Name: Barbara Schmidt
Class Year: 1969
Country of Residence: Ireland
Note: This recipe is not being entered in the competition, it is simply being shared for you all to enjoy!
Why is this recipe great? What’s its backstory?
This is an old family recipe which for decades the family has made the weekend after Thanksgiving and gives as gifts for Christmas. It could of course be made any time. My 96-year-old father used to be the chief stirrer, then, like Jack Nicklaus, progressed to giving the first ceremonial stir, but now he sits and gets to taste the first piece. For the last number of years I have been in Iowa for Thanksgiving and have been in charge of the project. It is a labour of love. We traditionally make 6 double batches which takes an entire day to make with many people helping out. It takes another day to pack the toffee into lined Christmas tins. And then there is the delivery. I am giving the recipe for one double batch with US measurements and temperatures. It is easiest if there are two people making it – and a lot more fun. It is a crunchy “hard crack” toffee, delicious but making it is not for the faint-hearted.
Schmidt Family Christmas Chocolate Almond Toffee
One double batch will make 3 cookie sheets (baking trays) of toffee. When finished, it is broken into pieces. How many tins will depend on the size of the tins. Preparation – 30 minutes? Boiling the toffee – 30 minutes? Spreading – 5 minutes. Cooling – a couple of hours, depends where you are cooling it and how cool it is. We have never cooled it in a refrigerator, but in a cool room. If it’s safe you can cool it on the surface of snow. While it is cooling you can melt the chocolate then that has to cool and is repeated. Leave a good couple of hours! You may need a break between some of the sections.
Prepare and weigh all ingredients in advance of preparation and have them all easily to hand. Start with all ingredients at room temperature.
- 2 lbs butter
- 2 lbs sugar
- 1 lb coarse ground blanched almonds – no skin (You can buy whole blanched almonds now which saves a step)
- 1 lb fine ground natural almonds – (skin on)
- 2 teaspoons (or one tablespoon) of vanilla
- 2 lbs chocolate (dark or milk as preferred)
- A heavy-bottomed saucepan (about 10 inches wide), not too deep, preferably with heat-proof handles
- Good oven gloves
- Wooden spoons
- Measuring spoon for vanilla
- 3 flat cookie sheets (baking trays), lightly buttered
- 1 cookie sheet for turning toffee
- Several spatulas
- Candy thermometer
- It helps to cover the table / work surface with a clean sheet to catch the toffee and chocolate spatters
- Melt butter slowly. Do not fry.
- Add sugar and cook to 200 degrees, stirring constantly
- Add coarse ground almonds and stir constantly until 300+ degrees is reached (hard crack). This takes quite a long time and a lot of stirring and is tiring. Mixture will be boiling. Be careful not to burn.
- Add one tablespoon of vanilla and STIR! (It will sizzle.)
- Divide and spread thin on 3 cookie sheets (baking trays). This must be done QUICKLY before the toffee cools. Lightly buttering the spatulas or spreaders helps. Try to spread to all the corners.
- Cool until hard. (This can take a couple of hours depending on temperature of where you are cooling. See above.)
- Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
- Ladle chocolate onto toffee and spread thin. Sprinkle with half of the fine-ground almonds and pat into the melted chocolate.
- Allow to cool until the chocolate is dry / hard. (Again, the time depends on how cool your space is.)
- Take 4th cookie sheet, lay over the toffee and carefully turn so the toffee is now “upside down” on the 4th cookie sheet. Repeat until the 3 toffee sheets are smooth toffee side up.
- Ladle on melted chocolate and spread, sprinkle with fine-ground almonds and pat in.
- Allow this to cool.
- Break into pieces and package and/or eat!