Thursday, December 4, 2014

Almond Roca

This is a repeat post.  But with winter and holidays on the horizon (yea!), I felt it needed repeating.

The reason I'm reposting is because if there is anyone who has tried making toffee for the holidays (or anytime) and has failed, I may have the answer.  I used to make English toffee and it came out perfectly for a few years.  And then the next two years: separation.  And then I tried this Almond Roca recipe.  It worked great.  Once.  And then again: separation.  What was going on?

I mentioned my dilemma to a friend and former neighbor (hi Pat!) and she asked if I was using salted or unsalted butter.  I always use unsalted butter (store brand).  She suggested using a name brand (Land o' Lakes) salted butter.  Since then, perfection everytime.  Funny, the recipes I used never specified salted butter.  So I don't know if it was the salt or the brand name, but my roca/toffee has worked every time since using this simple rule.

So, lesson learned.  I love to cook, I will bake, but candy-making has been my bane.  I'm still not a big fan of candy-making, but at least now I'm not as afraid of it as I was in the past.  Using good cookware (I used a non-stick lightweight cast iron Dutch oven) this was quick, easy (and easy clean-up), and came out as you would expect: crunchy, creamy, and delicious.

ALMOND ROCA (makes one 16"x12" jelly-pan roll, about 2 pounds)

1 cups salted, name-brand butter
1 cup sugar
6 oz slivered almonds
1 1/2 to 2 cups milk chocolate chips
3 oz sliced almonds
Kosher or sea salt, for sprinkling

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Spray with cooking spray.

Place the slivered almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 300F for 5-6 minutes, checking often, until the almonds are golden brown and toasted.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the butter and sugar and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula (I used a wooden spatula) until the butter is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.  Don't rush this step!  It may take up to 10 minutes for the sugar to dissolve but you don't want the heat too high during this part of the process.

Once the sugar is dissolved and butter is melted, turn the heat up to medium and stir gently as the mixture comes to a boil.  Again, this will take a few minutes.  Once it comes to a boil, clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue stirring gently as it cooks.  The mixture will gradually turn to darker shades of brown until it reaches the hard crack stage and should register 300F on your candy thermometer.  As you stir during this process, don't scrape the sides of the pan, just gently stir in a figure-eight motion.

Immediately take the roca off of the stove once it hits 300F and stir in the toasted, slivered almonds.  Pour the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, taking care not to scrape the bottom of the pot as your pour it out.  Using an offset spatula (sprayed with cooking spray), quickly spread the toffee into an even layer on the baking sheet.  It will cool quickly making it hard to spread.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and tent with foil.  Let the chocolate melt for 2-3 minutes, remove the tented foil and spread the chocolate chips into an even layer.  Sprinkle the sliced almonds over the top of the roca, sprinkle with salt and set the candy aside to let set and cool completely (place in your fridge for quicker cooling/setting).

Once cool and the chocolate is set, break into pieces.

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