I know: after overindulging during the holidays, the last thing you want to think about is highly caloric treats. January is time for moderation and abstinence.
We all of us know that this is complete hooey.
Even Gren knows it’s bull pucky. And he’s a DOG.
January, and its evil-yet-slightly-shorter twin, February, are both miserable. Have you looked outside recently? Blech. Don’t come to Canada in January or February. If you do I don’t think you’ll stay long.
How do we survive this gray misery? SUGAR. And lots of it. Personally, I need the calories to wade through waist-deep snow while my dolphin-corgi hybrid takes his evening constitutional.
So this week I will be featuring three easy treats that are each decadent in their own ways. These will help you get through the worst of the winter. And if you have the fortitude to resist them, then keep the recipes on hand for the next time the indulgences of the holidays roll around.
Today we’re going to make ourselves some glorious salted toffee.
Start by buttering a 10″ x 15″ rimmed baking sheet. Set that aside.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and plop 2 cups pecan halves (or pecan pieces) on a baking sheet. Not the buttered one. You’ll notice here I am using hazelnuts. I was out of pecans. But pretend they’re pecans. Stick those in the oven and toast them, stirring once or twice, for about 8-10 minutes.
Allow them to cool completely and then chop them roughly (saves you effort if you use pecan pieces instead). Chop half of those up to fine little pieces, and set both the roughly chopped and finely chopped pecans aside.
In a large saucepan (because remember, sugar expands quite a bit when it boils), mix together 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 cups butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 cup water.
Heat on medium until the butter is all melted, then increase the heat to medium-high and, stirring occasionally, let that mixture come up to 310°F on a candy thermometer.
Should take about 20 minutes or so.
Remove from the heat and carefully stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (be careful, this is where it gets fizzy) and the finely chopped half of your pecans.
Carefully pour your hot toffee into a rimmed baking sheet and let it cool until it’s fully set, about 30 minutes.
If you want your toffee pieces to come out even, you can score the toffee with a sharp knife after about 10 minutes of setting. Make sure to wipe off your knife with warm water after each slice for easier cutting.
While that’s cooling, chop up 12 ounces of chocolate (the darker the better) and melt it over a double boiler or heat safe bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water.
Remove that from the heat and allow to cool a little bit (so it’s not molten) before pouring it over your set toffee. Smooth the chocolate down with a knife or offset spatula (honestly, it’s a handy item you won’t use often but when you use it, it will rock your cooking experience). Sprinkle the chocolate with your roughly chopped pecans and let it sit for about 20 minutes, until the chocolate has cooled but is still in a squishy state.
Then sprinkle THAT with about 2 teaspoons fleur de sel (or coarse sea salt, if that’s what you’ve got).
Chill the pan for about an hour, until it’s all set and lovely, then twist the pan to release the toffee and cut or break into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 weeks or in the fridge for about a month.