Rose Levy Beranbaum's Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee
(Makes about 1 lb. or 10, 5 inch pieces)
2 cups blanched, sliced almonds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 oz. semisweet chocolate
Adjust the oven racks so they divide the oven into thirds. Set oven at 350 degrees F.
Have on hand a nonstick or buttered cookie sheet and a candy thermometer.
Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and bake them, stirring occasionally for 10-12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Let cool completely.
In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the machine in on-off motions until the almonds aer finely chopped but not powdery.
Sprinkle half the nuts over a 7 x 10 inch area on the cookie sheet. Set it near the burners; you'll need to grab it quickly. Have the vanilla and baking soda nearby as well.
In a heavy-based saucepan, preferably nonstick, combine the brown sugar, water and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constatly, until the mixture reaches 285 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This is the soft crack stage (a little of the mixture dropped into a bowl of ice water will separate into threads that are hard but not brittle.)
Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vanilla and baking soda. Pour the toffee mixture carefully and evenly onto the nuts, keeping within the 7 x 10 rectangle.
Working quickly, scatter the chocolate onto the toffee. Press the chocolate lightly with your fingertips so it starts melting.
Let it sit for five minutes. The chocolate will be soft enough to spread with a metal spatula or butter knife. Make an even layer over the surface of the toffee. Dust the chocolate with the remaining almonds. Leave the toffee to cool completely, then break it into irregular pieces. You can store the toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a month.
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