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Christmas Candy: Chocolate-Almond Coffee Toffee and Pecan Pralines

December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas from the best pup in the world!

Christmas is a great time of year to say thanks. I have a lot of people around me I’m thankful for. There are my friends here in Boston- they know how to be fUn & fLiRtY and are total minxes on the dance floor. Or my college friends who live too far away that I miss terribly. Of course there are my coworkers- they make even the most miserable day on the job fun. And finally there’s the team of dog walkers that come to play with Rugby each day. How do you say thank you to all these people at Christmas? I’ve discovered the answer. And it’s called Chocolate-Almond Coffee Toffee and Pecan Pralines.

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Last weekend I was out trying to do some Christmas shopping, with little success (unless you consider shopping for myself a success?). I was at Crate and Barrel and came across a candy thermometer. I’ve been meaning to buy one for some time, and I decided to finally give in. What a great decision! Sunday evening I whipped up my first batch of toffee and immediately had to package it all up to keep myself from devouring every last bite. I put some in a cute tin to send across the country to a friend in CA and the rest got bagged up to take to work.

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My coworkers gave the toffee two thumbs up, so I decided it was the perfect gift to batch up in this cute packaging (another impulse purchase from Crate and Barrel) and give to Rugby’s walkers with a gift card to Starbucks. I mean, what could possible go better with coffee toffee than a cup of Joe?

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The pecan pralines were created on a whim and then bagged up to distribute to some of my coworkers as little Christmas surprises. I also put together some homemade hot chocolate mix in mason jars and dolled them up with some twine and jingle bells. Nothing like some sweet treats to say “THANKS FOR A GREAT YEAR!”

Chocolate-Almond Coffee Toffee (courtesy of the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)

  • 8 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of flaky sea salt)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds (you can also use hazelnuts or other nut of choice)

Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and set aside.

In a medium-sized heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, melt butter, both sugars, molasses, salt, and espresso together over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with a whisk, until the temperature approaches 250 degrees; then story constantly until it reaches 300 degrees.

Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly with an offset spatula. The toffee will begin to harden quickly. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee, then let them sit for a minute until soft. Spread the chocolate evenly over the candy base and sprinkle the chopped nuts. Allow to sit until toffee hardens and chocolate sets. If you’re impatient, you can put the sheet into the fridge or freezer to quicken the process. Break the toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Pecan Pralines (recipe courtesy of the Tartine cookbook)

  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dark molasses
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon (optional…but who says not to that?)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the remaining ingredients over medium heat until temperature reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. stirring occasionally to break up lumps of sugar. Remove from heat and cool until temperature registers 210 degrees. Add pecans to sugar mixture and stir to coat. Working quickly, spoon out pecans to form pralines. Allow to cool completely before removing from parchment paper. You may also pour entire contents of candy onto the cookie sheet and break into large pieces after it has cooled.

 

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