Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Toffee for December

A la my mom. (Via her friend Liz Simons from back in their married student housing days).

She's been making this since I can remember. Every year we gave it to our teachers for Christmas, wrapped up in a little tin canister. Though if it was up to my brother and I, we would have eaten every single batch on our own. It's so buttery and salty and sweet and just delicious. And it's simple as can be, once you get the timing and stirring down.

I've made this many times with my mom, but for some reason when I tried to make it myself it kept separating. Which is like the worst thing that can happen. But my failings proved an excellent teaching moment for sharing the recipe with others. Had it worked perfectly with little thought, I wouldn't have had step by step photos to share. And I wouldn't be able to tell you the key pointers for success. It's a blogland miracle!

Okay, so here we go.


1 c salted butter
1 c sugar
1 T water
chocolate (dark or milk, depending on your preference) roughly broken up or chopped
1 1/2 - 2 c chopped, toasted almonds

See? Simple. 4 ingredients.

Also, you need to prep your equipment.

2 cookie sheets lined with foil. You absolutely must do this before you start.

This recipe is extremely time sensitive, which means it's the perfect example of when to absolutely employ the time honored cooking concept of mise en place. Which translates roughly to "everything in it's place". Which translates functionally to "have everything 100% prepped and ready to go BEFORE you turn on the stove". I'm serious about this. Once the butter melts, you cannot walk away from the stove.

Another note, use the salted butter. It makes for a perfect balance of salty and sweet, plus when I tried it with unsalted I failed. Though my mom and I find it hard to believe the salt was the culprit, but just stick to the recipe and things will turn out fine. Also, on chocolate. My mom usually uses Hersheys milk chocolate bars and it's perfectly delicious. I made this batch with Green & Blacks dark chocolate. Also perfectly delicious. But I think dark chocolate melts slower than milk, so if you're going to use it, chop it into thinner chunks than shown in the photos so you're not frantically trying to get it to melt before the toffee cools.

Okay, now that we have those notes out of the way...

The recipe:

Melt butter, sugar and water in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat. At this point you can stir casually until the butter has melted. Once the mixture starts to foam a little around the edges, you are committed to stirring for the next 15 - 20 minutes. Your wrist will be sore. But don't stop.

Stir mixture continually in a figure 8 motion at a relatively fast speed. Not as fast as you can stir, but not leisurely either. This was a mistake I made with my first batch. If you stir too slowly, the candy will separate. The mixture will get nice and fluffy and start to move as one unit (you'll see what I mean). This is good. Your candy is coming together.

It's going to looking pretty much the same for a while. Don't worry. As long as the butter doesn't start to separate, you're on the right track. (If it does start to separate, stir faster. Perhaps it will come back together). The goal is keep stirring until your candy is the color of peanut butter. We don't use those new fangled candy thermometers in my family. We use the jar of peanut butter. It hasn't failed us yet. But to do this, you MUST get the peanut butter out of the cupboard and use it as a visual aid.

Once you've reached peanut butter color, turn off the heat and start moving like lightening. Poor the hot toffee onto the first cookie sheet (lined with foil, don't forget) and spread it using a spatula until it's pretty thin. 1/8 of an inch is about perfect, but there will definitely be thinner and thicker parts. Just get it done as fast as possible. One batch covers most of a standard sized cookie sheet.

Next, lay your chocolate pieces over the top of the toffee and using the spatula spread the melting pieces around until the chocolate is totally melted and the toffee is covered. Again, move as fast as you can without tearing the toffee. It will still be a little soft for the first side. The goal is to get to the other side before the toffee has cooled too much to melt the chocolate.

Then, sprinkle the chopped almonds over the entire thing.

Turn the second cookie sheet foil side down over the top of the toffee and flip the two sheets over. Now peel off the foil from the second side of the toffee and repeat the chocolate and nut process.

If you're moving fast enough, your chocolate is thin enough and you're not stopping constantly to snap photos, you should have enough heat left to melt the chocolate on this side too. But it will take a little longer. If by some chance your candy has gone cold, the hair dryer will work. But it will also spray chocolate all over your kitchen counter and everything on it.

