy, and self-sacrifice, and profound self-control.  She didn’t pursue her own interests, or, at very least, she subjected her own interests to the needs of those around her.  Again, very un-American.  I knew, though, that what Gaskell is adducing through the life of Margaret Hale in North and South is upright… good… Godly…  Trustful in His plan for my future.  Margaret’s life both challenged and inspired me.

YET, has God called me to live a hopeless life?  By no means!  May it never be!  He is the God of hope.

Romans 15:13 (NIV) May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I am reminded that my hope needs to be entirely in Him.  Not in my talents.  Not in my gone youth.  Not in my plans.  Not in my abilities…  Not in those around me.  Not in circumstances.  Only in Him.  My future is unknown to me, but He is not. 

So, I continue to do what, for the most part, I have done in the last 20-ish years:  Prayerfully consider my life as a whole and my day-to-day decisions.  Do the best I can with what I have.  Hear the voice of the Father in my own spirit, through His Word, and through others. Learn and grow mentally and spiritually.  Love and worship my dear God.  Love and serve my dear family, and my local church.

In other words, I must live predominantly in the present.  This is actually a big challenge for me, because a huge part of me would LIKE to plan everything out — work toward a clear goal and just make it happen.  But… that’s not what God has had for me in the past, and it’s not what He has for me right now.  I don’t know about the future.

Psalm 31:15-17a (NASB)

15 My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me.
16 Make Your face to shine upon Your servant;
Save me in Your lovingkindness.
17 Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, for I call upon You…

——————–

P.S.  For a taste of Gaskell’s North and South, head to Goodreads to peruse some reader-contributed quotes.  Gaskell’s prose is just lovely and insightful.

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