Wednesday, December 17, 2008

saving your sanity with toffee

I don't have a lot of holiday traditions, religious or otherwise. But I always like to make at least one homemade gift every year. I've done stationary, and chocolate truffles, and last year, salted caramels and dozens upon dozens of jars of marmalade and pumpkin butter with my friend Mindi. It nearly killed us, but those fabric-topped jars were pretty darned cute.

This year, we wised up. Jam-making is really fun but not when you've got gifts to wrap, cards to write, a holiday party to rush off to, and a million other things on your mental to-do list. So we went really simple and just made one thing. I dithered between truffles, and coconut macaroons, and chocolate salted caramels. I even considered making all three, then slapped some sense back into myself. It's easy to get carried away with all aspects of the holidays, especially baking. But for sanity's sake, I highly recommend making large batches of one item. Especially if it's chocolate-pistachio toffee. Similar to a Heath bar, but more delicious, this buttery toffee is covered with a layer of milk chocolate (I usually opt for dark, but the milk lends a great candy bar-like flavor) and topped with pistachios. And best of all, it was ready to go into pretty little gift bags in under an hour, leaving Mindi and I time to have a leisurely lunch and even do a mini pilates workout. Which might sound crazier than canning three dozen jars of marmalade, but hey, you've got to offset the toffee somehow, right?

Chocolate-pistachio toffee
I started with this recipe from Gourmet, and then made some major tweaks, mainly using pistachios instead of peanuts. A little bit of bright green really says Christmas to me. After reading the numerous comments attached to this recipe, I also made some minor changes to the toffee, like using salted butter instead of salt, and adding six tablespoons of water. (By the way: did you notice that Epicurious now allows you to print selected comments with a recipe? Maybe I'm late to the game on this, but I love that feature.)

4 sticks (1 pound) salted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups shelled pistachios
1 1/2 bag milk chocolate chips

*Optional: candy thermometer

Butter two cookie sheets and put on a heatproof surface.

Bring butter, sugar, water, and vanilla to a boil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat, whisking until smooth, then boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture is deep golden and registers 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and carefully pour hot toffee between the two pans, as evenly as possible. (Don't worry if it's not perfect.) Spread with a metal spatula, smoothing the top, and let stand 1 minute, then immediately sprinkle the chocolate on top. Let stand until chocolate is melted, about 3 to 4 minutes, then spread over toffee with cleaned spatula. Sprinkle evenly with pistachios, then freeze until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces.


Daniel said...

This toffee is a Christmas miracle. Sad that I had to mooch some off of Mindi because I'm not allowed to touch the big tupperware full of the stuff at our house.

Maris said...

This sounds good! I don't have a candy thermometer though so I save my own sanity with cookies :)

Lisa said...

Hi Maris! We actually made this without a candy thermometer. Mine had some gross weird liquid trapped inside (possibly since the last holiday baking session? ew!) so we didn't use it. Just remove the toffee from the heat when it's a deep, caramel-colored brown. I promise it's really easy.

mmc said...

This may be a stupid question, but the water goes in with the butter,sugar, and vanilla, right?

V. excited about making this one tonight . . .

Lisa said...

Hi mmc--Not a stupid question at all. The water goes in with all of those ingredients. I just fixed the instructions to say that. Oops!

Paulita said...

I wish I could do something like this...I love toffee and pistachios and chocolate and you

Lisa said...

Aw, I love you too. And you CAN make this! It's super-easy.

Megan and Butch! said...

I would just like to note that tonight and tomorrow I am making: your pistachio toffee recipe, pistachio-cranberry icebox cookies, my Aunt Barbara's walnnut meltaways, and possibly linzer cookies! Yes! Lisa, your toffee made the roster. Thanks for the great (and easy, I hope) recipe.

Lisa said...

Wow, that's quite a lineup! I'm proud my toffee made the cut. And yes, it is super easy. Have fun baking. It's a nice snowy weekend for it.

mmc--I hope yours came out well!

Anonymous said...

This looks fantastic! I just made Orangette's peppermint bark and I'm addicted, so this is going to be up next! Thanks for sharing!

Lisa said...

Thanks for reading, Julie! I hope you'll try it. Orangette's peppermint bark looks amazing--it's embarrassing how much I read her blog.


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