Chocolate Almond Toffee
From "Spago Chocolate." When you crave a sweet, this is perfect. The toffee, crushed, is folded into and sprinkled over our Spago's Toffee Tortoni. It can be broken into larger pieces, wrapped and stored in a cool spot.

10 ounces whole, unblanched almonds

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup water or rum

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the nuts on a baking tray and bake until toasted, 10 to 15 minutes, turning the nuts after 7 or 8 minutes to ensure even toasting. Cool and then finely chop. You should have about 2 cups. Set aside. Clean the baking tray. Coat the baking tray and both sides of an offset spatula with vegetable spray. Set aside.

Make the toffee: Place the sugar in a small deep saucepan. Add the corn syrup and water, and over medium heat, bring to a boil. Let boil until large bubbles form on the surface, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover with foil or a lid and boil 5 minutes longer.

Add the pieces of butter and continue cooking, uncovered, over medium heat until the temperature reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 30 minutes. (The candy thermometer has a clip on the side that can be slid up or down. If desired, you can fit in on the side of a the pan, making sure that the thermometer rests in the mixture, not on the bottom of the pan, so that the reading is accurate.) Remove from the heat and immediately add the salt, baking soda and 1 cup of the chopped nuts. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.

Pour the toffee mixture on the prepared baking tray and, using the offset spatula, spread the mixture out, making a block about 10 by 13 inches. The toffee will thicken very quickly, so work as fast as you can. When it's cool, blot some of the excess vegetable spray with a clean towel.

While the toffee mixture is cooling, in a medium heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate. When almost melted, turn off the heat and let the chocolate continue to melt, stirring occasionally. Keep warm.

When you can pick up the block of toffee in one piece, transfer it to a flat work surface or to a clean baking tray. Pour the melted chocolate over the toffee, spreading to cover the entire block of toffee. Before the chocolate cools, sprinkle the remaining chopped nuts over the chocolate. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes to set the chocolate.

Return the block of toffee to the work surface and break it up into pieces, approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches wide. Then cut into smaller pieces, as desired. Use as needed. Makes a 2-pound block, 10 by 13 inches, or 32 pieces.

To prepare ahead: Before adding chocolate, store toffee in a covered container. Keep in a cool spot.


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