It’s that time of year when making treats becomes a daily ritual. Here is the first of our classic treats revisited for the holiday season. Emjoy!
My childhood memories around English Toffee are varied. On a good year it would turn out perfectly with that crisp caramel brittle underneath, followed by the sweet chocolate, and topped off with the toasted nuts. Other years when the sugar would crystalize, it still tasted good but mom wasn’t quite as happy with it. When my mom officially turned the toffee guantlet over to me a few years ago, I went into research mode as I usually do with finicky food techniques. Should I use brown sugar or white sugar, salt or no salt, baking powder or no baking powder, corn syrup or no corn syrup, do I need to temper chocolate????. . .these are many of the questions that come with making your own homemade toffee. I’ve had my share of failures with this delicious treat but have finally come to a recipe that works for me every time. . .as long as I don’t lose focus. Make sure you set aside time to do nothing but make the toffee. No facebook, phone calls, or texting, just “makin the candy”.
The good news is making home made toffee isn’t difficult, it doesn’t take much time, but it wants your full attention and if you don’t give it your full attention, it will turn on you in a matter of seconds. I’ve stepped away to have my fat and sugar separate, my sugar crystalize, and my toffee burn. For details of my trials and erros and why I chose the recipe elements I did see notes at bottom of post.
(I’ve included weighable ingredient portions as well in case you have a kitchen scale. I’m addicted to mine now. . .it makes the process so much easier).
- 2 1/4 cups nut of choice toasted in 350 degree oven for about ten minutes (my favorites are almonds and pecans)
- 5.25 ounces unsalted butter (about 11 tablespoons)
- 1 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar (375 grams)
- 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons water (100 grams)
- 3 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons light corn syrup (75 grams)
- 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 cups chocolate chips (we prefer semi-sweet but milk chocolate works great too)
Measure out all your ingredients prior to beginning so you can move quickly when you need to.
Place a silicone mat on a rimmed, quarter baking sheet. In a deep, heavy bottomed sauce pan melt the butter over medium heat. Do not brown butter. It should be melted and warm but not colored or cooked at all.
Add the water, sugar, and corn syrup into butter and stir to dissolve sugar and combine. From this point don’t stir anymore. Continue cooking on high to 310 degrees (about 12 minutes). Mixture will change from a yellow color to a dark amber color. Stay close by, if it bubbles up lift pan from heat for a moment and turn heat down slightly. When sugar reaches 310 degrees add in kosher salt and baking soda and stir to combine. Mixture will bubble up. Lift from heat if necessary.
Continue cooking over high heat to 320 degrees. This will happen fast. . .only 1-2 minutes. Be careful, at 320 the toffee tastes caramalized. . .any hotter it tastes burnt. When it reaches 320 degrees remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour on prepared silicone mat. Spread to even layer with offset spatula. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes and sprinkle chocolate chips over hot toffee. Let chocolate sit for a minute until softened then spread over toffee with an offset spatula. While chocolate is still soft, sprinkle on nuts.
Put in fridge or freezer for chocolate to set. When chocolate is set, break into pieces. Serve on a platter or wrap in holiday bags or boxes for amazing home-made holiday treats or treats any time of year.
Recipe Process Pictures:
Add the baking soda and salt and Stir. Mixture will bubble up so be prepared to lift from heat if necessary. Don’t turn your back.
Continue cooking over high heat to 320 degrees. The color will be a beautiful dark caramel. Watch constantly and don’t cook past 320 degrees. Your toffee can go from crisp and delicious to burned very quickly.
This recipe is the result of many trials and errors. Here are some of my notes and tips after many batches of this treat.
1. I’ve read many articles that discussed the causes of sugar crystallization in candy making. Basically, white sugar is sucrose and when it is cooked at high temperatures it can eventually become unstable and break down and it tries to rebind itself which is when crystals form. Adding a non sucrose type of sugar can help prevent the formation of crystals as it throws different size molecules into the mix and helps prevent the sucrose molecules from binding together and forming crystals. Enter corn syrup. Corn syrup is glucose and helps prevent the crystallization of the white sugar. I know there are some purists out there who don’t want the addition of corn syrup but it helps full proof the recipe and will give you delicious smooth non grainy toffee time and time again. Let’s face it, we are not making toffee for it’s health benefits to begin with and corn syrup helps make a great finished product. If you are interested in more on the subject here’s an article that breaks down the science of sugar on the website the Science of Cooking.
2. White sugar or brown sugar. I have made it with both but had much more success with plain white sugar. I don’t know the reason behind it, there are many recipes online for toffee made with brown sugar but my anecdotal experience is that it is smoother and more brittle and crisp with white sugar. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
3. If I’m looking for that ultimately elevated toffee experience for the most refined of palates I will invest in very high end chocolate and go through the process of tempering it. It has a prettier sheen, sets faster, and has a great taste. However, this makes the process of making toffee much more expensive and time consuming and I find the investment on both points is usually not worth it. A good quality chip bought in the baking aisle of the grocery store is spreads great on the toffee and tastes delicious. You can select milk or dark, which ever you prefer. However a word of warning, candy coatings like Wilton’s (which are great for many things like the hand-dipped oreos coming soon) I have found don’t work great with toffee, it often separates from the toffee base and falls off. If your toffee and chocolate ever do separate, simply crush it into bite size pieces and use it for ice cream topping. A great way to save a batch of toffee.
4. Salt helps stop the crystallization of the sugar and makes the final product taste better. I’ve tried it with and without salt and the salt definitely adds a little something.
5. Baking soda makes the toffee lighter. Also, and I have no scientific proof for this, but I feel like it doesn’t stick to my teeth as much. LOL. . .that is purely anecdotal but I swear it’s true!!
6. Some recipes call for chopped up nuts in the actual toffee. I like my toffee to be pure with the nuts on the outside but this is a personal preference.
I hope these tips help and you will give home made toffee a go.
Happy Cooking and
Remember Take Time to
Enjoy a Little Gourmet Everyday!!