Washington, my home state, is famous for many things: apples, Starbucks, Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Almond Roca. If you’re not from Washington, you probably just said, “Almond Whaaat?” But anyone from the Evergreen State, or the West Coast for that matter, would recognize the ubiquitous buttercrunch toffee shaped like little nut-studded logs, wrapped in gold foil and packed in Barbie-pink tins. We often used the terms Almond Roca and Almond Toffee interchangeably (a marketer’s nightmare!), and my high school friend Jen used to make Almond Roca/Toffee every Christmas. I always thought hers was much better than Brown & Haley’s pink-canned version.
A few years ago I needed a quick, unique, bite-sized dessert to bring to a cocktail party; I dusted off Jen’s recipe, added Hershey’s milk chocolate and more nuts to make it healthier (kidding, sort of), and cranked out my first batch of toffee. It was a disaster. The butter/sugar mixture separated and I ended up with a pool of butter on top of my cooling toffee. I blotted it with paper towels and salvaged it, but it was a humbling experience. It wasn’t until last year that I finally figured out (OK – researched) the trick: Melt the butter slowly! Do this and success is (almost) guaranteed. You’ll never buy canned toffee again.
This recipe makes about 2 pounds of finished toffee. It will keep for months in the freezer, unless you have weak willpower. Then I’d give it a few days at best.
- 1 lb (Yes, friends, that’s 4 sticks!) salted butter (or if unsalted add ½ tsp kosher salt)
- 2 c sugar
- 1 tablespoon light Karo corn syrup (optional; this makes the toffee texture a little crisper, which some people prefer. I think I like it better without the Karo, but try for yourself.)
- 1 cup chopped almonds (reserve the finest pieces & almond dust for topping chocolate)
- 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup Hershey’s Mini Kisses or chopped milk chocolate
In large heavy saucepan over low heat, melt butter, sugar and corn syrup (if using) until fully melted and combined. (Be patient! Melting the butter and sugar over too high of heat will cause the butter to separate and make a big greasy mess.)
Increase heat to med-high and bring mixture to boil; using a wooden spoon, stir gently from time to time to keep bottom from scorching. (Too much stirring can cause toffee to become grainy.)
Cook mixture until just shy of 300ºF on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat and stir in almonds, then quickly pour out onto ungreased baking sheet.
Use wooden spoon to spread/pull mixture – it should almost reach the edges. Caution: this stuff is HOT!
Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top of toffee and wait at least 5 minutes for the heat from the toffee to soften the chocolate. Then spread chocolate across top and sprinkle w/reserved almond dust/fine pieces.
Put the whole pan in refrigerator to cool. When fully cooled and hardened, break into pieces (stabbing with a knife to get it started).
Store in airtight bags or containers, either at room temperature or in the freezer. (I think the texture is best right out of the freezer.)