My mom's favorite candy is English toffee, with nuts, without chocolate. Many years ago, when I was still in college and Theresa still made zines, we got a Christmas gift of incredible toffee and the recipe that went with it from a zine friend of Theresa's. I have made it at least 20 times, and only once did it fail me...and the best part is, you don't need a candy thermometer! I'm going to share this recipe with you all. Which makes me kind of sad, because now I can never again impress you with a gift of the best toffee you ever had. Once you know how easy it is, you won't be impressed anymore. Oh well...
To make one small batch of toffee (you can double it successfully):
1/4 cup water
1 cup white sugar
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sliced raw almonds (sliced is very important, because their thinness lets you spread the toffee super-thin, and if you don't do this, my mom will complain.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 bar dark chocolate (any size will work)
Grease a large cookie sheet, or better, line it with parchment.
In a wide, flat-bottomed pan at least 2 inches deep, cook the water, butter, and sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon (which will turn into a toffee lollipop for you to enjoy at the end). From this point, it will be 15-45 minutes until the toffee is done cooking--I don't know why it's so variable, but it is! I usually set a timer for 45 minutes so I don't freak out about the time, and then pay careful attention to the visual clues that are part of this recipe.
If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a pastry brush dipped in water. Don't worry too much about this. After a while, the sugar will start to turn brown, then turn coarse and chunky. This means you are almost done. Add the vanilla and almonds. After a few minutes, the chunky sugar will liquefy again. (If it doesn't, sprinkle in a very little bit of water, maybe one tablespoon.) You can judge when the toffee is ready by the color, which at this point is darkening rapidly. As soon as the toffee is a deep golden brown, immediately take it off the heat and pour it onto your prepared cookie sheet. You will probably want a brave and careful friend to help you with this. Make sure it's someone you trust because that sugar is extremely hot and will burn you terribly if it gets on you! Don't try to taste it--I mean it. Do not put the spoon in your mouth until it's completely cool!
Tilt the sheet and use the spoon to spread the toffee as thinly as possible. Then, quickly, take the chocolate bar and rub it over the top of the hot toffee. The heat will melt the chocolate in a very thin layer, which gives you the perfect ratio of thin, crisp toffee to thin, rich chocolate!
Put the toffee in the fridge or freezer for a little while, until it hardens, then break it into irregular pieces. I wish I had a picture to share, but I don't.
So instead, I will share a picture of a recent house dinner, made by Jenn. She invented Brussels Sprout Sushi--or really, onigiri. Apparently, according to the internet, no one has ever blogged about that particular dish before, Each of those rice balls contained a whole, spicy Brussels sprout, cooked to delicious Korean-flavored tenderness. Aren't they pretty? Also, tasty. I would eat them again for sure.