We couldn’t let Christmas come and go without reposting this. It’s one of our earliest posts, but one of our very favorite recipes and something we make every single year for family parties. It just may be the toffee of your (my) dreams and while I may be indulging in a tiny bit of hyperbole, once you try it, you’ll know that I might be dramatic, but I am not a liar. In the past, I proclaimed this Salted Caramel Sauce the best thing ever and I stand by that. It’s just that there’s room on the pedestal for that sauce’s cousin from across the pond, real English toffee.
Why This Toffee Works
I’ve made a lot of toffee recipes over the years and this one is by far the tastiest and the easiest. It not only has a really nice balance of sweet and salty but a clever secret. The addition of a very small amount of corn syrup pretty much eliminates the danger of the sugar crystallizing (this has happened to us a few times, and can be a real bummer). This problem is caused when the sugar crystals start a chain reaction of crystallization (the process of sugar particles clinging together) which makes the mixture grainy. Once it happens there’s not much you can do about it, but there are a few things that will help prevent it from starting.
Here a few tips that will help you have a successful toffee making experience.
- A large, heavy-bottomed pot like this. This will prevent the caramel from scorching and is large enough to handle the bubbling cauldron of super-hot sugar that you’ll be dealing with. (I know this pot costs a fortune, but I’ve had mine for 7 years now and I use it pretty much every day. It is a great investment. You can also find it on sale sometimes).
- A candy thermometer like this. You need to bring the mixture up to 300° F (149° C) which is very hard to do by eye. If you do a lot of cooking / candy making, this Thermapen is a great investment. I find it so much easier to use than those clip-on ones.
- A silicone spatula like this. Toffee sticks to everything so it’s useful for stirring.
- Two silpats. You could use buttered parchment, but silpats are so much easier and require no buttering.
- Melt butter and sugar over a medium-high heat, stirring the whole time.
- Once the sugar is melted, bring the temperature down to medium (you want a steady but not rolling boil), and stir, stir, stir.
- Once the temperature hits 285°F (137°C), get ready to add the vanilla (it will jump to 300°F very quickly). It’s OK to let it go a little higher, but don’t allow it to reach 320°F (160°C) which is where the sugar itself starts to melt: you will burn your toffee. The hard-crack stage is the point at which all the water has boiled off.
Here you can see the transformation from liquid butter/sugar to toffee.
Ultimate English Toffee
- Instant-read thermometer
- 2 cups butter
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 tablespoon corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For Dark Chocolate (halve this amount if making both toppings)
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup slivered almonds toasted
- 1 teaspoon Maldon Salt or other flaky sea salt
For White Chocolate (halve this amount if making both toppings)
- 2 cups white chocolate chips
- 1 cup shelled salted pistachios coarsely chopped
- Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.
- In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, syrup and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted.
- Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture has reached 300-310° F (149-154° C) - DO NOT let it reach 320°F (160°C)
- Remove toffee from heat and stir in vanilla.
- Pour half the mixture onto each prepared baking sheet. (If you want, you can sprinkle some of the nuts on the baking sheet before pouring on the toffee).
- Wait about a minute, until the toffee is set but still hot and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. Let chocolate soften for 5 minutes.
- Spread the chocolate into a thin even layer (make sure chocolate is thick enough to hold the nuts).
- Sprinkle with Maldon salt and almonds (or the pistachios).
- Refrigerate until set. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container. You will lose a few of the nuts when you break it up, but there should still be plenty left on top.