Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Almond Butter Crunch

This is what happens when you read too many seasonal magazines and blogs. You end up succumbing to the "I must bake during the holidays" syndrome. My work team is doing its annual gift swap on Friday. So, I asked a few folks to contribute something sweet to the gathering. Of course, I had to chip in and make something as well.

I'm not sure why it occurred to me to dig out this recipe card from my stash. My mom used to make this when I was in my teen years. She had a phase where she bought Almond Roca, which seemed so elegant at the time. Then, for some reason, she decided to try to make it herself, or at least a version thereof. I remember watching her put it together. In my mind, it seemed simple enough that I could attempt it myself. Armed with a candy thermometer, wooden spoon, and all the ingredients, I set about to do just that. You can see the results below.

In trying to make this on my own for the first time, I discovered a few key points. One is that the baking sheet on which the molten mixture is poured must be greased liberally to keep the candy from sticking. I decided not to use waxed paper or parchment paper on the tray. After re-reading my mother's recipe card, I also worked out that the Cadbury chocolate she used was probably too sweet for my tastes. Like many of the recipes that I've posted here, I tweaked this one, and I'll probably fiddle with it some more before I think I have it exactly right. Still, I have a feeling that this candy will be well-received when everyone opens their presents on Friday.

Here's what everything looks like mixed together

It all starts to get foamy

Thread stage

Soft ball stage - still slightly malleable

It keeps getting more foamy and the color starts to darken

Ready to add the almonds and pour on the tray to harden

Work quickly to spread it out while hot then let it cool down

Spread melted chocolate on both sides and sprinkle with chopped toasted almonds

Oh, and don't forget to have a 'test piece,' just to make sure it's o.k.

Almond Butter Crunch

Prep time: allow 1.5 to 2 hours total with cooling and setting time

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (I used salted as a contrast to the sweet)
1-1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
3 Tablespoons water
1 cup toasted slivered, blanched almonds

4-3 1/2 ounce chocolate bars (I used 3 milk chocolate and 1 semi-sweet)
1 cup chopped toasted almonds with skins

Prepare a baking sheet (you can also use a 13"x9"x2" inch pan) by greasing it liberally with butter. Have the first five ingredients measured out and close at hand, along with a candy thermometer. Clear the children out of the kitchen.

In large saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Bring up to a boil and watch carefully as it changes color. When the mixture reaches the hard-crack stage, about 300 degrees Fahrenheit, turn off the heat and quickly add the slivered almonds. Pour entire mixture onto baking sheet and shake to distribute candy evenly. Let cool until hardened.

Remove candy from baking sheet and place on waxed or parchment paper. Melt chocolate in double-boiler. Spread one side of the candy with half of the chocolate and sprinkle half of the almonds on it. Allow to cool (place in freezer, if you'd like to speed up the process). Flip over the candy onto waxed or parchment paper and spread the rest of the chocolate on the second side. Sprinkle with the rest of the chopped almonds. Allow to cool; again, you can use the freezer to speed up the process. Once the chocolate is firm, break up the candy into pieces.

Buon appetito!

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