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Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee

Looking for a last minute gift for friends, neighbors or relatives? You still have time to make this, and it’s really great to give away — not just because it’s delicious and a nice thing to do at holiday time, but also because it’s so darn addictive, you’ll have to get it out of the house before you eat it all. It makes a lot, so you’ll have plenty for passing to sweets lovers.

The hardest part is making the toffee, because it can easily burn if you’re not keeping an eye on it. Conversely, if you don’t cook it enough, it will be too soft and won’t have that crunch you associate with toffee. If you have a candy thermometer, you’re one step ahead of the game. I found mine broken in a drawer, so I had to rely on another way to gauge whether it was ready  — dropping a bit from a wooden spoon into a glass of ice water. If it’s still pliable after you’ve dropped it in the water, it’s not done. If it snaps crisply, it’s done, so you can pour the syrup over the nuts and chocolate.

Spread half of the nuts (toasted to bring out the best flavor) over a sheet of parchment paper, then spread  half of the chocolate that you’ve broken up either by hand or in a food processor. Pour the syrup over everything.

After you’ve poured the syrup over the nuts and chocolate, then spread the remaining chocolate over the syrup. Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to soften, then smooth it over the candy with a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and wait for it to cool.

Take a knife, and cut into pieces. If you’re like me, you’ll have a lot of loose bits that won’t look too great as gifts, so save those for yourself to eat out of hand, or for using as an ice cream topping.

Place into attractive boxes, tins or jars, and spread some good cheer to others before you eat it all.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what’s cooking in Ciao Chow Linda’s kitchen each day (and more)

Chocolate and Nut-Covered Toffee
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 16 tablespoons (227g) unsalted butter, cold
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (298g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional; for enhanced flavor
  • 3 tablespoons (43g) water
  • 1 tablespoon (21g) light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, optional (see "tips," below)
  • 2 cups (227g) diced pecans or slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2⅔ cups (454g) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped; or chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In a large, deep (3 quart) saucepan, melt the butter.
  2. Stir in the salt, sugar, espresso powder, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil.
  3. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer; you'll be taking it off the heat a few degrees sooner).
  4. The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready.
  5. (If you don't have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness).
  6. This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
  8. While the sugar is boiling, spread half of the nuts in an even, closely packed layer on a parchment-lined 9" x 13" pan.
  9. Top the nuts with half the chocolate.
  10. When the syrup has reached 295°F, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda; it will foam up, so use caution.
  11. Pour the syrup quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate.
  12. Top with the remaining chocolate and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes, until it softens; spread the chocolate with an offset spatula in an even layer and immediately sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.
  13. While the candy is still slightly warm, pull it out of the pan and use a thin spatula to loosen it from the parchment.
  14. When completely cool, break into uneven chunks.
 

 

 

Pecan Sticky Buns

When I know I’m going to have overnight guests in the house, I like to prepare at least one special breakfast ahead of time, rather than leave my guests to fend for themselves with only a box of cereal and cold milk. Last year I made a polenta breakfast bake that was a big hit with everyone. This year, I finally decided to make pecan sticky buns. They’re a weakness of mine that I used to order occasionally at Panera’s but has now been taken off the menu. This recipe, from the blog, Dinner At The Zoo, is nearly identical, and makes enough for a crowd. I added some currants, which the original recipe did not call for. You could also add raisins if you like. Or leave them out completely. The recipe called for all twelve pieces to be baked together in a 9″ xy 13″ rectangular pan, but there didn’t seem to be room in the pan I had, so I placed two rolls in separate ceramic round ramekins. I really liked them better in the individual ramekins since the syrupy topping had more room to ooze down the sides as in the top photo. If I had twelve ramekins, I’d bake them all this way. But they were pretty terrific in the rectangular pan too.

The dough is a very supple dough, enriched with eggs and butter, and requiring two rises. Here it is, doubled in size, after the first rise.

Next, you roll out the dough to a rectangle that’s 12″ by 18″ and spread the butter/cinnamin/currants filling over the dough. Then roll up the dough tightly, starting from the long side, cut it into twelve pieces and place each piece on top of the pecan sticky topping.

