This was a fun experiment. Mom and I set up identical stations at the stove over Thanksgiving weekend this year to see what effect adding a bit of water to the butter-sugar boil would have on toffee. We set a ‘control’ toffee without adding any water, and one where we added a 1/4 cup, per the advice of Mom’s cousin Heather. It turns out that adding a little water to the boiling process of candy making allows for the same snappy crunch, but it is easier on the teeth. (Heather wins!) This will be our second year making English Toffee in our Christmas Cookie lineup, and it is sure to be just as big a hit as last year. -C
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 t. salt
1 cup chopped, toasted almonds*, divided into two 1/2 cup portions
1 cup chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1. Set up a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, such as Silpat. Measure out the nuts and chocolate chips ahead of time. This recipe is very easy but there is no time for stopping to measure ingredients between steps. Don’t forget the candy thermometer!
2. Melt the butter, sugar, water, and salt together in a saucepan over medium heat. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, the mixture will begin to boil and come away from the sides of the pan, slowly deepening in color.
3. When the mixture has reached 300 to 310 degrees F, turn off the heat and quickly stir in 1/2 cup of the almonds. At this point, the hot toffee lava will behave like oobleck (cornstarch & water). Immediately pour it onto the clean silicone mat and spread it out to about a 1/4 inch thickness. The overall shape doesn’t matter.
4. Once the mixture is spread out, sprinkle the chocolate chips in a single layer over the toffee lava and wait 60 seconds.
5. After a minute, the chocolate chips will melt enough to spread into a thin layer over top of the toffee. Sprinkle the top of the melted chocolate with the other 1/2 cup of almonds. Put in the refrigerator or a cool place and allow it to fully harden.
6. Cut or break into pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to two weeks.
The water in this recipe is fundamentally unnecessary, but adding it and bringing the butter-sugar mixture to 300-310 degrees F (hard crack candy stage) allows the toffee to retain its signature crunch, but makes it a little easier on the teeth, and more enjoyable to eat.
Use the ‘good’ chocolate for this recipe. Other variations allow for the cooled toffee to be flipped over and another cup of melted chocolate be spread on the other side, but we like the simplicity of one sided chocolate, and have found the second reverse layer doesn’t stick to the toffee as well. *Walnuts, hazelnuts, and pecans also work well with toffee. To toast the nuts, chop and toss on a sauté pan over medium heat until you can start to smell the nuttiness, or toast in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 5 minutes.
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