Best Ever Almond Toffee

Almond Roca

My friend Heather made this for me one Christmas and I’ve been making it ever year since. On average, I make at least 3 batches every holiday season to give away as gifts. It is seriously delicious. It is not hard to make, but candy can be finicky and a bit of a science experiment, so a good tip is to never walk away from it. Small deviations from the exact instructions will result in a complete do-over.

Almond Roca
From Heather’s fabulous kitchen

Makes about 2 pounds

  • 1 1/2 cup sliced almonds (divided)
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz of good quality dark chocolate, broken up

Bake 1/2 cup of almonds on a non-stick cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until toasted and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper and set next to stove.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in granulated sugar, warm water and salt. Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan making sure that the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan. Cook sugar mixture over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F. The temperature may stall a bit between 218 and 223 degrees but again, it is important to monitor the temperature closely and to not walk away from the candy.

At 240 degrees, add remaining 1 cup of almonds to the sugar mixture. Stir constantly, keeping heat at medium, until mixture reaches 295 degrees F. If temperature is not rising at a slow and steady rate, raise heat very slightly. When the mixture reaches 295 degrees, immediately remove from what and stir in baking soda. Pour onto the parchment lined pan and spread to desired thickness – it does not need to reach the edges of the pan. Mixture will begin to firm. Note: Do not forego the cookie sheet and pour it onto parchment on top of a marble or granite counter – this will result in your candy cooling too fast and affect the chocolate’s ability to adhere properly to the candy.

Scatter dark chocolate pieces across top of hot candy and let chocolate melt on top of the candy as the candy firms. Using back of a spoon, spread melted chocolate evenly over firm candy. Sprinkle with toasted almonds over melted chocolate. Let candy cool for 30 minutes at room temperature. Transfer to refrigerator and chill for about 1 hour to firm chocolate. Break into pieces.

Christmas Treats

Granola!

You know you’ve been in California too long when you start making your own granola.  But readers, that is what has happened.  I find that store bought granola is generally too sweet and has weird things in it.  This is a delicious old family recipe supplied by my mother-in-law.  Clearly, not my side of the family – since Asian people don’t have a tradition of making granola.  Our old family recipes are of like miso paste and dumplings.

Rollefson Family Granola
(Notes are from Grandma D)

  • 1 – 42 oz. box old fashioned Quaker oats
  • 12 oz. jar wheat germ (or 12 oz. rolled wheat, rye, bran etc.) – I always use wheat germ
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 2-3 cups nuts (I chop them coarsely; Aunt Betty doesn’t chop them – your call)  – I usually use walnuts and pecans but almonds work too

Mix the above.  Then in a blender combine:

  • 12-16 oz. jar honey – I use 12 oz of honey (or 3/4 c. light molasses + 1/4 c. honey , or 1 c. malted barley + 1/4 c. black strap molasses)
  • 1 cup safflower oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp vanilla (yes, that is really tablespoons!)
  • (optional: 2 T. cinnamon – I never have used this)
  • 1 tsp salt

Blend the liquids until smooth, then mix with the dry ingredients.  Add raisins here if desired.

Spread on cookie sheets (2 large cookie sheets on 2 shelves of the oven). Bake at 175-200 for 3-4 hrs. max. (what I do) OR at ~250 for 1-2 hours.

My breakfast of yogurt, granola, bananas and maple syrup. Yum.

Epic Holiday Baking Day

December is like a month-long full moon for people who like to bake. We get a little…out of hand. It’s the perfect excuse to make those cookies and candies and sundry snacks we’ve been eying since the end of summer fruit season but couldn’t quite justify.

The below-depicted Epic Holiday Baking Day was suggested by my dear friend Erin, who is also a foodie and a fantastic cook. She could be an honorary asian if she wasn’t so nice and thus insufficiently prone to squabbling. Having grown up in a household that is chock full of bite size buttery temptation for the duration of the holidays, I enthusiastically agreed.

Evidence of a day well spent

Cranberry-Orange-Walnut Bread

You MUST try it. It is perhaps one of my all time favorite things to eat, ever.

Bar Nuts, courtesy of Union Square Cafe (courtesy of Saveur.com).

If you make these, which you should, skip the hazelnuts and be generous with the seasonings. Resist the urge to eat them by the fistful. The urge will be strong, but you’ll only end up with spicy sugar all over your face. Trust me on this one.

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Chocolate-Hazelnut Truffles

Gingersnaps!

These gingersnaps are easier than falling down, and unfailingly delicious. Their ingredient list is pure americana (read: cheap!).

Gingersnaps

  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c Crisco
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c molasses
  • extra sugar for dipping

Mix all dry ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream shortening with a hand-held mixer, add sugar and mix until combined and fluffy, 20-30 seconds. Add egg and molasses, mix until color is even and ingredients are well combined.

Add dry ingredients, mix until combined, then cover and chill for a while. You want the dough to be firm enough to handle, so anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.

Roll dough in to 1″ balls, roll each in sugar, place about 2″ apart on baking sheet(s). I like to line them with parchment paper first, for easier clean up, but these work just as well without.

Bake at 350 for 11 minutes for a softer cookie, 12 for a crispier cookie. They will be all puffed up and soft and look very underdone when you take them out of the oven, but they will flatten out and crisp up as they cool.