 The rolls will puff up more during the second rise,  after you’ve spread the filling and rolled them up. Then they get baked in the oven where they’ll increase in size even more. At this stage, I let them cool, and covered them with aluminum foil to place in the freezer. I removed them from the freezer the night before I wanted to serve them, and warmed them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes before serving.

Flip them over onto a platter, or just a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, then tear apart, or slice to serve.

Having been sick all through Christmas (and still not recovered), I was grateful to be able to pull this out from the freezer and serve while we were opening our gifts.

It’s an indulgence to be sure, but oh so worth it for the holiday or a special occasion. You can start on your diets in the new year.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or whatever holiday you celebrate.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pecan Sticky Buns
 
Author:
Serves: 12 rolls
Ingredients
  • FOR THE DOUGH:
  • 1 packet active dry yeast ¼ ounce
  • ¾ cup warm water approximately 100 degrees F
  • ¾ cup warm milk approximately 100 degrees F
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup butter melted
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 5-5½ cups all purpose flour
  • cooking spray
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • ½ cup butter softened
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ¼ cup currants or raisins
  • FOR THE TOPPING:
  • 2 cups pecans coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. FOR THE DOUGH:
  2. Place the water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add the packet of yeast and let the yeast dissolve in the water for 1 minute.
  4. Add the milk, sugar, butter, salt, eggs and 5 cups of flour to the bowl.
  5. Beat for 2-3 minutes or until a smooth dough forms.
  6. If the dough is sticky, add more flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
  7. Switch to the dough hook, and knead the dough for 3-4 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
  8. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit for one hour, or until doubled in size.
  9. FOR THE FILLING:
  10. Place the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined.
  11. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a 18"x12" rectangle.
  12. Spread the filling mixture evenly all over the dough.
  13. Starting with the long end of the dough, roll it up tightly, jelly roll style. Pinch the seams to seal the end of the roll.
  14. Cut the roll into 12 equal slices.
  15. FOR THE TOPPING:
  16. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat.
  17. Add the brown sugar, heavy cream, honey and salt, then bring to a boil.
  18. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 2-3 minutes until glaze is smooth and shiny.
  19. Pour ⅔ of the topping mixture into the bottom of a 9"x13" pan that's been coated in cooking spray. Reserve the rest of the topping for later use.
  20. Sprinkle the pecans over the sugar mixture, then place the rolls on top.
  21. Cover and let the rolls rise until they've doubled, this should take about one hour.
  22. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  23. Bake the rolls for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
  24. Let the rolls sit for 5 minutes, then invert the pan onto a serving tray.
  25. Warm the reserved topping and drizzle it over the top, then serve.
 

Tanyard Farm Buttermilk Cake

 Sometimes you try a new recipe and it’s such a disaster, it goes right into the trash. But sometimes you try a new recipe and it’s destined to become one that you return to over and over again. This is one of those. 

Maybe it’s because it’s from the website of King Arthur Flour, whose high quality products are always reliable.
Maybe it’s because this cake is so flavorful, moist and the crumb is so unbelievably tender.
Maybe it’s because the crunchy and sticky pecan coating is so irresistible.
Or maybe it’s because this recipe makes enough to feed a crowd!

For all those reasons, you’ve got to try this recipe. I’ll bet you’ll find it becomes one of your go-to cake recipes too.

Tanyard Farm Buttermilk Cake

CAKE

 

TOPPING

  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 to 1 cup diced pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ cake pan. (I used two 8″ square pans instead)
  2. Beat the butter and brown sugar together till smooth.
  3. Add the eggs, beating till smooth.
  4. Stir in the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
  5. Add the baking soda, salt, and flour to the wet ingredients, beating till thoroughly combined.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  7. Bake the cake for 35 minutes. (Mine needed closer to 45 minutes) Towards the end of the baking time, prepare the topping.
  8. Stir the butter and the sugar together. Add the milk, pecans, and salt. The glaze will be thick but pourable.
  9. Top the baked cake with the topping, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven. The topping will look very runny. You can eat the cake hot, with the glaze still gooey; or let the cake sit at room temperature for a few hours, by which time the glaze will have set.
  11. Yield: 24 servings.