Nut Butter Crunch (Toffee)

Toffee ingredients
Ingredients for making toffee.

This one is easy, but you do need a candy thermometer at least the first few times. It’s is from River Road Recipes.

Parts list:

  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 Tsp. water
  • 1 Tsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 2/3 c. chopped nuts
Toffee begins quite light
Toffee begins quite light
Toffee in the lava stage
Toffee in the lava stage, around 305F degrees

Melt the butter and sugar together, add the corn syrup and water. If you used unsalted butter, a tiny pinch of salt at this point couldn’t hurt. Use a wooden spoon to stir constantly over medium (medium-high if you’re daring) heat, cook the syrup to 320F. It will “stick” around 260 and again just near 300. Keep stirring and once the relevant proteins and carbs do their thing (Maillard reactions or caramelization, respectively), the color and texture will change and you’ll be back off to the races – be extra careful between 300 and 320 – it will sneak up on you and you don’t want to overshoot by too much.

Pouring the toffee
Pouring the rocket-hot toffee
The finished toffee
The finished toffee, before coating with chocolate

Pour the lava onto a greased cookie sheet or a silpat-covered sheet pan. You’ll want to move the saucepan as you pour to spread the sugar around, then tilt the pan this way and that to get it as even and spread as possible. Let it cool thoroughly.

Melt the chocolate in your usual way (you do have a usual way, don’t you? I like a double boiler… Bittman has a great video on tempering chocolate) and spread thinly on the cooled toffee. Sprinkle with the nuts if you’re feeling like a nut. Or not, if you don’t. Let the chocolate set. Break the toffee into bite sized bits and package up for gifts or… not… if you’re hungry.

Don’t leave this sitting out. First, it will get eaten up. Second, anything left will get soft and nasty – remember this is basically sugar, so it’s crazy hygroscopic. Also, this is why I think of this as Christmas candy – it would have been nearly impossible to keep in humid Maryland summers.

Note on doubling
I sometimes make a double batch, but since it gets so foamy, you need to do this in a large dutch oven. Even if you have a big enough pot, don’t try a triple batch: you won’t have time to pour and spread the toffee onto three different pans before the last bit overcaramelizes (what we usually call “burns”).

Why corn syrup?
Yes, you need to use corn syrup because you want several kinds of sugar structures (sucrose, gulcose, fructose) in your toffee to prevent big crystals from forming. Eventually the heat will break down some of the sugars (caramelization) but you want a bit of a buffer, so just add a squeeze of corn syrup. (Now that it comes in squeezable bottles – why did that take so long?)

Finally, safety first:
Do not turn your back on this very, very hot sugar. It can boil over. If it gets on your skin, you will be burned. It takes a surprisingly long time to cool – no licking the spoon or thermometer, please. If you don’t use a silpat, put the cookie sheet on something heat-resistant (and don’t touch it for a few minutes). Really, this stuff is worse than oil – it’s just as hot as a deep fryer, but sticky. Tight-fitting long sleeves too, please. (Can you tell I’ve been burned by this stuff once or thrice?)

3 Replies to “Nut Butter Crunch (Toffee)”

  1. I make one very similar to this, a recipe from a Utah friend of ours from grad school days. We pour it out onto a large marble slab, and then sprinkle grated chocolate or choc chips onto the surface. They melt very quickly and can be easily spread on the surface!

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