In the world of candy making, toffee is the pinnacle. And English toffee is rich and buttery, has a good crispy snap, and yet is somehow easy to eat. The defining factor of English toffee is the thick layer of chocolate slathered on top with a generous dusting of toasted nuts. Hungry yet?
At its base, toffee is just a mixture of butter and sugar. And even though it seems like a simple ingredient, the amount of butter makes a huge difference and is what distinguishes a toffee from a brittle. There is more butter in toffee, which is what gives it its more pliable texture when compared to brittle.
The mixture is slowly cooked together until a hard crack temperature is reached, at 290°F. The ingredients are simple but the results can vary, depending on the execution.
Over the years, I’ve had lots of problems with toffee. The process is easy – how hard could a combination of butter and sugar that’s heated to a hard crack stage really be? But on the way to this temperature, I’ve often had the mixture separate. Soon after the butter and sugar would start to boil, the butter would separate from the sugar and the result would be an oily mess. No thank you!
For years this perplexed me! Sometimes it would work and other times it wouldn’t. After trial and error, I’ve discovered there are a few things that lead to toffee failure:
- One of the major culprits can be abrupt temperature changes. A constant, even heating environment leads to the best results.
- The use of a thin saucepan as opposed to a heavy-bottom variety. Thin pans do not heat evenly and do not cook the toffee well. I know it can seem trivial to read a recipe that urges the use of a heavy-bottom saucepan, but in the case of toffee, it’s very important.
After years of trying different tricks, the best thing I’ve learned is to add corn syrup. A little corn syrup doesn’t add moisture but does help stabilize the mixture. It helps the mixture heat up evenly and cook properly. Now, every time I make English toffee, it comes out perfect as long as I follow these three steps:
- use a heavy bottom saucepan
- heat it up slowly
- add a little corn syrup
Watch how to make this English toffee:
- 1 cup salted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp corn syrup
- 6 oz dark chocolate chips
- 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Butter a 9×13 baking sheet pan. Set aside.
- Have an instant-read thermometer ready or fit saucepan with a candy thermometer.
- In a heavy-bottom four-quart saucepan, combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Over low heat, bring to a boil, stirring slowly. Continue to boil until the mixture reached 290°F. It will be a light amber color and smell like caramel and butterscotch.
- Remove from heat, add in the vanilla, and pour into the prepared baking sheet pan. Let cool for one minute and sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped nuts over the entire mixture. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit until melted, about two minutes. Spread the chocolate evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts. Let cool completely, about four hours.
- Once cooled completely, break into desired pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to one month. If in a warm climate, store in the refrigerator.