My grandmother raised five boys on a farm in Iowa. When her younger sons were half-grown, she left the farm for the suburbs, but brought with her an amazing talent for cooking, baking and candy making. Her kitchen was a magical place that turned out the fluffiest rolls, quiche so delicious you couldn’t refuse seconds and magazine-worthy holiday spreads.
When I was 21, we made our last trip to her home for Thanksgiving dinner. No one expected her to pass away just a few short weeks later, and we were devastated. While I had spent hours helping in the kitchen, she never formally taught me how to prepare any dishes, preferring to assign all the girl cousins tasks that were pressing for the upcoming meal.
The Thanksgiving of 2000 was different. She told me she was going to teach me to make toffee. I was a second-year college student and the frivolity of the idea was amusing to me. My twenty-something self could barely see past finals week, let alone into my future life where I might one day consider making my own Christmas candy.
I remember her standing patiently at my elbow giving instructions while I fumbled through my first-ever candy making experience. The results were, of course, delicious considering the main ingredients in toffee are butter and sugar topped with chocolate, and I recall being particularly amazed that something created from the simplest of ingredients could turn out so decadent.
I make a batch of this toffee each year, relishing the memory of my grandma. I am always glad she had the foresight to know what I would need years after she had gone.
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ cup coarsely chopped almonds
2 cups finely chopped, toasted almonds
1 Tbsp corn syrup, (I substitute Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
semi-sweet chocolate chips – about ¾ cup
Grease an 11×17” baking pan (or line with a silicone baking mat).
Combine sugar, water and syrup over heat until syrupy. Add butter until melted, then add coarsely chopped almonds.
Cook, stirring constantly, until it reaches 330° F. Quickly pour into prepared sheet pan.
Let cool slightly (2 min). Sprinkle half the chocolate chips over the top of the still-warm toffee and let them melt. Smooth the surface with a spatula. Sprinkle half the finely chopped, toasted almonds over the chocolate. Press almonds firmly into the chocolate. Put the pan into the freezer for several minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the other half of the chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until fully melted.
Remove toffee from freezer and spread remaining chocolate over the top, sprinkle with almonds and press firmly. Put pan back in freezer for 5 minutes then remove and break toffee into chunks.