I want to make a disclaimer on this post: I don’t really eat that much junk food. Honestly. I know it seems like it, what with every other post being a chocolate cake or a marshmallow mousse or fruity alcoholic drink or yet another homemade candy bar. I eat a lot of fruit, veggies, whole grains and nonfat dairy. Honestly. It’s just that those things aren’t nearly as fun to write about.
But anyway. Let’s move on to the topic at hand. Which is a post on yet another homemade candy bar! But not just any candy bar: homemade Heath bars. Do you know what a Heath bar is? I didn’t. It’s toffee, wrapped in chocolate. Do you know what toffee is? Sugar and butter. Which is then smothered in chocolate. So that’s three essential food groups right there. Oh and there’s nuts, too, so that’s…you know…vitamin E. And protein…
My boss Lynne requested these. And I blame Jeff. He started this, requesting a batch of homemade Snickers bars, which turned out remarkably well. Then another coworker requested M&Ms, which I haven’t figured out yet, and then Lynne requested Heath bars for her birthday. Now that those are conquered, I’ll have to work on Take 5 bars, Butterfingers and Twixes. And then I’m going to fall into a deep sugar coma that will hopefully last all winter, so I can skip the whole “freezing my butt off” thing.
It was fairly sudden, my descent into the candy-making business. It’s never really that hard and people generally seem to like the homemade versions much more than the storebought (John even said that I ruined regular Snickers for him…oops). I always wonder what companies put into their chocolate coating, though, cause my bars are a little bit messy when at room temperature (you know, a bit of chocolate on the fingers here and there) and I wonder what’s in a regular bar that stabilizes it. I don’t really want to know though. I figure the messiness is a good trade-off for a more natural snack. And there is nothing as natural as sugar coated with chocolate. Oh and butter.
I’d never had toffee before. This batch is actually the second I’ve made–I tried making a batch last week but I got sloppy and let it sit on the stove too high/too long and burned it a bit. Josh liked the “fuller flavor” of the caramelized sugar but it was too crunchy and tasted too burnt to me, so it got tossed. This batch I was more careful with and it turned out, apparently excellently. Myself, I think toffee is like caramel’s less charming little brother; if given the choice, I’d rather add the condensed milk and take the lower temperature and have something tasty and chewy rather than crunchy. But to each his own.
Lynne was nice enough to send me a recipe for toffee and I altered it a bit. It’s pretty good, I admit it. Easy to make, good flavor, nice crunch. I used sugar in the raw, instead of regular white sugar. I think the higher level of molasses contributes to a better flavor and texture. For nuts, I used sliced almonds and the chocolate was semi-sweet. The next batch that I end up making is going to have two more changes: 1) vanilla seeds and 2) I’m going to sub out half the semi-sweet chocolate for dark. But it’s a good start.
Homemade Heath Bars
Makes…a lot, depending on size
1lb unsalted butter
2 c. sugar in the raw
1 c. sliced almonds
1lb semi-sweet chocolate chips
Place butter and sugar in a medium, heavy-bottom pan over medium low heat and melt together. Cook until the mixture reaches a “hard candy” temperature of 300F on a candy thermometer, and stir often (with a whisk is best).
While the mixture is bubbling away, line a jelly roll pan, or a baking sheet with high edges, with parchment paper. When the butter mixture has reached 300F and has a nice nearly-caramel color, take it off the heat and pout it onto the parchment, spreading it out. Sprinkle it evenly with the almonds and put in the fridge to set while you melt the chocolate.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler, or in a heat-proof glass bowl that’s set over a pan with an inch or two of steaming-water. Whisk a bit to loosen it once all the chips are melted and then pour the chocolate on top of the toffee (the toffee doesn’t need to be completely set to do this). Spread it out carefully with a spatula and then put the pan back in the fridge. Let it set and harden for about an hour.
Take the pan back out one last time. Using a sharp knife, cut the toffee and chocolate into bars, whatever size you like. Put the pan back in the fridge and let the bars fully set, about another hour or so. Then eat. :-) Or put into a nicely wrapped container and give as a gift. Or whatever.
These bars are best left in a cool place. And are best eaten early and often.