The middle of my second year of internal medicine residency seems like a funny time to start a blog. But I've always loved writing, and cooking, and sharing recipes, and a blog seems like the perfect (and most efficient!) way to unite these three interests of mine. Recently I've been inspired by a blog my friend A shared with me, Orangette, and it's made my wish to start writing instead more of a need.
To start off with, then, in this holiday season, I wanted to share a recipe for filbert toffee. My mom has carried on the Christmas toffee-making tradition every year since I was little. She loves toffee, and was initially inspired by Littlejohn's almond version in the farmers' market in Los Angeles, which my dad had grown up eating. Once my mom found the Gourmet recipe, she confirmed with the proprietress (Mrs. Littlejohn) that their version also used equal parts butter and sugar, and I don't think a member of my family has been back for the original since!
The recipe only has four ingredients, and you know it's hard to go wrong when those four are butter, sugar, chocolate, and hazelnuts. My friend J's mother never knew about this recipe, but she would have approved, since she only made recipes with five or fewer ingredients. If you have a decently-stocked pantry, these four should always be on hand, especially since the hazelnuts can be toasted well ahead of time and stored in the freezer or in a sealed jar at room temperature. The ratio of work to wow factor is definitely in your favor with this recipe. As a co-worker said today after biting into some toffee, "Is it supposed to be this buttery and delicious?"
Adapted from Gourmet, 1973
Makes 12-16 pieces
Time: 20 min active time, with minimum 2 hours cooling
1 c. regular, salted butter (2 sticks)
1 c. sugar
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (I use Scharffenberger 62% or Valrhona)
3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted for 10 min in a 350 degree oven, then rubbed between a tea towel to remove some of the tough outer skin, then chopped
Lightly butter an 8 inch square pan. Melt the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently. Bring the mixture to between 294 and 296 degrees on the candy thermometer (between soft and hard crack). Immediately pour into pan, tilting to make an even layer. Sprinkle the chocolate over the toffee. Let sit for 5 min, then use a flat-handled knife to spread the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the chocolate, and press into the chocolate layer. Place pan in a cool place for at least two hours but preferably overnight. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to remove the toffee, then break into pieces. If it doesn't come out easily, simply use the knife to break into pieces inside the pan. Toffee keeps well in a sealed tupperware for at least 2 weeks...if it lasts that long.