A recipe for Chocolate Almond Toffee inspired by our visit to Greater Palm Springs in California! This buttery candy is topped with chocolate, almonds, and sprinkles.
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We recently spent a long weekend in the Coachella Valley. I previously shared our time at Joshua Tree National Park and today will be covering The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, Palm Springs, and a few favorite food stops in the area.
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens
The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens is located at 47900 Portola Avenue in Palm Desert, California. It is about 16 miles (26 kilometers) southeast of Palm Springs and 3 miles (5 kilometers) west of Indian Wells.
During our March visit, the zoo was open 8 am to 5 pm. The hours are adjusted during the summer due to the heat: 7 am to 1:30 pm at the time of this post (check the official website for current hours and ticket prices prior to arriving).
At the time of our visit, The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens was also on the reciprocal list for Los Angeles Zoo members (50% off admission).
After walking through the entrance, we turned right and started our day at the Rhino Savanna.
This new four-acre section is home to 12 African species, including two black rhinoceroses (Nia and Jaali), springbok, cape vulture, banded mongoose, and more.
The kids particularly loved watching the naked mole rats in all the different chambers.
These hairless rodents from Eastern Africa live in colonies exclusively in subterranean burrows. They actually hold the record for longest living rodent with an up to 32 year lifespan.
The timing of our trip was absolutely perfect, because Cole the baby giraffe (calf) was born just three weeks before our visit on February 21. She came over the hill and walked in front of us as we were waiting in line to feed the giraffes.
The Giraffe feedings opened an hour after the park opening and we got in line a few minutes prior. It was such a memorable experience.
You can also get a closer opportunity with the animals in the Petting Kraal. The kids especially loved grooming the goats.
In addition to seeing Cole the baby giraffe, we also got to see the new baby meerkat (pup)!
The pup was born around February 11th and was the first one born at the zoo in 22 years. They emerge from their underground burrows around 2-3 weeks after birth.
While walking along the African Safari path, we also saw the Cheetah, Dromedary Camel, Fennec Fox, African Wild Dog, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, and Cape Porcupine.
Model Train Exhibit
To the left of the entrance is the Model Train Exhibit. This G-scale model train includes 3,300 feet of track across 3/4 of an acre.
Along with the trains, the kids also enjoyed the Endangered Species Carousel. Open from October to May, this carousel features many of the animals found within the park.
We stopped by Kookaburra Cafe just outside of Australian Adventures for lunch. With indoor and outdoor seating, this cafe was a relaxing spot to take a break with a variety of sandwiches, salads, kid’s meals, and drinks.
We tried the Brisbane Sandwich (turkey, pepperoni, salami, pepper jack cheese, Italian herb aioli, lettuce, and tomato), Aussie Club (herb marinated chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato), and kid’s grape uncrustable meal.
Australian Adventures is an immersive exhibit with Bennett’s Wallabies among the guests with no barriers.
Within the area, you may also see the Laughing Kookaburra (photo above), Bettong, Centralian Carpet Python, Emu, Budgerigar, Short Beaked Echidna, Frill-Neck Lizard, and Yellow-Footed Wallaby (photo below).
The zoo is not only home to animals, but beautiful desert gardens as well. Throughout the park, there are a variety of North American desert ecosystems.
From October to May, they also open trails for varying skill levels across their 1,200 acre Sonoran Desert nature preserve.
Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation Center
The Tennity Wildlife Hospital & Conservation Center offers a behind the scenes view of the treatment areas for the animals.
There were guides on-site available to talk about the different sections of the facility and animal care.
A highlight for Evan was the North American Reptiles building. There were many different species of rattlesnakes and other desert reptiles, including his favorite- the Gila Monster.
We finished our day with a loop around the Wild Americas. A few notable animals in this area include the Island Fox, Coyote, Jaguar, Mountain Lion, Bald Eagle, Golden Eagle, Prairie Dog, Mexican Wolf, and Bobcat.
We spent about 6 hours at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. This was the perfect amount of time to see everything at a leisurely pace and eat lunch. Allow for at least 2-3 hours.
Parking in the lot is free. The wide paved paths throughout the park is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. Rentals of strollers, wheelchairs, and electric scooters are available at the entrance on a first come, first served basis.
For those with Sensory Processing Needs, the park also offers rentals of sensory bags, weighted lap pads, and incredibly helpful sensory maps with notes on the more crowded loud areas and guidance to more calm, quiet locations.
Bring sunscreen, hats, water, and layers throughout the year. In March, the high was still 90s˚F (30s˚C) with minimal shade.
A favorite food stop during our weekend was Alps Village at 77734 Country Club Dr F in Palm Desert for dinner.
The menu features quite the delicious range of German, Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian specialties along with European beers and signature cocktails.
We ordered the Octoberfest Pretzel, Alps Kasspatzln (baked Spätzle with onions and melted cheese), Ćevapčići (skinless sausages with ripped potatoes, bread, and kajmak), and Pork Jägerschnitzel with Spätzle.
Chad also had the Alps Sampler with lager, Pilsner, dark lager and wheat while I enjoyed the German Chocolate Cake Martini.
We spent one afternoon taking a short walk around Downtown Palm Springs.
