Confession: I have a borderline-unhealthy love of butter toffee.
Crazy, but true. You can imagine my dismay when Son #2 was diagnosed with his nut allergies. Life-threatening fears aside, the diagnosis also meant an end to store bought butter toffee. Seems that most store bought butter toffee contains almond ingredients. Who knew? I had no idea until I started reading labels–those sneaky little nutters are everywhere.
Oh, how I mourned the Skor bar.
And Heath bars.
And Bits o’ Brickle.
After the diagnosis, butter toffee moved to the-front-of-the-class of things that I Must Learn to Make at Home. I’ve probably made a cubic ton of butter toffee, but had never found the right recipe. Don’t get me wrong–the attempts were good…just not the same. I am not a chemist, and candy requires a lot of sugar chemistry-ish knowledge that I don’t much care to delve into in the name of recipe development. I know my own limitations.
Thankfully, there are many a pastry chef that really enjoy playing around with sugar chemistry, and will happily compute the ratios for the masses. One such pastry chef is Chef Lia. You may have seen her toffee recipe last year on PW’s blog. Chef Lia’s toffee is better than the same, it is positively perfect!
The only stickler is that, being that pastry chef’s require very exact measurements for their craft, and given that Chef Lia is indeed a pastry chef, the ingredients in her recipe are measured in weight and volume.
Not cups, teaspoons, and pinches. I can understand cups, teaspoons, and pinches. But volume? Volume makes my head hurt.
Which is precisely why I employ a kitchen scale to do the complicated weighty measurements for me. Because I’m a big kitchen-gadget-dork, so I happen to have a kitchen scale. But as I was about to make my last batch of toffee, it dawned on me that not everyone is a big kitchen-gadget-dork with a scale at their disposal.
Weighted ingredients make a recipe seem more complicated than it really is–however–butter toffee is very simple and uncomplicated to make. I want you all to know the joy that is homemade toffee. So, I did what any good food blogger would do…I did the conversions for you. Here’s how:
I poured the sugar into a bowl on my scale…
…until it weighed the pound that the recipe called for. Let’s call this the “weight” bowl of sugar.
Then, I grabbed my measuring cups, and scooped the sugar from the “weight” bowl, and poured it into another bowl–let’s call it the “common measurement” bowl–from which I determined the common measurements. After that, I converted the liquid volume measurements into common measurements, as well.
Thankfully, the butter folks are kind enough to label butter with both weights and common measurements. Reason #6537 that real butter rules!
The folks at Hershey’s are just as kind. I’ve lost track of the number of reasons of why chocolate rules. It just does.
After all of the conversions were done, I was ready to make some toffee! This is my gently adapted version of Lia’s Butter Toffee. Her recipe. My version of things. Amen.
Start by lining two half-sheet pans with silicone baking mats or parchment paper, and set them aside. You will also need a candy thermometer and off-set spatula or other large spreader.
Place the butter in a tall pot and pour the sugar over top. Add the water, and stir.
I like to use a Dutch oven because of the high sides and greater surface area on the bottom of the pot. The greater the surface area, the faster and more evenly the sugar comes to temperature.
Heat the sugar mixture over medium heat; stirring constantly.
Eventually, the mixture will start to bubble. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, and keep stirring! I realize that continuous stirring over a hot pot can get tiresome, but relax! The entire process takes around 15 minutes, and your reward is…butter toffee!
The hot sugar will continue to boil, and the mixture will begin to swell; the swelling is what necessitates tall sides on the pot, so as to not have the hot sugar boil over. Believe me when I tell you that cleaning hot sugar syrup off of the stove is not a very fun way to spend an afternoon.
When the candy thermometer reads 300° F, turn off the heat. At this point, you have to work very quickly. If you have anyone lurking around the kitchen looking for fresh toffee, then put them to work–another set of hands is quite helpful during these steps.
Pluck the candy thermometer out of the pot, and move the off-set spatula next to the prepared baking sheets. (If you hadn’t already.)
Pour the hot sugar mixture onto the prepared baking sheets; trying to divide it evenly between them. Use an off-set spatula or other large spreader to spread the toffee as thinly as possible. The toffee will set quickly, so if you have a helper, have them pour while you spread the toffee. Or you can pour while they spread the toffee–whatever works!
As none of my toffee-lurkers are at an age where I would trust them around molten sugar, I did both the pouring and spreading of the toffee, and it worked out just fine.
Allow the toffee to cool completely.
While the toffee is cooling, melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. I usually use chocolate chips with a little shortening thrown in to make the chocolate shiny. However, this time, I happened upon this:
Chocoley’s Extra Dark dark chocolate candy melts. They melt like a dream, and set faster than chocolate chips. And hello? Extra Dark dark chocolate is never a bad idea.
