English Toffee

P1000543This is one of my most treasured recipes and one that always draws raves from those who get this candy as a Christmas gift. I’ve been making toffee every holiday season for over 20 years; it’s easy, fun, and outrageously good. I challenge anyone to come up with a better candy.

Although the basic recipe has remained unchanged, I have improved upon it by adding a bit of corn syrup because it guarantees that there won’t be any sugar crystallization. When crystallization takes place, candy turns grainy and sugary, rather than clear and smooth. The whole batch is ruined as a result. Corn syrup does the trick, and you only need a tiny amount of it to prevent crystallization.

I pour my boiling toffee onto a baking sheet, but only use half the sheet. This gives the toffee the desired thickness, and it gives me room to insert a spatula underneath the slab of toffee to flip it over when I want to coat the underneath with chocolate and nuts. It’s a bit of an unconventional technique, but after years of experimenting, I have found that it works beautifully. Have fun making this toffee; I guarantee you’ll get hooked.

Makes about 2 pounds

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 cup very finely ground almonds, divided
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
8 ounces (1 1/3 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Lightly butter half of a large 17 x 12 baking sheet (the area then measures 8 1/2 X 12). Measure 1/2 cup of the ground almonds and place near the stove.

2.  Combine the butter, sugar, water, and corn syrup in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet (cast iron is good) and place over medium heat.  Using a whisk, stir the mixture and bring to a boil. Boil exactly 5 minutes (start timing once it starts boiling), whisking occasionally, but not constantly.

P1000526

Now here comes the tricky part: After 5 minutes, the toffee cooks very quickly, so be attentive. You want to cook it about 1 minute more (6 minutes total), but this will depend on the color. The toffee is done when it is a caramel color – not as light as camel hair, and definitely not as dark as cinnamon.

3.  Immediately sprinkle in the reserved 1/2 cup ground almonds and stir to blend. Very quickly pour the toffee onto the buttered part of the baking sheet and, using a rubber spatula, shape it so it fills half the pan. Let rest 1 minute or so.

P10005314. Sprinkle half the chocolate chips onto the top of the toffee slab. Wait 5 minutes or so for them to soften, then spread the chocolate all over the surface (an offset spatula works well), going right to the corners and edges. Sprinkle on about half of the remaining ground nuts to cover the chocolate. Let the toffee cool until he chocolate hardens, a few hours.

P1000536

5.  Take the remaining chocolate chips and place them in a small saucepan. Over medium-low heat, melt them only halfway. (This prevents the chocolate from overheating.)Remove the pan from the heat and stir the chocolate until it is evenly melted.

6. Using metal spatula, flip the slab of toffee over so the underside is on top. It’s okay if the slab breaks when you do this. With a pastry brush spread the melted chocolate all over this side of the toffee. Sprinkle on the remaining nuts. Let the toffee cool again until the chocolate hardens.You can refrigerate it at this point to speed things up.When the chocolate is hard, break the toffee into pieces about 1 1/2 inches square.