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~ Old-Fashioned Chocolate & Almond Buttercrunch ~

IMG_4211Caramel, butterscotch, English toffee and American buttercrunch.  These rich butter-and-sugar-based candies are all related, and, I have an affinity for them all.  As a little kid, my hand gravitated to the bag of those little chewy squares of Kraft Caramels, and, when I got a little older, I always kept a few cellophane-wrapped Brach's Butterscotch hard-candies in my purse -- they were a way to enjoy an otherwise long and boring class at school or sermon at church.

1024px-ThorntonstoffeeI developed a crush for English toffee in London the 1990's.  There was a Confectioner across the street from our hotel and it was the first place I wandered into on my way to take a bus tour of the city. When I returned to the hotel, I had savored almost an entire bag of sublime real-deal buttery-smooth caramel-flavored English toffee. Luckily it was a small bag because it was highly addictive.  A week later I bought several pretty bow-tied tins labeled English Toffee to take back to the US to enjoy and give as gifts.

What's the difference between toffee & buttercrunch?

IMG_4218I started almost every day with a stop in that candy shop and it was there that I learned about American Buttercrunch and Almond Roca as well.  In that particular English shop, when their toffee was coated with chocolate and toasted nuts it was labeled American Buttercrunch, but, when made with almonds, it was labeled Almond Roca.  I won't lie, I was confused.  Here in the US, I had often encountered both the plain and chocolate-coated nut versions labeled interchangeably as Toffee or Buttercrunch.  

Over the years I've also come to find out that many English versions use brown sugar and molasses, while American versions use granulated sugar and light corn syrup.  Lessons learned. It seems, however, the English are quite persnickity about their special branding of toffee, so, FYI: Here in America, feel free to use the words interchangeably.  In England, not so much.

Whatever you call it, just make it & don't overthink it.

When it comes to candy making in general, many home cooks, myself included, instinctively want to throw our hands up, walk away from the stove and leave it to the professionals -- the folks trained in the art of doing stuff like spinning sugar and tempering chocolate.  That said, if you're interested in dabbling in it, buttercrunch is a very tasty place to start your journey.  If you don't have one, invest in an inexpensive candy thermometer, and past that, this is seriously easy to make -- and you most likely have all of these common ingredients on hand in the pantry too:

IMG_41108  ounces unsalted, slivered almonds, lightly-toasted and coarsely-chopped, your favorite nuts can be substituted (about 2 cups)

12  ounces unsalted butter (3 sticks)

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups granulated sugar

2  tablespoons light corn syrup

2  tablespoons water

16-18  ounces semi-sweet chocolate morsels (2 1/2-3 cups)

IMG_4101 IMG_4102~ Step 1.  In a 10" nonstick skillet over medium- medium-high heat, place and stir the slivered almonds until they become golden and fragrant, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to cool until they can be handled with your hands, about 10-15 minutes.  Rough chop the toasted slivers into smaller, half-sized bits and pieces.

IMG_4116 IMG_4108~ Step 2. Line a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan with aluminum foil and have ready a 2-quart saucepan and a candy thermometer.  Sprinkle half of the chopped toasted almonds (1 cup) in the bottom of the pan followed by half of the chocolate morsels (1 1/4-1 1/2 cups).  Set aside.

IMG_4114 IMG_4121 IMG_4126 IMG_4129~Step 3.  Place a 2-quart saucepan on the stovetop and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.  Add and melt the butter and salt together over low heat.  Stir in the sugar, corn syrup and water.  Bring to a steady, rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring often.  When mixture reaches a steady, rapid simmer, stop stirring & do not stir again

IMG_4136 IMG_4142 IMG_4145Step 4.  Continue to cook until syrup has turned amber in color and registers a temperature of 300º on the candy thermometer.  Be patient with the syrup and watch it carefully too.  The process can and will take about 12-15 minutes, and, it won't seem like much is happening in the beginning (it will just keep on bubbling), but, once it starts to turn color, things will happen very quickly.

IMG_4147 IMG_4150 IMG_4153 IMG_4159~Step 5.  Remove from heat and immediately drizzle the syrup quickly and evenly over the almonds and the chocolate in the pan. Immediately sprinkle the remaining chocolate (1 1/4-1 1/2 cups) and chopped toasted almonds (1 cup) over the top.  Do nothing for 8-10 minutes, then, using your fingertips gently pat and press the nuts down into the melted chocolate.

Cool, 1-2 hours then refrigerate 4-6 hours or overnight:

IMG_4163Loosen foil, remove buttercrunch from pan in one large piece:

IMG_4171Use a knife to cut, allowing it to crack where it wants: 

IMG_4183Into 16-24 large pieces or 32-48 smaller ones:

IMG_4184Keep stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator:

IMG_4199Old-Fashioned Chocolate & Almond Buttercrunch:  Recipe yields 16-24 randomly-sized large pieces or 32-48 smaller-sized pieces.

Special Equipment List:  10" skillet; cutting board; chef's knife; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; 2-quart saucepan; candy thermometer

6a0120a8551282970b0162fe2345f0970dCook's Note:  For another one of my favorite make-ahead candy-esque confections to serve during the holidays, you can find my recipe for ~ Agnes Starosta's Creamy, Dreamy "Killer" Fudge ~ in Categories 7 or 11.  Peanut butter fudge is pictured here, but, in the recipe you'll find instructions for dark or milk chocolate too.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)


Penny -- I just printed out the Almond Roca Bar recipe from the San Francisco Chronicle that you e-mailed to me. If I get the time I think I might try it for New Years. The almond-scented sugar dough intrigues me. Happy Holidays from Happy Valley! ~ Mel @ Kitchen Encounters

Looks delicious, can't wait to try it.
Happy Holidays!
Your California friend,

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