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Knäck: Swedish Christmas Toffee

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One of the sure signs that Christmas is coming in Sweden is the appearance in stores of bags of brightly colored candy wrappers with knäck recipes on the back. Knäck is a toothsome toffee made from sugar, whipping cream, Swedish light syrup (you can substitute Lyle's Golden Syrup if necessary), and almonds; it can vary in density from "rock hard" to the consistency of a soft caramel, according to one's individual preference (the longer you boil the syrup, the harder the knäck becomes). The tiny candy wrappers used for knäck are produced by Wilton in the U.S. and can generally be found at stores like Michael's or JoAnn's.

Yield: 80 pieces

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup Swedish light syrup (or substitute Lyle's Golden Syrup)
  • 3 tsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
  • 80 mini (1-inch) caramel / candy wrappers

Preparation:

Method One: Stovetop Preparation:

Combine the sugar, whipping cream, light syrup, and butter in a large pot (the sides should be a least 12 inches high, since the mixture will boil up). Over low heat, bring the mixture to a low but steady boil, stirring just until the butter has melted. Stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil (again, at low heat) for 30 minutes. Place the caramel wrappers on a very lightly greased cookie sheet.

For hard knäck: At the thirty-minute point, transfer a teaspoon of the mixture to a cup of cold water. It should form a "soft ball" (alternatively, you can measure the temperature of the hot mixture with a candy thermometer - 235F° is the "soft ball" stage). If you cannot shape it into a ball, cook for an additional 5 or 10 minutes. Once it hits the "soft ball" stage, fold in the almonds, then transfer to the paper wrappers (be careful: the mixture is sticky and scalding hot).

For softer, fudge-like knäck: At the twenty- or twenty-five-minute point, transfer a teaspoon of the mixture to a cup of cold water. If it flattens itself out on the surface rather than forming a "soft ball," it's ready. Fold in the almonds, then transfer to the paper wrappers (again, be careful!: this is *not* a recipe to make when young children are underfoot).

Transfer the tray of knäck to the refrigerator and allow to cool overnight. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator until use (this makes it easier to peel the paper wrappers away from the knäck).

Method Two: Microwave Preparation:

Whisk together the sugar, whipping cream, light syrup, and butter in a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup. Place the mixture in the microwave; cook on high for 7 minutes (but check it at 5 minutes to make sure it isn't boiling over). Again, perform the "soft ball" test to see if it is ready.

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