Sunday, December 20, 2009

English Toffee for Christmas

Everyone's trying to save money this Christmas, and I'm no different. One of the things I decided to do this year was to make a lot of my Christmas gifts for other people, and the first thing I tried my hand at was a batch of English toffee. I've never made candy before, so this was a new experience for me.

I basically followed this recipe to the letter and it came out great. The only trick for me is that I stupidly didn't have a candy thermometer, so I was kind of winging it when it came to the final temperature. This isn't something I recommend at all, but it thankfully worked for me.

English Toffee Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter - I used unsalted sweet cream butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp water
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used half a bag of 60% Ghirardelli chips)
1/2 cup chopped almonds (half a bag)


Before you get started, lay out a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or cutting board. You want to have this ready to go before you start cooking the toffee.

Start the toffee by melting the butter over a very low heat along with the water in a good-sized saucepan or heavy-bottomed pot. Once the butter has started to melt a bit, pour in the sugar, salt and vanilla. Start stirring.

Keep stirring.

Seriously, keep stirring. This is your job now, to stir. Once the butter has melted and everything is evenly combined, turn the heat up to between medium and high. Keep stirring. The mixture will foam up and take up a lot more volume. Keep stirring. Eventually, the mixture will start to congeal a bit and you'll notice it pulling away from the wall of the pot while you stir. This is a good thing.

At this point, if you have a candy thermometer, use it. You're going to keep stirring until all the water has evaporated and the volume of the mixture collapses. You want to keep cooking it until it reaches 300 degrees, then remove it from the heat.

If you don't have a candy thermometer, like I did, pay close attention. I waited until the color of the mixture started to turn a caramel color, and then pulled it from the heat. In the picture above, you can see that the mixture has taken on the look of a brain. That's right before it was done.

Now, I made two batches. The first, I waited a little longer than the second, getting much more color in the toffee. I preferred the texture of the second batch, so I recommend doing a few final stirs then pulling it off the heat very quickly after you start to see the caramel color. But if you're going to do this, get a candy thermometer so there's no guess work. I'll be getting one for my next batch.

Once you pull the toffee from the range, bring it over to your parchment paper and pour it out with the help of a spatula. Quickly spread the toffee evenly over the parchment. Be patient, but don't dilly dally, as the toffee will start to harden pretty quickly.

Once it's all spread out, quickly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee. In about ten seconds, the chocolate will begin to melt and you can very easily spread it around on top.

After the chocolate is evenly spread, sprinkle the almonds about liberally. Let the toffee sit for a few minutes to harden further, then put it in the fridge to cool completely.

It won't take long for the toffee to cool, but I gave it a good hour to be sure. Pull it out of the fridge and snap it into fun-sized pieces. All done.

This recipe turned out to be extremely easy, even with and stress of worrying about when it was actually done. With a candy thermometer removing the guesswork, it would be even easier, and it's the kind of thing you can make quickly that will really impress people. At least, I hope. No one's eaten any of mine yet.


Garrett said...

Any idea how this would work using raw sugar instead of granulated? Also could you melt the chocolate on the stove while making the toffee and poor it over the top at the end for similar results?

Brian said...

I am soooo the wrong person to ask, as this is the first time I've ever made any kind of candy ever!

I'm pretty sure melting the chocolate first would work just fine. I can't see how it would cause any problems.

As for raw sugar, I really don't know. Best way to find out? Try it!

Anonymous said...

raw sugar is not very good for candy - it has lots of little impurities in it which interfere with crystallization.

Anonymous said...

Your friend Katleen brought to work some of the toffee you gave her...and it's INSANELY Fantastic!! Thank you! And please don't be coy about giving her more of your crreations for her to bring over. It givces us tremendous JOY!!!

Anonymous said...

I have now used this recipe four times and, I have to say, it's great. My wife's students love it.