Saturday, February 1, 2014

English toffee

The January cookbook is called truffles, candies & confections.  You can see the review of the cookbook here. The recipe for February is an English toffee.  Caitlin was home this weekend so we made a batch.  Neither of us have made toffee before and we think that it turned out pretty good.  It is a cooked candy center dipped in chocolate and then almonds are added before the chocolate sets so that the nuts stick to the chocolate.

Making toffee calls for a few special tools, most of which I already had but one, a metal rolling pin, is one I will probably be on the lookout for.  I have a collection of rolling pins, some new, some antique; most are wood, but also a glass one and a marble one.

This recipe calls for rolling the hot candy with an oiled rolling pin.  I considered the glass but elected to use the marble.  When I got to that part of the recipe I found that the hot candy hardened on the cold marble pin.  It still worked but there was a heightened need to work quickly before the candy cooled too much.

Some of my rolling pins:
the marble one is in the back of the crock

Some of the other tools needed are a marble board and a candy thermometer.  The candy is cooked on the stove and a saucepan with a heavy base is also handy and you will need a wooden spoon or a heatproof silicone spatula. 

marble board and rolling pin
I have this style of thermometer but the glass one would work too
You start out by melting the butter in a saucepan and once melted you add water, sugar and salt.

 When it reaches 260° you add part of the nuts and continue cooking until it reaches 300°.  Then it is quickly poured onto the marble board that has had a thin coating of oil applied.  Ours barely fit on the board.  We quickly rolled it out and scored it with an oiled pizza cutter.  I am afraid that even with both of us working as quickly as we could we did not get any pictures of that part.  As it was, by the time that Caitlin was making the final score marks it was just about too cool.  

the scored cooling candy centers
One the candy cools, it breaks apart without too much effort (mostly) on the score marks.  We had a few pieces that broke in the center and made odd shaped pieces.  At this point the cookbook states that the candy needs to be coated in chocolate or covered in airtight packaging for if it is left exposed it will absorb moisture from the air and become soft.

We dipped our centers in melted chocolate.  We used a chocolate melter and a dipping fork but a microwave and a dinner fork would work also.

We broke apart our centers on their score lines when cool.  We set up a tray with our centers on the far right.  Next to that on the left side was the chocolate melter.  To the left of that was a cake pan with a sheet of parchment paper and the chopped sliced almonds.  And on the far left was a couple of empty cookie sheets that were lined with parchment.

A candy center was lowered into the chocolate, turned to coat all sides and then lifted out with the dipping fork.  Held suspended over the chocolate reservoir briefly allowed the excess chocolate to drop back into the pot.  Then the coated center was placed on the layer of chopped nuts in the cake pan and tipped over to coat all sides.  The cookbook instructed to coat all sides with nuts and then chill to harden the chocolate.  We did the first dozen or so this way and then became  a little concerned that we did not have enough nuts to finish all of the centers.  So we finished the rest by coating all sides with the chocolate but only sprinkling nuts on the top of the candy.

candy center suspended over pot
candy with nuts on the top

cookie sheet with drying toffees
here you can see the center, coating and nuts
 English Toffee

3 Tbsp unflavored vegetable oil such as safflower oil (for oiling board, pin and cutter)

1 1/4 cup unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sliced almonds, finely chopped (divided)
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (We used a bag of dark chocolate chips)

Prepare marble board, rolling pin and pizza cutter by coating with a thin layer of vegetable oil and set aside.  Melt the butter in heavy 3 quart saucepan over low heat.  Add the sugar, water and salt.  Turn the heat up to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until temperature reaches 260°on the candy thermometer.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the finely chopped almonds and continued cooking, stirring constantly until the thermometer measures 300° and the mixture is golden brown which should take about 8 minutes.  We noticed that the mixture started out as a pale bubbly thin liquid and as it cooked it became thicker and went thru a couple of changes.  For a while it kind of resembled cream style corn in appearance.  A little later there seemed to be a layer of what looked like melted butter collecting on the surface of the thicker mixture and then finally it looked like thick gravy.  Eventually it got to the right temperature and was a golden colored thick syrup that we carefully poured onto the oiled board.  At this point we used the oiled rolling pin to spread the hot syrup into as thin a layer as we could manage.  Our layer was about 1/4 inch thick in places, thinner toward one edge.  Caitlin quickly grabbed the oiled pizza cutter and began to score the hot syrup in both directions first making rows about 1/2 inch wide and then cutting the rows crosswise into 2 inch pieces.  The scored candy was allowed to cool about 30 minutes.  When it was pretty cool we were able to break the candy along the scored lines into pieces.  What worked for us is to slide the whole piece of hardened candy off the oiled board until the first score line matched the edge of the board and then press down to snap the candy on the edge of the board where the score mark was.  Then turn the snapped off piece and break along the crosswise score marks.   Once all of the pieces are separated we put them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  They were placed one piece at a time into the melted chocolate.  The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate that has been finely chopped and tempered.  We used a bag of Hershey's  Special Dark chocolate chips, melted.  We did not temper it and since it was already in chip form it did not need to be chopped.  It worked great.  Once placed in the chocolate the toffees were turned over to coat all sides and then lifted out with the fork and suspended over the bowl to let the excess chocolate drain back into the bowl.  Then the coated piece was placed on the rest of the chopped slivered almonds that were on a piece of parchment lying in a cake pan or cookie sheet.  The first few pieces we coated on all sides by rolling them in the chopped nuts but them we coated only to top of some of the toffees by sprinkling nuts on the top of the candy.  We then placed them on a parchment lined pan until they set.  Once we had a pan full we chilled it to hasten the setting of the chocolate.  

These turned out great and I will definitely make these again.  They would make a good gift and would be great on a holiday goodie platter with cookies and other candies.

  Shared on Foodie Friday


  1. Lorri, you should get yourself on Google+. I know it's a pain to monitor something else, but your posts are so good. There are so many people interested in food and farming. I bet you would have a lot of people reading your stuff. Looks yummy by the way! I am not a cook/ baker. I will decorate your house, but my cookies come from a box! ;)

    1. Thanks for the nice compliment. I actually do use Google+ to share pics with my kids and get my phone pics to my computer. I have never really used it for anything else but will check into it. I started blogging kind of as a journal a year ago but have only recently started to offer comments on other blogs or link to parties or pin my own stuff. I have been an avid reader of other blogs for years. I enjoyed your red puzzle piece valentine's day post. I don't do much for valentine's day. I have a bunch of cute valentine cookies pinned but will probably never bake them :)