Today is my and Kurt’s 12th wedding anniversary. Of course, with all the Ken activities in the beginning of the week, that means we’re not actually going to have our celebratory fine dining experience until the weekend. We’re going to our favorite seafood restaurant– Black Salt. It’s near where I grew up in NW Washington, DC in a neighborhood called Palisades. The front of the house is basically a seafood mart with glass cases stocked with myriad uber-fresh sea creatures. So you understand why it’s our favorite. I think we’re aiming for the 5 course wine pairing menu (we’ve tried the 7 course, but it’s overkill, even for us foodies).
As I mentioned in my very first post (and whence comes the name of this blog), there’s almost a decade difference between me and Kurt. It comes out in funny ways– like the time Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” came on the radio and I remarked how I was nineteen and really into the album. Kurt looked at me and said “Well, I was in fourth grade and really into long division.” He always makes me laugh!
We met while working for a software company that developed IT systems for hospitals. I was in my early 30′s and he had recently graduated from Berkeley. When I first saw him at the office, he looked like Doogie Howser in a leather motorcycle jacket; I wondered if he had graduated early from college. I later found out that his clients often held betting pools to guess his age!
Eventually we were assigned to the same team for a hospital in Charlottesville, Va. We worked well together– mostly because I wasn’t an idiot with technology (he had his share of bad experiences with non-technical clinicians). Our company had corporate apartments– the boys across the hall from the girls. Kurt and I were the only ones who wanted to go out to a restaurant for dinner, using our per diem and then some for a fantastic meal. THAT’S something we’ve carried on to this day.
We’ve had a very good dozen years together; this isn’t to say we haven’t had our moments. Well, it’s mostly me having the moments; he’s come to call me “Flame On, Flame Off” after the Fantastic Four character. He really has the patience of Job, or I’ve just worn him down! The last two years have been very special because he gave me his kidney, without which I would be on dialysis, wearing a pager 24/7 and waiting ever anxiously for a donor. As our friends say, we are truly meant for one another– a perfect match!
The toffee I’ve made below is my recreation of a very well-known toffee sold in Denver, Colorado– Enstrom’s. One year Grace sent us a one pound box (it was shipped refrigerated because it has so much butter in it). Kurt loves the fact that it is coated with semi-sweet chocolate on both sides and has large hunks of almonds throughout– none of those tiny chopped pieces for him.
Note: You will need a good candy thermometer. I also use an 11 x 15 non-stick rimmed baking sheet; mine is made by Oneida.
My Toffee Inspired By Enstrom’s
- 12 oz raw whole almonds, very roughly chopped (whole and half pieces are good)
- 4 oz raw whole almonds, ground (I use my Cuisinart)
- 1 lb SALTED butter (the only time I ever use salted butter)
- 20 oz (weight) sugar
- 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
- 1 tsp vanilla
Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy pot (this is an old Dutch oven from my mom).
When the butter is melted, add the sugar. I begin stirring in a figure 8 pattern from this point.
Quite frankly, the mixture looks gross– sugar on the bottom with melted butter sitting on top– but I promise it will become glorious toffee.
Keep stirring and after 10 minutes or so, the mixture will come together and begin to bubble.
When there’s a good boil going, pour in the chopped nuts (NOT the ground ones). Stir and clamp on the candy thermometer.
Boil, stirring frequently ’til the mixture reaches no less then 300 degrees, but no more than 320. This is the hard crack stage; you’ll notice that the mixture suddenly seems thinner and looser. As you get closer to this stage, you may want to turn down the heat to avoid burning. If you have a very heavy pot like I do, you may want to take it off the heat right at 300 since there is residual heat.
Once off heat, remove the thermometer and quickly stir in the vanilla. Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet; be careful because the sugar syrup is really hot.
Let cool til just warm. Melt half chips (I zap mine in the microwave for 8 second intervals, stirring after each zap). Spread thinly onto the toffee; you’re just applying the glue for the ground almond glitter.
Sprinkle half the ground nuts and let set for 30 minutes.
Place a sheet of parchment paper over the top of the toffee and flip onto a cutting board. Repeat the chocolate and ground nut coatings. Break into pieces when cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze.
I cut up a few chunks for Kurt, who, as it turns out, came home terribly ill and slept through dinner. I think this will make him feel better!