Before I tried this recipe, I’d never had much luck with anything caramel-y. Not terrible burnt sugar disaster luck, just results that were solidly meh. So much so that the first time I planned to make this toffee, for a dear friend’s birthday, I bought a box of Rice Krispies for just in case back up treats. I fully expect to end up with a trashcan full of melted butter and sugar, and my favorite no fail salted brown butter crispy treats in a care package on their way to Virginia. I’m happy to report that this chocolate covered toffee with pumpkin seeds and sea salt, from The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, came together more easily than I could have imagined, and I didn’t need the back up Krispies at all.
As Laura and I said in our resolutions post, we didn’t do so well with our fancy cookbook cooking goal last year. The small exception for me is The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook, from which I’ve made a grand total of three recipes. Though the majority do involve a daunting number of ingredients and steps, the instructions are written SO well. Everything is wonderfully clear, with helpful little tips sprinkled in, which was especially true for this toffee. My favorite line of the recipe cautioned me that when vanilla is added to the just off the heat toffee base, “the mixture is very hot and will sputter.” And it totally did! I was hugely pleased, and not a little relieved–the recipe was working just as it should. I love little touches like that in a recipe, especially one I feel a bit noivous about.
You do need one piece of special equipment for this recipe, a candy thermometer, so you can pull it off the heat just when the base reaches 295° F. I think you could forge ahead without one, though, and depend just on color change. You start by melting a stick and half of butter together with a cup of sugar and bringing the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly til it turns a “beautiful caramel color.” I found it really helpful to have the thermometer to go by, because I like to be sure, but ultimately did make my timing decisions based more on the color. I found that it took a bit more than the recommended seven minutes, but that the change from buttery pale to toasty looking caramel was nicely obvious. If you’ve ever eaten a Heath bar or anything like it, you’ll know the right color when you see it.
This tasty toffee does take a bit of time, since you have to let the base cool before you layer on the chocolate, and then let the chocolate cool and harden before you break it apart. But it’s absolutely still simple and relatively quick enough to put some together tomorrow or Sunday, just in time for Valentines Day. It’s sweet, a little salty, crunchy, and though it’s in fact really easy, feels pleasantly special effort-ful. Perfect to show your sweetheart a little love…or to eat while you cackle over Bravo with a friend, as I happily did a few Saturdays ago, having liked the care package toffee I made so much that I had to have it again.
chocolate-covered toffee with pumpkin seeds and sea salt
from The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook
makes about 1 1/4 pounds
12 tbs (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cups pumpkin seeds, toasted
Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Put the pan on a flat surface and protect the surface with a trivet or towel underneath.
In a small saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water (being careful not to get sugar on the sides of the pan, where it can crystallize) and bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil the mixture, stirring constantly, until it turns a beautiful caramel color (about 295 F on a candy thermometer), about 7 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat.
Add the salt and stir to combine, then add the vanilla and stir to combine. Be careful: the mixture is very hot and will sputter.
Immediately pour the toffee onto the parchment paper lined pan and quickly spread it in an even later almost to the edge, using a heatproof spatula (this is very hot!). Let cool completely.
Temper the chocolate: Bring 2 inches of water to a bare simmer in a medium pot. Set a medium metal bowl over it, add two thirds of the chocolate, and gently melt. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until melted and smooth.
Pat the surface of the cooled toffee dry to make sure the chocolate will adhere properly. With the heatproof spatula, spread the melted chocolate in an even layer over the toffee, then quickly scatter the pumpkin seeds on top and sprinkle with sea salt. Let stand until the chocolate hardens.
Break the toffee into large pieces. The toffee will keep, covered, for up to 2 weeks.