“Auntie, do you still write your blog?” My ten year old nephew, Flynn, asked as he was excitedly stirring melting chocolate. “Whoa! I’ve never seen that much chocolate!” When I told him that I am in fact still writing, his response was, “You should write about this. Oh and take a picture.”
Today was “baking day” for my mom and me, and I invited Flynn to join. He happily walked into the kitchen wearing his bike helmet and eager to show me the new bike that Santa brought him. He proudly rode around, beaming.
Flynn is one of those amazingly well-rounded kids that is an incredible athlete, but also loves listening to music, dancing, drawing, cooking, and remarkably doing the dishes. So when I get to bake with him, I’m stoked!
Once he was finished showing off his bike, he came in to join me in the experiment of making toffee. I say “experiment” because I’ve never made it before, and in truth I’m not very good at making candy. I’ve tried making fudge a few times and it was kinda pathetic. I explained to Flynn that this might not work and if it doesn’t, I’m blaming him. He giggled.
Today was probably one of my favorite baking times with Flynn. The look of surprise and curiosity and complete awe on his face was priceless. He loved watching the sugar/butter mixture boil higher and higher as the candy thermometer slowly reached 310 degrees. “WHOOOAAA!” was his shocked response by the bubbly reaction of adding vanilla to the candy mixture. He had a blast spreading and smoothing the chocolate on top of the toffee, wondering if it would overflow. Finishing the whole thing by sprinkling the pecans across the tray by the handfuls was the cherry on top.
Flynn held the tray while I drove us to my house so I could add the finishing touch of the “fancy” salt. It’s shocking to me that in my mother’s very overstocked kitchen, she does not have the “fancy” salt. It’s too extravagant for her, which I find hilarious. Anyway, Flynn and I cracked up as I turned corners and he tried not to let the chocolate spill over the sides of the very full tray. I just adore that kid!
The toffee turned out great! A little too thick, but delicious none the less. Oh and super easy! Have fun experimenting!
Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee (recipe care of sunset.com)
INGREDIENTS: 2 cups pecan halves, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups butter, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or coarse sea salt
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350°. Put pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted, about 8 minutes. When cool enough to handle, chop roughly. Divide into 2 batches; chop 1 batch finely. Set both batches aside.
Put sugar, butter, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. When butter and sugar are melted, increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden brown and measures 310° on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla (mixture will bubble up) and finely chopped pecans. Pour into a 10- by 15-in. rimmed baking sheet. Let toffee cool until set, at least 30 minutes. (For even pieces, you can “score” the toffee by cutting it with a sharp knife after it has set for about 10 minutes, scoring into 5 strips lengthwise and 8 strips crosswise to yield 40 pieces. Wipe knife clean with warm water after each slice for easier cutting.) Chop chocolate and put in a medium metal bowl. Fill an 8- or 10-in. frying pan with 1/2 in. of water and bring to a boil. Take off heat and put bowl of chocolate in the water. Let sit about 5 minutes. Stir chocolate until melted. Pour over toffee; with a knife or offset spatula, spread evenly. Sprinkle chocolate with roughly chopped pecans. Let sit 20 minutes, or until chocolate is cool but still a bit soft. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Chill until set, about 1 hour. To remove, gently twist pan to release toffee, then chop or break into chunks. Store in an airtight container.