Sunday, December 2, 2012

Homemade Toffee - Live and Learn

This is for you Kym!

Recently, a coworker of mine asked if I had a tried and true homemade toffee recipe. I hated to tell her that I have never made toffee before... And of course, with me all you have to do is plant a baking seed in my brain and sure enough it will blossom.

This is a fairly long blog post with very few pictures, sorry about that but the toffee making process happens so quick that I just didn't have time to capture individual steps. I set out my toffee making adventure with this recipe from The Coterie Blog. All toffee recipes start out with butter and sugar but then there are several various, some with corn syrup, some without, some with almonds and some with pecans. The possibilities really are endless. Heather's recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of butter. Since this was for experimental purposes only, I cut the recipe in thirds and only used 1/2 cup butter.  All was going well as the kitchen began to smell like delicious browned butter and sugar! But then it came to the "remove from heat and add vanilla" *dun dun*

Before I knew it, the toffee had separated and there was a gross nasty butter layer just floating on top of the beautiful golden toffee at the bottom of the saucepan. Not knowing what else to do, I poured the mixture onto my prepared Silpat and hoped for the best.

Four hours passed and my poor toffee pan was looking pretty nasty with the layer of butter surrounding what would have been my beautiful toffee. I did some research as to the causes of separation during candy making and I found my answers in this article. The sentence that caught my eye was "One of the most common triggers is when the candy has undergone an abrupt temperature shift..." I immediately thought of the vanilla and how the mixture separated right as the vanilla hit the toffee.

But I couldn't help but wonder why I had read several different recipes that included this exact same step, including a great looking one from Pioneer Woman. Whatever floats your boat, for some reason some things may work for others that just do not work for you. I am not even positive that I can blame the vanilla but my second time around when I omitted the vanilla, no separation occurred and I had a buttery golden delicious toffee! If you are set on adding the vanilla flavor then I would opt to either add the extract in the very beginning or using vanilla bean seeds. However, I opted to leave it out completed and I think it was super tasty!

I am really wishing that I had captured the gooey buttery mess that was my first try at toffee, but I was so ashamed that I cleaned up the gross mess before anybody could see, what can I say, nobody likes failure. However, I did chop up my first batch of toffee and made some yummy toffee cookies! So not a total failure. And now time for the recipe that worked for me!!

Homemade Toffee, adapted from Taste of Home, can easily be multiplied for large batches

1/2 cup butter, sliced in half inch or 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. water
Pinch of salt, generous pinch
1/4 cup toasted nuts of your choice (i.e., almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, etc.)
2/3 cup good quality chocolate, chopped fine
Sea salt for garnish

(1) First, make sure that you have measured out your chocolate, and toasted and chopped your nuts before you begin, as I mentioned this process happens fast!

(2) Spread half of the nuts on a prepared sheet pan lined with either parchment paper or a handy dandy Silpat.

(3) In a heavy weight saucepan, add butter, sugar and water. Cook over medium-low heat until the butter and sugar have melted and the mixture is cohesive (with no separation!)

(4) Once the mixture has thickened and is bubbling, turn heat up to medium. Stir constantly for 5-10 minutes until the mixture has reached a light golden color (about the color of an almond), or if you are smart and have a candy thermometer about 298 degrees. Remove from the heat.

(5) Pour onto your prepared sheet pan and quickly spread the toffee thin before the toffee begins to set.

(6) Immediately pour the chopped chocolate over the hot toffee and use your spatula to spread the chocolate as it melts. Trust me, the toffee will be hot enough to melt your chocolate to a spreadable consistency (I was also skeptical, but it definitely works).

(7) Quickly sprinkle with toasted nuts and sea salt, as desired.

(8) Let the toffee set for several hours and break into pieces.

After my first separated buttery mess that I had, I was worried that I was not good enough to make toffee, but after this fairly smooth sailing second batch and trying how delicious it tasted, I will definitely be making this again! Thanks for the inspiration Kym Smiley

So my second batch was not perfect either but definitely a step up. The one issue that I had with my second batch was with the chocolate. The toffee hardened well but the chocolate layer I added on at the end, never set. The only way I was able to get it hard enough to work with was to put the toffee in the fridge before trying to break the toffee pieces. But as soon as the toffee came back to room temperature the chocolate layer got soft again. Not sure what the problem was here but this one set back will not be enough to stop me from making toffee again. I used ghirardelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, maybe I should have used a  baking bar instead of chips? Hmm, time to go to the grocery store and buy more chocolate for another test!

Happy Baking! I hope you enjoy!

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