Christmas is 9 days away! Are you ready?
As promised, I made a candy recipe that performs appropriately at high altitude. My mom’s good friend Cheryl always sends the most delicious chocolate covered toffee around the holidays, and this recipe reminds me of it. It’s buttery, crunchy, chocolaty, and coated in nuts. Highly addictive.
I was expecting the recipe to be much harder than it really was. You cook butter, sugar, water, and salt; add vanilla, and then pour it onto your baking sheet. Let it cool, then cover each side in chocolate and finely chopped pecans. Break it up into pieces and you’ve got a hefty quantity of homemade candy on your hands, perfect for feeding guests or giving away as gifts.
Last night I also baked up some of my favorite cookies – Nutmeg Meltaways. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make any Christmas cookies this year after all those (what felt like millions) of cookies I tested and baked for the Holiday Cookie Book 2013. But I could always eat a nutmeg meltaway!
To some of our close friends this year we gave away little boxes of homemade croissants and jams we made this summer with local fruit. They were fun to put together and I know they were well received!
Judging by my calendar, this may be my last post before Christmas. Below are some more tips on candy making at high altitude. I hope everyone has a fantastic and merry holiday. Wishing you the happiest baking!
High Altitude Candy-Making Tips:
1. Any time you cook sugar, add a pinch or two of cream of tartar. It will help prevent your sugar from seizing/crystallizing as it cooks.
2. Test your candy thermometer before you begin. Remember, at altitude you’ll have a lower boiling temperature than sea level. You can stick your thermometer is a pot of boiling water and see what it reads. At sea level, water boils at 212 F. Each 500 foot increase in altitude can lower your boiling point temperature by 1 degree. The boiling temperature at 7,500 feet is approximately 198 F, at 10,000 ft it’s approximately 194 F. If your candy thermometer is reading a significantly different number, you’ll want to take note that your thermometer is off by x amount. That will affect what temperature you cook your candy to if using that thermometer to read (EX: If your thermometer reading is over 10 degrees, then you’ll cook your candy to 10 degrees less than stated in the recipe, since your thermometer reads 10 degrees higher than it should). If you consistently get different readings every time, maybe it’s time to get a new thermometer since that one is no longer reliable.
3. Another quick tip for estimating your thermometer reading comes from Elizabeth LaBau: a good rule of thumb for cooking candy at high altitude is to subtract 2 degrees F from the stated temperature for every 1,000 feet you are above sea level. (EX: If you live at 6,500 feet, your conversion is 13 less: 2 x 6 [thousand feet] + 1 for the extra 500 feet.
4. Be sure to wrap your soft candies like caramels, marshmallows, taffy, etc. well. Our dry air can quickly turn freshly made, soft candies into crusty and hard pieces.
How to make this high altitude adjusted recipe:
Adapted from Chocolate & Confections by Peter P. Greweling
Variation: You can make a macadamia-coffee toffee by adding 1 tablespoon of coffee extract at the end of cooking. Coat the toffee in milk chocolate and use toasted salted macadamia nuts in place of the pecans.
- 2 cups (1 lb) unsalted butter, melted
- 4½ cups sugar
- 3 oz water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 16 oz dark or milk chocolate, melted
- 3½ cups finely chopped toasted pecans
- Combine the melted butter, sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan.
- Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
- Cook over moderate heat to 298 F. For my altitude (8, 500 ft), I reduced my cooking temperature to 281 F.
- Add the vanilla off the heat, stir in well.
- Pour the mixture onto a silicone baking mat, or a lightly greased sheet of parchment paper, in a baking sheet. Spread quickly to the edges before the toffee sets.
- Allow to cool completely. Blot the toffee with a paper towel to remove any excess oil from the surface. The oil will inhibit the chocolate from sticking to the toffee- not good!
- Coat one side of the toffee with half of the chocolate and immediately sprinkle with toasted chopped nuts. Press down on the nuts so they stick into the chocolate.
- Place the baking sheet in your freezer for 8-10 minutes to set the chocolate.
- Once set, flip the toffee over and repeat with the remaining chocolate and pecans.
- When the chocolate has set on both sides, break into desired-size pieces. For longer storage, keep airtight in the refrigerator.
- Makes 60 oz, or 1 baking sheet broken up into pieces.