One thing I absolutely love to do around the holidays is make candy. When I say I love making it, I mean I love that once it's made, I have homemade candy to eat.
A must around this house is English Toffee, and as of last year, Idle Isle Nut Balls. Idle Isle is a small restaurant and candy store (now two separate buildings) that have been here in Brigham City for 90 years. Their Nut Balls are a toffee-flavored creme center that is dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed, toasted almonds. I'm sure the hate mail will soon be rolling in after what I am about to say, but Idle Isle Nut Balls don't really do much for me. Their creme centers are very sweet (too sweet for me) and don't have a lot of toffee flavor. I love the concept of the candy, however, so I began a quest to create my own Nut Balls. My sister came across a recipe last year which we used, and enjoyed very much. To my dismay, I was unable to find my copy of the recipe this year (she had given her copy to my father) and we couldn't find it online anywhere. In my search, I came across a recipe on this blog called McEwen and McEwen. The recipe has all the key factors to re-creating Idle Isle Nut Balls except one particular flavor I believe Idle Isle uses in their creme center, rum extract. So, I set to work making the creme filling, testing for flavor as I went. After the filling had time to chill sufficiently in the fridge, I tasted again; perfection! The filling set perfectly and had just the right amount of flavor, without being over-the-top sweet.Rachel's (at McEwen and McEwen) recipes on her blog read as more of a novel, so I have typed the recipe in standard format for you. I would encourage you to visit her blog though, because she has a great sense of humor and it's a lot of fun reading her posts. With that, I leave you to enjoy your holiday season as much as I plan to enjoy mine!
English Butter Toffee
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1 cup sugar
6 oz. (1 ¼ cups) semi- sweet and/or milk chocolate chips
1 T. light corn syrup
1 T. light corn syrup
¾ cup sliced almonds, toasted & divided
3 T. water
3 T. water
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a large, heavy 4 ½-quart saucepan combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and water. Heat over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon until butter melts. Cover and heat to boiling over medium high heat; boil 1 minute. Remove cover, place candy thermometer in pan and cook over medium high heat until syrup reaches 290-300 degrees F (candy should be a caramel brown color), stirring often after mixture reaches 250 degrees F. to prevent scorching. If mixture begins to darken at sides of pan, reduce heat to medium to prevent candy from taking on a burnt taste. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and half cup almonds.
Working quickly, pour toffee onto prepared parchment-lined pan. Spread out until candy is evenly distributed, about ¼-inch thick. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. As chips begin to melt, spread melted chocolate evenly over toffee. Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup almonds on top. Let cool until chocolate sets. Break up toffee with the point of a sharp knife. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Yield: about 1 pound.
Note: The chocolate will become white and powdery after a few days, so if making for a gift it is best to make and give the same day.
Alternatively, sometime you can find Ghiradelli candy-making chocolate bars at Sam’s Club and other stores around the holidays. This chocolate is designed to keep well without turning white and powdery. Just melt a portion of the chocolate and spread over toffee.
Not Idle Isle Nut Balls
1 lb. light brown sugar
6 Tbsp. milk
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. corn syrup
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract (or more, or less, depending on your tastes)
1/8 tsp. almond extract (or more, or less, depending on your tastes)
1 tsp. rum extract (or more, or less, depending on your tastes)
2 lb. powdered sugar
approx. 2 lb. Ghiradelli Melting Chocolate
1 lb. whole almonds, toasted and crushed (I pulsed the nuts in my food processor)
Place brown sugar and milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until sugar begins to dissolve; add butter and corn syrup and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil about 80 seconds. Remove from heat; stir in sweetened, condensed milk and extracts. Pour sauce into the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly beat in powdered sugar. Once all the powdered sugar has been incorporated, turn up the speed on the mixer and beat until smooth and slightly cooled (about 2 minutes). The mixture will be slightly runny at this point. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 3 hours.
Remove from the fridge and beat until fluffy (mixture should be the consistency of very stiff cookie dough). Using a small cookie scoop, scoop mounds of mixture onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Using your hands, roll mounds into round balls. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 4 hours or over-night.
Melt half the chocolate in a deep bowl, let cool about 20 minutes. Place the toasted almonds in a shallow bowl. Prepare a cookie sheet with fresh parchment paper.
Working in small batches so the centers remain frozen, dip the balls in melted chocolate (I use chopsticks for this part. Just stick the sharp end of the chopstick halfway into the creme center. Once the candy is coated with nuts, it should slide nicely off the chopstick), then roll in nuts and place on cookie sheet.
Continue the process, melting additional chocolate as needed.Yields: 85 Nut Balls