Spread 1/2 cup of the toasted almonds (see Sugar Mommas Notes) in a single layer across an ungreased 15 1/2 by 12-inch rimmed baking sheet. Next, spread 2 cups of the chocolate chips evenly across the sheet and set aside until the toffee is prepared. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sugar and water. Continue to stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a soft boil and continue cooking, stirring only occasionally, until the mixture has a peanut butter color and a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees F (about 25 minutes). This is the hard-crack stage when syrup dropped into ice water will separate into threads that will break immediately when bent. Remove the mixture from the heat and add the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the remaining almonds. Stir well to combine. Carefully pour the toffee on the baking sheet over the nuts and chocolate. Cool for 5 to 10 minutes, until the candy begins to set. Sprinkle the remaining 2 cups chocolate chips over the toffee. Use a knife or an angled spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee as it begins to melt. Spread the remaining 1 cup almonds over the chocolate. Place the baking sheet in a cool, dry place to set overnight. Use a knife to break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Do not attempt to make Seaside Toffee in humid weather, as it will not set up. For the perfect consistency, make this candy in dry, cold weather. To chop almonds, place them in a food processor and pulse until the nuts are the desired size. To toast almonds, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350 degrees F for 5 to 10 minutes, until the nuts are slightly browned. Modern variation: Make English Toffee Topping for everyone on your holiday list. After breaking the toffee into pieces, keep the leftover bits¿they're a perfect ice-cream topping¿and store them in a glass jar covered in holiday fabric. Tie with a decorative ribbon, attach a 3 by 5 handmade card, and voila!
Submitted by Jill Stuart. Reprinted with permission from Sugar, Sugar: Every Recipe Has a Story, by Kimberly "Momma" Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero, copyright (c) 2011. Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing.