I enjoy giving food gifts during the holidays. Every year I deliver at least four, and sometimes more, platters of homemade cookies and sweet breads to friends and neighbors. I also like to make goodie bags of sweet treats to put in the stockings of the male members of my family. Sometimes I make caramelized nuts, a sweet snack mix, or candy. Yes, we still hang stockings for everyone at my parents’ home – even the adults.
My father-in-law loved English toffee. For many years I made up a batch of Best Ever Butter Toffee as part of his Christmas gift. I think it brought me as much joy to watch him open it each year as it brought him to receive it. Every time I gave him this homemade candy he made out as if he was going to offer it to everyone gathered, but then he would pass it around so quickly no one had a chance of taking a piece. He wanted to save it all for himself. This always brought moans and laughter from the family as we all knew exactly what he was up to. Of course, he would then offer to pass it around again.
This will be our second Christmas without my father-in-law and I realized lately I have been missing him. I decided it was time to pull out my Best Ever Butter Toffee recipe and make a batch in his memory.
I know candy making can be a little scary for some people. It really isn’t difficult to make, but there are a few important things to know.
You will need a good candy thermometer. It’s important that it be accurate.
Don’t attempt to make toffee on a humid day. Instead choose a cool, dry day. High humidity will affect the outcome of your toffee; it likely will turn sticky.
Always use a heavy saucepan. A non-stick pan makes clean up a breeze.
Don’t rush candy by turning up the heat. Be patient.
Begin by preparing the pan you will be spreading the hot toffee mixture into. Butter a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan; then set it aside.
Combine the sugar, butter, water and light corn syrup in a heavy 3-quart saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 300ºF. This will take 25 to 40 minutes. Here is where the “be patient” tip becomes important. As the toffee mixture cooks it will turn from a buttery yellow color…
…to a golden brown color. Here it is at 300ºF. See how the color has changed?
If you don’t have a candy thermometer I highly recommend you go purchase one. But, if you can’t there is another way to tell if the toffee mixture is at the right temperature. This is the cold water test. When the mixture has turned a golden brown color drop a small amount of the toffee mixture into a small bowl of cold water.
If it forms brittle strands you will know it is has reached approximately 300ºF. If the toffee mixture, once it is in the cold water, is still soft and pliable, the mixture needs to continue to cook some more.
If at any point your candy does separate, allow it to keep cooking- it may re-mix on its own. Another possible solution is to gradually and very carefully stir in about ¼ to ½ cup of hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring well until the mixture comes back together.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 cup of the nuts. Now pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Spread quickly to the desired thickness.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over the hot candy and let stand 5 minutes.
Then spread the melted chocolate evenly over the candy and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of chopped nuts.
Let cool completely until the chocolate is firm. This will take at least 3 hours. Now you can break the toffee into pieces. You just lift the toffee out of the pan and break it apart.
The toffee should be stored in an airtight container. It’s fun to get creative on ways to package the toffee for gift giving. Here are a couple of ideas, but I’m sure you will be able to think of more.
Best Ever Butter Toffee – the perfect holiday gift. I would enjoy hearing about your experience making this recipe and about any creative ways you come up with for packaging it for a gift. Please take a couple of minutes to rate and review this recipe too.
Come back in a few days and I will share a new holiday favorite.
Becky Wahlund is the Director of the Test Kitchens for Land O'Lakes and writes for our Recipe Buzz® Blog.