Use whatever kind of chocolate that you have lying around. And I know that you have chocolate lying around!
Melt the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl by heating it on full power for 30 second increments, stirring well in between bursts, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Once the toffee has cooled, blot the top with a paper towel to absorb any butter that may have leached out during the cooling process.
Pour about 1/4 of the melted chocolate over each slab of toffee. Spread the chocolate to the edges of the toffee, and allow the chocolate to set.
Once the chocolate has cooled and set completely, gently lift the toffee and flip it over. If the toffee happens to break, no biggie. Just fill in the cracks with more melted chocolate.
Blot any butter seepage off of the flip side with the paper towel.
See how the toffee is so thin that you can see the chocolate underneath? That is a very, very good thing. Divide the remaining melted chocolate between the two slabs of toffee, and spread it to the edges. Now is the time for the fun part: the toppings!
Oh yes, Virginia! There are toppings involved. My toppings of choice are cacao nibs, kosher salt, and chipotle chili powder. Yes, chipotle chili powder! The subtle bit of heat is an excellent counter-weight to the sweet toffee and rich chocolate.
My boys also suggest topping your toffee with crushed candy canes, sprinkles, and/or mini-chocolate chips.
Sprinkle on the toppings immediately after spreading melted chocolate on the flip side of the toffee, so that they will stick to the chocolate as it sets. This one is the chipotle chili powder.
Cacao nibs add a nice, crunchy, and intensely chocolate element to the toffee. I highly recommend them.
The boys talked me into a crushed candy cane topping. While it looks quite festive, I think their ulterior motive hinges on my dislike of mint & chocolate together. They’re not-so-subtly ensuring that their mama doesn’t eat all the toffee.
Kosher salt is my all-time favorite toffee topping. The sweet-salty combination is a taste sensation.
Just be advised that the salt absorbs some of the moisture in the melted chocolate as it cools, so the chocolate will bloom, and end up discolored. While it may not be pretty, it still tastes incredible.
Once the chocolate & topping side has set, break the toffee into pieces. I think it’s fun to serve the toffee in large-ish slabs, and allow people to break their own pieces, rather than break them into bite-sized pieces from the start.
Butter toffee will keep for several weeks at room temperature, when sealed in a zip-top bag or other air-tight container.
Gently adapted from http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/12/lias-butter-toffee/
Serves 20 +
2 C. unsalted butter
2 C. granulated sugar
3 Tbs. water
1 ¼ tsp. salt
4 C. milk chocolate chips (or 5 C. chocolate candy melts)
1 tsp. shortening
Optional toppings (choose one per slab): ½ tsp. sea salt, ¼ C. cacao nibs, ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, or ¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder.
Line two half-sheet baking pans with silicone baking mats (or parchment paper); set aside. Have an off-set spatula ready to spread the hot toffee, when the time comes.
- Set a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter, sugar, water, and salt to the pot. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot so that the bottom ¼-inch of the thermometer is submerged.
- Heat ingredients to boiling over medium heat; stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble and swell, to over double in size, in the pot as it cooks. Continue cooking while stirring until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F. (I realize this is a lot of stirring over a hot pot, however, this process is usually complete in around 10 minutes.)
- Turn off the heat. You will have to work fast at this point, so having a “helper” to either pour or spread the toffee is a good idea.
- Quickly pour the hot toffee onto the prepared baking sheets, trying to divide it evenly.
- Immediately spread the hot toffee thinly across the silicone mat (or parchment) with the off-set spatula. (The toffee will set quickly.) Allow the toffee to completely cool.
- While waiting for the toffee to cool, place the chocolate chips and shortening in a medium-sized microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments on full power, stirring well in between bursts, until melted and smooth. (This will be enough to coat both sides of each sheet of toffee.)
- Once the toffee is cool, use a paper towel to blot any excess butter that may have seeped to the surface.
- Pour about ¼ of the melted chocolate over each sheet of toffee; using half of the total melted chocolate. Use an off-set spatula to smooth the melted chocolate to the edges of the toffee to coat. Allow the chocolate to set.
- Once chocolate is set, pick up toffee with your hands, and quickly flip it over. Then, coat the other side with the remaining chocolate. (If it breaks, no big deal—just fill in the cracks with the melted chocolate.) Immediately sprinkle any optional toppings of your choice over the melted chocolate. Allow to set.
- Once set, break the toffee into pieces. Store toffee at room temperature, in a large zip-top bag, or other air-tight container.