The most wonderful time of the year
I’ve got an unofficial list of “must haves” every holiday season, and surprise, surprise, they’re all food.
Always number one: green bean casserole. Like the kind your hillbilly aunt visiting from Missouri would plop down on the potluck table with a heavy thud, showering the runner in a smattering of crispy deep-fried French’s onion topping.
Next up: corn bread dressing, preferably cooked outside of the bird as I’m not particularly fond of the Rockwellian tradition of Salmonella poisoning...
Rounding third — my Grandmother’s gravy. The story here goes that back in the 60’s, my grandmother was preparing her very first Thanksgiving feast and had phoned her mother back in Texas for a few recipe pointers. Well, something was seriously lost in translation and she ended up adding thinly sliced boiled eggs to her brown giblet gravy. Much to her surprise, the gravy was a hit, and every year I recreate her perfectly-imperfect recipe.
Lastly, and a jewel among the rest, is my Mother’s English-style toffee. Layered with semi-sweet chocolate and finished with a generous sprinkling of minced, toasted almonds, this buttery confection is a jewel among my holiday traditions.
Drawing inspiration from my family’s collective traditions and Bottle Logic’s traditional November release of Darkstar November, our Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Rye + Molasses Stout, I developed my recipe for molasses toffee with dark chocolate, toasted pecans, and Maldon’s sea salt.
If you’re on team sweet and salty, like me, this confection ticks all the glorious, gluttonous boxes of holiday decadence -- the crisp, buttery crunch, the melanoidin nuttiness of toasted pecans, the brooding depth of nearly-bitter dark chocolate, and the savory saline depth of Maldon’s sea salt.
4 oz butter
½ cup bourbon
1 cup white sugar
2 Tb brown sugar
1 Tb molasses
1 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
12 oz dark chocolate (callets, chips, or finely chopped from a bar.)
Maldon’s Sea Salt
Stage a cookie sheet with a silicone baking liner or Silpat and reserve for later use.
Pro Tip: Don’t own a Silpat? You can substitute one for aluminum foil greased with butter! Want thicker toffee? Use a deeper baking dish instead of a cookie sheet!
In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, stirring occasionally.
Once the butter has melted, add the bourbon and sugar, stirring occasionally.
Pro Tip: Working with sugar is dangerous and requires your undivided attention! Boiling sugar will burn you with the intensity of a thousand suns. Put a shirt on and be careful, Karen!
Once the mixture has started to boil, cover with a lid and boil for one minute.
But why, though? During the cooking process, tiny sugar crystals will begin to form on the exterior of your sauce pan. Left to their own devices, these crystals will make for grainy toffee. That’s no bueno, compadre. Covering the pan at this stage will generate a small amount of steam that will gently remove these crystals from the sides of your saucepan, yielding a better finished product.
Remove the lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the mixture until it turns a deep deep golden color and reads 290 degrees on a digital thermometer. I said put a shirt on, Karen!!
Carefully pour the mixture onto your reserved cookie sheet. Don’t scrape the pan as there may be some residual sugar and may make your toffee grainy.
Allow the mixture to cool for one minute.
Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the warm toffee and let stand for 30 seconds or until they begin melting.
Use an offset spatula to gently spread the chocolate over the toffee, making sure the surface of the toffee is completely covered.
Sprinkle toasted pecans over the chocolate.
Lightly season with Maldon’s sea salt.
Place the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to set for at least one hour.
Once the toffee has cooled, cut or break into pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place or refrigerator.
Toffee will keep for up to a week.
Enjoy this sure-fire hit of the holiday season with a generous pour of Darkstar November (on sale here tomorrow!), a pair of stretchy pants, and the warm company of friends and family, new and old. Happy Holidays, Fam, and as always-