Palm Springs is on the western edge of the Coachella Valley in Riverside County. It is about 120 miles (193 kilometers) east of LAX and 140 miles (225 kilometers) northeast of San Diego.
We found street parking off of E Amado Drive next to Wabi Sabi Japan Living and spent a couple hours walking up and down Palm Canyon Drive.
Our first stop was Gelato Granucci at 301 N Palm Canyon Dr Suite 104. They feature a variety of artisanal gelato made on-site along with pops, cannoli, Gelato cakes, granita, and vegan options.
It was definitely the perfect spot to cool off during a hot afternoon with a few outdoor shaded chairs.
We tried scoops of the Vanilla, Chocolate, and Joshua Tree Coffee Gelato (so good!) along with a refreshing Mango Granita.
I picked up toffee and popcorn from Brandini Toffee to take home.
Brandini Toffee at 132 S Palm Canyon Drive is a family owned candy shop featuring small batch almond toffee bites in a variety of sizes, popcorn, ice cream, and gift boxes perfect for sharing. They have additional locations in Rancho Mirage, Desert Hills, and Westfield Century City in LA.
The Almond Toffee Bites didn’t actually make it home and I kept thinking I should have gotten a larger tin!
I featured a recipe for the Date Shake following our visit to Joshua Tree National Park and this Date Walnut Shake from Great Shakes was definitely part of the inspiration.
Great Shakes at 160 S Palm Canyon Drive A has a variety of gourmet shakes, malts, floats, and fruit infusions.
All of their shakes and malts are served topped with homemade whipped cream or toasted marshmallows and a baked mini cake donut around the straw.
Wabi Sabi Japan Living
We just happened to come across Wabi Sabi Japan Living while looking for parking and it was such a fun surprise!
Located at 300 N Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, this small shop is packed with an incredible variety of dinnerware, knives, cookware, pottery, chopsticks, jewelry, hair accessories, snacks, pantry staples, and more. They also have Sake tasting on the patio.
We finished our time in the Coachella Valley with a stop at RM Coffee after checking out of the hotel.
This locally owned coffee and pastry shop at 70020 Highway 111 Suite B was perfect for a quick stop before heading back to Los Angeles.
We tried the Hazelnut Latte, Drip Coffee, and croissants. All were delicious.
Chocolate Almond Toffee
After trying the fantastic toffee at Brandini Toffee, I wanted to attempt to make it at home. It was such a fun project!
For my version of Chocolate Almond Toffee, butter, sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt are simmered on the stove while stirring until the mixture reaches a temperature of 295-300˚F (146-149˚C).
Baking soda and vanilla extract are mixed in, then the toffee is immediately poured across a 9×13 inch (23×33 centimeter) rimmed baking sheet in an even layer.
After a couple of minutes, sprinkle the chocolate chips or chopped chocolate over the top. Allow to sit a couple more minutes to melt, then use a spatula to spread the chocolate in a thin, even layer over the toffee.
Add toasted, chopped almonds over the top and, if desired, a few sprinkles for fun.
Once set and completely cooled, store the toffee in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to a week or two. If your kitchen is humid or hot, keep the Chocolate Almond Toffee in the refrigerator.
A Few Chocolate Almond Toffee Tips
Toasting the almonds is optional, but helps add even more flavor.
To toast the almonds, preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake just until lightly golden and fragrant, about 7-10 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature and finely chop before sprinkling over the top of the toffee.
A candy thermometer is best when creating this recipe. The temperature needs to be fairly exact to get the right texture and consistency. I used a Stainless Steel Candy Thermometer attached to the side of the pot.
Stir the toffee constantly, gently and evenly, as it heats. Cook until the temperature reaches the hard crack stage, about 295-300˚F(146-149˚C). Do not let the heat get any higher than 310˚F (154˚C).
Use a heavy-bottomed, large saucepan. This will help regulate the temperature and give the toffee enough room to bubble up a bit, especially when you add the baking soda and vanilla.
I used semisweet chocolate chunks for the topping. Feel free to swap for dark or milk chocolate based on personal preference. Loosely cover the baking sheet with a tented piece of foil (to keep the top from touching the chocolate directly). This will help the chocolate melt.
Chocolate Almond Toffee Recipe
Adapted from Browned Butter Blondie
Chocolate Almond Toffee
- 2 cups (454 grams) unsalted butter
- 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) water
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 ounces (170 grams) chocolate chopped or chips
- 1 cup (100 grams) almonds toasted and finely chopped
- Sprinkles optional, for garnish
- Line a 9×13 inch (23×33 centimeter) rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
- In a large pot, place the butter, sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt over medium low heat.
- Cook, stirring often- especially the bottom and sides, until the butter melts and the temperature reaches 295-300˚F (146-149˚C).
- Remove the mixture from heat and immediately stir in the vanilla and baking soda.
- Pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Allow to rest for 2 minutes.
- Evenly sprinkle the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the toffee and cover with a tented piece of foil. Allow to rest for another 2 minutes until starting to melt.
- Use a spatula to carefully and evenly spread the melted chocolate over the toffee.
- Sprinkle evenly with the chopped almonds and sprinkles if desired.
- Chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator or overnight at room temperature (in low humidity) until set, then break into pieces to serve.