Just a few days before Christmas, my boss and I went on a whirlwind cookbook-signing tour of Los Angeles. The day ended with a trip to the Original Farmers' Market at 3rd and Fairfax. We had an incredible lunch at Jimmy Shaw's Loteria (the enchiladas verdes were revolutionary), but it wasn't the mole that changed my life. And I'm not even being dramatic here.
My boss asked if I'd ever had the famous English toffee from Little John's Candies. "Well I'm more of a fudge girl myself," I responded. "But I'll give it a try." I could tell by the look on her face that I'd been missing out on something good. We pushed our way through the herd, err, line, and I ordered one each of toffee, plain fudge, rocky road fudge, and divinity. Yes, I have a problem. Don't judge me. But it wasn't the fudge that had me reeling. The English toffee was oh-my-god amazing! So I turned right back around and bought myself a pound. For a gift, I swear.
After that pound was long gone, I still couldn't get it off my mind (or my thighs). Over the next few weeks, everywhere I went, I had to have toffee. Miette Bakery at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza and a little chocolate shop on Catalina Island both held there own, but nobody's compared to Little John's.
So what's a candy-obsessed food blogger to do? Well make it herself, of course. After a few mediocre attempts -- which were promptly devoured, I might add -- I think I nailed it, folks. This toffee is fantastic!
But in true "Dixie Caviar" style, I had to add my Southern stamp with none other than salted peanuts. What can I say? I may never miss the almonds, or Little John's again.
SOUTHERN-STYLE ENGLISH TOFFEE
Source: Nealey Dozier
YIELDS: 1 to 1-1/2 pounds
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 ounces good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 (heaping) cup salted peanuts, finely chopped
Line a 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
Heat sugar, cream, butter, and cream of tartar over low heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in warm water. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes, without stirring. Insert candy thermometer into pan. Stirring constantly, especially around the sides and bottom of the pan, heat until the mixture reaches 300 degrees (but don't go past!). The syrup will be molasses-colored and thick. Immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Pour the candy into prepared pan and allow to cool for 3 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate over the hot toffee. Allow to melt for 1 to 2 minutes, then gently spread it evenly over the candy with an offset spatula. Pour peanuts evenly over the entire surface and gently press to help them adhere.
Refrigerate until chocolate is set, approximately one hour. Break toffee into pieces.