I met my BFF while we were in college in Montreal. For a period, we were inseparable. We could spend seven hours a day in school, enjoy a fishbowl margarita over happy hour at some pub on the way home, and then phone each other and talk for longer still. I remember we would watch the best TV show at the time, Twin Peaks, and call each other every single commercial break and discuss: ‘oh-my-god-can-you-believe-what-just-happened?-I-can’t-believe-she-did-that!-okay-it-started-again-call-you-back-later.’ Seriously. It was amazing.
So he lives in New York now and I live in Toronto. He travels a lot for work and he loves sending me little packages gathered from locations like Paris, London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Popular items are sticky notes from Muji (no storefront yet in Toronto) and unfamiliar confections in cryptic packaging. They’re always much appreciated and treasured.
When I can, I like to return the favour. Unfortunately, with New York as his hometown and a job that takes him around the world, it’s difficult finding something unique or special. He does have one weakness, though, and it’s for something that you can only find in Canada: Laura Secord’s Buttercrunch toffee.
Laura Secord is a Canadian chocolate shop named, ironically, after an American-born war heroine ingrained in Canadian folklore. They have 190 shops across Canada and none on U.S. soil.
The image above is taken from the Laura Secord website and pretty much tells you all you need to know about it. It’s crunchy and chocolaty and nutty and buttery and perfect. I try to send him a box of it once and again. My neighbourhood store didn’t always carry it when I wanted to send him some. But how about actually making the stuff? This, of course, was a challenge I could not resist; if it was so simple and basic, how hard would it be to recreate? I mean, home-made should beat store-bought any day, right?
Unfortunately, and despite all of my culinary savvy and daring-do, candy is my Achilles’ heel. Anything, actually, that involves a certain amount of alchemy to occur at a precise temperature has defeated me too many times to count. Even jams tend to alarm me and, never one to trust “the set”, I often dump a crap-load of pectin in the pot to absolutely guarantee I won’t end up with jars of strawberry soup. Go figure. And it was because of this handicap that I wasn’t keen on tackling such a seemingly simple treat.
Then wouldn’t you know: hair stylist to the rescue. My friend, Mark, who works so hard to make my hair look its best had also trained as a chef and is a fellow foodie. And every Christmas, he delights his loyal customers with a satchel of the most delicious version of buttercrunch toffee that I’ve had. Yum and yum. I finally worked up the courage to ask him for the recipe and he passed it along without hesitation.
The recipe is from the cookbook Spago Chocolate, written by the pastry chef at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurant and certainly has a life of its own in the virtual world. I apologize for cluttering up the blogosphere with it but couldn’t resist because it was actually a success for me. I was loyal to the recipe but added some tips in italics throughout. Trust them. No shortcuts. It will make your life (at least for the duration of this recipe) that much easier.
And the verdict? I didn’t bother coating both sides of the toffee like Laura Secord does, but I rationalized that as a calorie-saving measure. Even still, it was scrumptious. And I liked knowing exactly what went into it. Funnily, we preferred it straight from the freezer…so even that one step towards self-control went out the window. But it’s not like I’ll be making it every week, right? Although the holidays are nearly upon us. And it’s nice to have a sweet little treat handy for an unexpected guest. Oh, and I do have that block of Callebaut chocolate waiting to be used up. And don’t I have some more almonds…?
For the recipe, read on… Read the rest of this entry →