I began making this toffee around the holidays in the early 1980’s. When I flew home to visit my folks in Pennsylvania, I introduced them to my toffee and they loved it. My mother was an apt pupil, soon turning out batches for friends and family back East.
When my parents moved to San Diego in 1988, we all looked forward to our first “California Christmas” together. I remember the three of us making toffee in their new kitchen and my mother saying, “I feel like we are a family again!” As it turned out, there would only be three such Christmases. We lost my Dad to cancer in 1991 and memories of that first holiday without him are filled with sadness.
Here we are, though, enjoying Christmas Eve of our first California Christmas. When my mother died three years ago, I thought I would put my toffee recipe away for good. Grief changes over time and this year I’m cooking my way through my toffee gift-list. In honor of Mama’s Scottish roots in the MacPherson family, I renamed my toffee.
Yields one cookie sheet’s worth
- one cup salted butter (2 sticks)
- one cup brown sugar, generously packed
- one teaspoon best quality vanilla
- one pinch kosher salt
- 18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (one and a half packages) such as Ghirardelli
- one cup finely chopped almonds
- good quality sea salt (optional)
1. Put half the nuts and half the chocolate chips onto a cookie sheet.
2. Cook butter and brown sugar over medium-high heat in medium-sized pot, using a candy thermometer, to “hard crack” stage, 300 degrees F. Stir constantly. This will take about 15 minutes. Using a copper pot allows you to cook at a higher temperature without burning the caramel.
3. Remove pot from heat and quickly add salt and vanilla.
4. Carefully pour caramel mixture over the mix of nuts and chocolate. Sprinkle remaining chocolate over hot mixture. When melted, smooth out with back of large spoon.
5. Sprinkle remaining nuts and gently press into the toffee. If you like salted caramels, you may want to sprinkle some good quality sea salt on top of the candy.
6. Freeze one hour before breaking into pieces for storage – or snacking!