Buttery, crunchy, goodness topped with chocolate and nuts. What’s not to love? Not much, in my mind, even without the chocolate. Toffee is an excellent example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Greater, delicious-er, abundantly gift-worthy and not too difficult to master.
The hardest part about candy making is having a good recipe. I’ve completely given up on those that rely on timing, because they never come out right for me. There are too many variables – do you have the same size pan as the recipe writer? Does it conduct heat the same way? Do you have the heat at exactly the same level? Just too many ways too mess it up a tiny bit, but in candy making, that tiny bit can make all the difference between fondant and hard candy. Ask me how I know.
So, now I always look for candy recipes that rely on temperature, because that is quantifiable and replicate-able, independent of the variables of each kitchen. Very science-y.
That is, as long as you have a good, reliable thermometer.
After trial and error and tears and sadness, I settled upon the one kind that, in my experience, seems to be the most reliable. Here’s a picture of mine:
Note that the glass is entirely sealed. One of those that made me cry was glass, except for the top, which was a plastic cap. This one used to have a wooden knob on the clip, as a handle, but my thermometer has served me for many years now, and at some point, that broke off. It was handy, but not required to the functionality.
Since success in candymaking is a mattter of degrees, it’s essential to know that your thermometer is going to give you an accurate reading. No matter what kind of thermometer you settle upon, you should calibrate it, to verify that it does give you an accurate reading. It’s not hard to do, requiring just a pot of boiling water and a few minutes.
Water boils at 212°F at sea level. At higher elevations, the boiling point is lower, due to the changes in air pressure, but at all elevations, changes in atmospheric conditions (weather) can cause a change of a few degrees in the temperature at which anything will come to a boil. To avoid wasting money spent on ingredients in a failed recipe, take a few minutes to calibrate your thermometer before starting your day’s candy making.
How to Calibrate a Candy Thermometer
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and insert the thermometer. Most candy thermometers have a clip of some sort. Clip it to the side of the pot so that it does not rest on the bottom, because that will not give you an accurate reading of the water temperature. Leave it in for a few minutes, then read the temperature. If the water is boiling at a temperature different than 212°F degrees, adjust the temperature in your recipe accordingly.
For example: the water boiled at 208°F degrees. 212°F – 208°F = 4°F, so if your recipe requires cooking to 300, you should adjust it down by four degrees to 296°F, for that day. (If the weather changes significantly that day, it may be wise to check it again.)
Oh, one more tip on candymaking. If it’s a recipe that requires cooking to a certain temperature, like this one does, follow the instructions AND the list of ingredients precisely. If you think you can wing it, I’ve saved you the trouble of testing that theory, because I’m a wing-it kind of cook. Trust me, don’t do it. Just…don’t. So, when the recipe says to use butter, then use butter. And by butter, I mean NOT margarine. NOT “lite” butter. Sugar means granulated white sugar. Not Splenda, not sucanat, or any other kind of sugar or sweetening substance. Substitutions will cause failure because the recipe was not formulated to work with it. Okay, let’s do science.
: Crunchy Nut Toffee Recipe
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts of your choice, toasted if desired
- 1 cup butter
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 tablespoons water
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup very finely chopped nuts (for topping)
- Have an ungreased baking sheet or 13x9x2 pan ready.
- Melt butter over low heat in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Add sugar, corn syrup and water, stirring to combine, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a metal spoon, until mixture comes to a boil.
- Clip thermometer to side of pan, ensuring it does not touch the bottom, to avoid a false reading.
- Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 300°F. Stirring is important to keep the temperature increasing evenly.
- The candy mixture will go through several color changes with the rise in temperature, from a pale yellow, to golden, and finally to the rich brown of caramels.
- Once the temperature gets to 275°F, pay very close attention, since it can rise VERY quickly from there to 300°F and higher. Remove from heat and immediately stir in nuts.
- Pour onto waiting pan, scraping with a silicone spatula, and spreading it evenly in pan. You needn’t spread it out to the edges – keep it the thickness you prefer. Cool completely. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler, and spread on the cooled candy. Sprinkle evenly with finely chopped nuts. Chill in refrigerator to set the chocolate. Turn out of pan onto waxed paper. If desired, spread addtional melted chocolate and nuts on the other side. Once cool and chocolate is set, break into bite-sized pieces.
Number of servings (yield): 12
Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer and Avoider of Shopping (Whenever Possible) who lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If you have a question you’d like Bobbie to answer, send it to her: Bobbie@home-ec101.com