I have a confession to make. I’ve been holding out on you. I should be ashamed. It took me more than a year from my first blog post to actually share this recipe. Sure, there are quite a few toffee recipes available online anyway. But none of those are the one I’ve been making since I was old enough to reach a countertop. None of those are the recipe I attempted to make as a teenager only to get distracted, fail to stir the pot often enough, burn the toffee, and get a good screaming-at from my mother for wasting ingredients, among my other then-apparent inadequacies.
And none of those were recipes that, despite such a traumatic experience, I continued to make again and again as I grew older, feeling inspired to become a life-long homemade candy gift-giver for holidays. In other words, this ain’t no Hershey’s Skor toffee bar, people. This is the good stuff.
And as far as good homemade candy goes, this is not rocket science. Yes, you will need a candy thermometer, but hopefully you’ve already purchase one to take advantage of my killer caramel recipe. As much as a candy thermometer might lead many of you to think “ooh, this is complicated,” it’s really not. Especially not with that trustworthy tool by your side.
For those less inclined towards baking and candymaking, befriend your candy thermometer … and make sure it is a candy thermometer, not a plain old meat thermometer, because you’ll need it to survive up to 300F for this particular recipe. But do feel satisfied in knowing that your candy thermometer can also be used to test the temperature of meats and just about everything else. It’s multifunctional like that.
Now that we’ve addressed the importance and helpfulness of the candy thermometer, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, goes into making toffee. But first, just as in the caramel recipe, you’ll want to prep and set out all your ingredients and equipment before you get started because, while candy starts off at a reasonable pace, it really picks up the speed at the end; you need to be prepared.
Making toffee basically involves melting some butter on very low heat with an equal amount of sugar and a little water. Once melted, you crank up the heat, bring the sugary, buttery mixture to a boil, then stir very frequently while you continue to boil the heck out of it until your arm is ready to fall off from stirring and, more crucially, the mixture reaches hard crack stage (i.e. 300F). Yes, hard crack means what it says: the toffee will NOT be the right texture unless you bring it all the way to 300F.
Once it reaches that temperature, quickly stir in a little vanilla, and immediately pour the hot, liquid candy onto a baking sheet (preferably one with edges so the candy doesn’t accidentally spread off the pan). Spread the candy around with a spatula so that it forms a thin, even layer about 1/4-inch thick. Then do some dishes while you wait 5 minutes. Now, sprinkle with chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate); do some more dishes; spread the melting chocolate in an even layer on top of the hardened toffee; sprinkle with chopped pistachios; cool in the fridge; break it into appropriately-sized chards for serving. And there you have it: homemade toffee.
Not incredibly difficult, but very impressive, tasty, and easy to load into gift bags for Christmas, serve on a dessert plate after enjoying Super Bowl-worthy one-pot chili, or share with a beloved spouse, partner, or friend this Valentine’s Day. Or any other day, if you truly appreciate them; they won’t complain, I’m sure.
Toffee Topped with Bittersweet Chocolate and Pistachios
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 to 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. finely chopped pistachios (or almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.), preferably toasted; but pistachios turn a bit brown when you do that, so if you want a festive green, avoid the toasting
In saucepan over low heat, melt room temperature butter with the sugar and water.
Once butter is completely melted, increase heat to medium-high, and stir the mixture constantly.
Remove pan from the heat once the mixture reaches 300°F (hard crack). Immediately stir in the vanilla extract, and pour the mixture onto a sheet pan. With a spatula, spread mixture into rectangular shape as the toffee hardens (toffee should be 1/4-inch thick or a little thinner, depending how you prefer it).
After toffee cools for 5 minutes but while toffee is still hot, sprinkle with chocolate chips. Once chips are mostly softened (after about 2 minutes), use a spatula to spread the chocolate evenly across the surface of the toffee. Sprinkle the chocolate surface with chopped nuts.
Let the toffee cool for 20 minutes until pan returns to room temperature. Then put pan in refrigerator and allow toffee to set for at least 30 minutes.
Remove toffee from refrigerator. Break into pieces, and store in refrigerated, airtight container for up to a week.