Best Toffee

In a county full of franchise shopping-mall chocolate shops, the Chocolate Soldier stands out as a mom-and-pop shop, hand-making such treats as caramel-and-nut turtles and chocolate-covered “honeycomb”—the crisp, hard, caramel foam confection Brits might know as a Cadbury Crunchie bar, but here, it's done infinitely better. Among the specialties offered are the almond toffee—dare we say it's the best anywhere? What makes this toffee great are the dynamically balanced textures and flavors. Most toffees have a candy layer that's cloying, not cooked dark enough to shed the sugar sweetness. Here, the sugar is cooked until it takes on just enough of a bitter, burned-sugar edge to balance the sweetness of the chocolate that enrobes it. Most toffees are too thick, dangerous to bite into without risk of breaking teeth. Here, the candy core is then spread to an ideally thin quarter inch, just enough to offer resistance as you crunch through the confection. Freshly toasted almonds are the third star ingredient, darkly toasted until they exude a strong nutty flavor and aggressive crunch. Small bits of almond stud the toffee core, scenting the candy with an aroma that commercial toffees lack because they don't take the time to roast the nuts just so. The candy is enrobed in either milk or dark chocolate and covered again in large chopped pieces of those freshly toasted almonds. If you time your visit right, you can watch the toffee being made in the kitchen of the tiny Laguna Beach location, or you can pick them up in the equally cramped, original Dana Point Harbor store that has been there since 1988. $

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