Once you've got the second side coated, into the fridge it goes. Leave it for at least a few hours before you attempt to break it up. Overnight or all day is better.

Then break it up into lovely organic pieces and either eat yourself or pack into cute jars and give away.

I should also note that this recipe is easier if there's another person around to help out occasionally. For instance if you need to take a break from stirring or need help holding the pot of boiling candy while pouring and spreading it onto the cookie sheet. Though it is possible to go it alone.

Happy candy making!


Em said...

This looks fantastic, thanks so much for sharing. I might have to give it a try on Christmas Eve!

As a British reader, can I just check something? By C - you mean cup? and by T - tablespoon?


Anonymous said...

Oh I love it! I'd definitely going to try making this, thanks for sharing the recipe!

Amanda said...

Huzzah! I'm very excited about this one.

kristina said...

Hi Em, yes! C = cup and T= tablespoon.

I do hope you try it! it's English toffee after all. :)

In fact, I hope you all try it. It's sooo delicious. in my opinion (surprise!), the best toffee recipe I've tried.

emilyg123 said...

wonderfully written recipe! now that's what blogging is all about.

Caroline said...

Wow... your recipe is clear and fun to read!! I am going to try this, maybe as a New Year's treat!!! I love how you packaged the candy too, and your pictures are all together great!! Happy Holidays!!

Taylor said...

Of course now I want to rush home and make some! Maybe a New Years hangover activity...or maybe not (With the scalding sugar and all!)

giao said...

beautiful! your mom is brilliant. this will make for some lovely, lovely gifts.

susan yee said...

love this idea! i will have to try & make some!!

Michelle {lovely little things} said...


Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

Don't you think that Strauss milk makes everything taste better?

Cannot wait to try this! Thank you for the perfect toffee tutorial!

Anonymous said...

How much chocolate did you use? One bar for each side of the toffee?

Thank you so much for this recipe!

Eadaoin said...

wow that looks delicious!! i love the photos :)

Mandy said...

Yum! This recipe looks like a keeper!

One question though - any reason you couldn't just pour pre-melted chocolate over the top instead of spreading chunks?

Unknown said...

Wow, I couldn't resist making your toffee recipe. I seriously read your post and went straight to the kitchen to make it. Very easy and really yummy! :) I think the hardest part is letting it sit in the fridge...

kristina said...

Mel- yes, everything Strauss is better. Especially their eggnog. soooo superior to all other options.

Brittany - I used 1 1/2 big baking size bars which is about 8 oz. But if you're unsure, definitely prep more to begin with. You'll see how much you need as you go.

Mandy - hmmm. I think pre-melted chocolate would be pretty messy? Like it would ooze off the sides of the toffee and stuff. Melting on the toffee makes it a little more controlled and you can manage the amount of chocolate better. But that's just my opinion!

Lisa Marie - I'm so glad you did!

Kara said...

Loved reading this. Toffee has been my family's Christmas tradition, too. My grandmother insisted on grated Hershey bars, but in recent years I've gone with the lazy girl's version of milk chocolate chips. :)

sara said...

if i trusted myself to actually give something like this away, i would make it. Looks so good! hope you enjoyed the holiday!

Anonymous said...

I tried to make this and it kept separating. I tried twice. What possibly could I have done wrong? I was so excited to make it. Any thoughts? Thanks!

kristina said...

Hi Anonymous! I just happen to be sitting at my computer when your comment came in. Perfect timing!

I had the same problem when I made it this year. I have 2 bits of advice that seemed to make it come together.

1. Make sure the heat is high enough. Med to med-high. You're making candy so I think it has to be hot enough for the ingredients to come together.


2. Stir fast and stir constantly. The first two times I made it this year I think I stirred too slowly and it separated both times. Oh and do not walk away from the stove even for one second.

I hope it works this time!

Anonymous said...

i just made this today and it turned out great! a few mistakes here and there but the final product is sooo yummy!

i'm so glad i found this site. thanks for posting it. wish i found it earlier so i could've made it for christmas. but anyway i can't wait to make some more and share it with everyone i know. :)

www.muebles-en-valencia.es said...

Thanks so much for the post, really effective data.