I first saw this Salted Pretzel Toffee recipe on my lovely blogger friend Faith's fabulous blog Thought 4 Food. I already have a slew of recipes of hers that I've bookmarked but the moment I saw this recipe I knew that I had found my Christmas Baking gift. Yes this year Christmas totally crept up on me. In fact I was fast asleep and Christmas had literally stolen into my house and screamed "BOO!" at me. It was the 17th of December and I was only just sending out my Christmas cards. For someone who always gets organised and puts the tree up on the 1st of December this was very embarrassing.
I needed to make this quickly as this was destined for my friends Gina and Teena as we were meeting up for the yearly present exchange ritual. Reading through the recipe I was surprised at how easy it was, even though there was toffee involved. There were only two paragraphs worth of instructions and I have everything to hand except for the mini pretzels so I bought these and made the whole thing in the space of 30 minutes (not including setting time).
OCD Pretzel sorting
I do think that using the sugar thermometer helped enormously. Guessing when it comes to a dangerously hot item like sugar that you cannot touch or taste is never a good idea. Nigella herself says that she rarely uses it but I respectfully disagree. A sugar thermometer was one of my best purchases. I've used it to make candies, marshmallows, brittle as well as mascarpone cheese. And it helped here when it came to know when was the crucial hard crack stage. It takes about 10-20 minutes to reach this stage during which time I watched it and sorted through my pretzels. Yes you can't take the OCD out of the girl and here I sorted out the stars from the round pretzels and used the stars as I felt like they were a bit more Christmas-like.
What was even easier was that I didn't even have to melt the chocolate, a process that tests my patience. The heat of the very, very hot toffee melts the chocolate melts and all you need to wait for a few minutes before spreading it out with a spatula. At first I wasn't sure if the instructions were correct. Would the toffee set that quickly that I only needed to wait for the chocolate to melt and then spread it across? But I should have had complete faith in Faith as she was 100% correct and it did. I then topped it with some toasted macadamias that the lovely Liss had sent me. I almost felt like I should have done more to produce something so good.
Even though I had alloted these to go to friends and given Mr NQN a bit to try he searched around for more like a lost puppy. His astute observation that they were indeed very Dime bar like had me nodding in agreement. They did have that crisp toffee crunch and the saltiness from the pretzels was what I realised what gave Dime that mouth watering taste beyond other chocolate bars (apart from Japanese Kit Kats of course).
So tell me Dear Reader, do you do handmade food gifts for Christmas? And how do you feel about receiving them?
Salted Pretzel Toffee
Adapted from Faith from Thought 4 Food
About 2 cups salted mini pretzels (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
1 cup/2 sticks/225g unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
8 oz/240g good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or about 1 1/3 c chips)
1/2 cup macadamias (optional)
9 by 13-inch (22.5x 32.5cms) baking dish lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
Step 1 - Arrange the pretzels in an even layer on the bottom of a parchment lined swiss roll tray. Cook the butter, sugar, water, and salt over medium heat until the temperature reaches 305F (hard crack stage), stirring occasionally. Place baking on a heatproof surface. Stir in the vanilla and pour the mixture over the pretzels, spreading evenly (work fast because it starts to harden quickly). I took a corner of the baking dish and tipped some of the caramel to the edges. Don't use your fingers - it's hotter than lava (not that I've touched lava).
2a. If youre not using the nuts: Right after spreading the toffee in the prepared pan, sprinkle the chocolate on top and let it sit for a couple minutes to melt the chocolate (you can cover the pan with a baking sheet to help the chocolate melt faster). Once the chocolate is melted, spread it in an even layer. Let the chocolate set, then break into pieces.
2b. If youre using the nuts: Toast the nuts, either in a dry pan on the stovetop, or in a 350F oven for oven for 6-8 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool slightly, then finely chop them. Right after spreading the toffee in the prepared pan, sprinkle the chocolate on top and let it sit for a couple minutes to melt the chocolate (you can cover the pan with a baking sheet to help the chocolate melt faster). Once the chocolate is melted, spread it in an even layer, then sprinkle with the chopped nuts, pressing lightly. Let the chocolate set, then break into pieces.