Holiday Time is Toffee Time

I like candy. No, scratch that, I LOVE candy. All kinds of candy. Chocolate, jelly beans, chocolate, licorice, chocolate and toffee and brittle. Most of my impulsive candy purchases are made while standing in the checkout line of the grocery. A Snickers here, a Kit Kat there, all totally justified by the reasoning that I only had diet Snapple for breakfast and the calories don’t count if you’re “standing” (and exercise in my book) and you’ve had a long day (and who hasn’t at one time or another).

There comes a time, however, when my desire for “really good homemade candy” trumps my need for convenience. That’s when I break out the candy thermometer and start making toffee and brittle.

Toffees and brittles are candy made from sugar syrup cooked to a high temperature. The difference between the two kinds of candy is the addition of specific ingredients to the recipe. Both toffee and brittle are made with specific proportions of butter, sugar, corn syrup and or molasses, and sometimes milk or cream. Baking soda is added to produce a lighter texture and the resulting candy is hard and snaps easily, hence the term “brittle.” Taffy, butterscotch, and caramel are candy relatives that involve many similar techniques and slightly different ingredients.

Toffees and brittles can be sensitive and you have to pay strict attention to the recipes. Most of the time, when making toffee and brittle you will need a candy thermometer. I repeat, you need a candy thermometer, deal with it. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and the ability to use a candy thermometer is a skill that, while it won’t help you change a tire or get a raise at work, will, on a good day, let you make lots of goodies. The ingredients must usually be boiled until to the hard crack stage (302-320 degrees); a few degrees difference in either direction can drastically affect the finished texture, resulting in too hard a candy or one that doesn’t set up.

True brittles are “pulled” in order to achieve a very thin, crisp texture. If you want to pull your brittle, cool it for five minutes. It should still be very warm, but you should be able to handle it without burning yourself. Spray your hands with nonstick cooking spray, and use a spatula to lift some of the brittle off the baking sheet. Pull it into a thin layer, trying not to tear too many holes in the brittle. Continue to work sections of the brittle until it is very thin, or until you cannot pull it any longer. Allow the brittle to cool completely.

Extra special ingredients like peanuts, pecans, walnuts, pistachios and chocolate (especially chocolate) are just the “frosting on the cake” of your candy making experience. While I can’t promise you that the candy you make will come out perfectly the first few times you make it, trust me, even the disasters are delicious.

Important tips for toffee and brittle

1. Choose a dry, cool day for candy making, humidity will affect the recipe.

2. Use salted butter (unless specifically directed otherwise) to stabilize the ingredients and keep them from separating.

3. Keep the cooking temperature constant for gradual and consistent heating.

4. While heating, brush sugar crystals from the side of the pan into the mixture frequently to avoid color variations.

5. Place toffee or brittle in the freezer for quick cooling before cracking into pieces.

6. Store the candy in a dry, airtight container to prevent inadvertent moisture and stickiness.

HOMEMADE ALMOND ROCA®

This concoction of roasted almonds, toffee and semisweet chocolate is amazing

3.5 ounces almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Spray a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cover the bottom of the pan with the chopped almonds, setting aside 2 tablespoons. Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until fully melted. Add the brown sugar and stir constantly with a wooden spoon for seven minutes.  Immediately pour the hot sugar mixture over the almonds and spread smoothly to the edges with a spatula. While mixture is still hot, sprinkle the chopped chocolate on top. Let the chocolate soften and melt, and smooth it evenly with a spatula or knife. Sprinkle the top with the reserved chopped almonds while the chocolate is still wet. Place the pie pan in the freezer for 20 minutes to set the candy. Remove from freezer and break apart, or cut into small squares with a large sharp knife. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Submitted by Kathy Ryners Indianapolis, IN

TOFFEE BUTTER CRUNCH

1 cup butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 cup coarsely chopped blanched almonds, toasted
4 4-1/2-ounce bars milk chocolate, melted
1 cup finely chopped blanched almonds, toasted

Grease a 9X13 pan and set it aside. In a large sauce pan melt the butter. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring now and then; to hard-crack stage (300 on your candy thermometer) watch carefully after temperature reaches 280. Quickly stir in coarsely chopped nuts; spread in well-greased pan. Cool thoroughly. Turn out on waxed paper; spread top with half the melted chocolate; sprinkle with half the finely chopped nuts. Cover with waxed paper; invert; spread again with remaining chocolate. Sprinkle top with remaining nuts. If necessary, chill to firm chocolate. Break into pieces. Serves 8 to 10.

MACADAMIA BRITTLE

1/2 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the water, sugar, salt and corn syrup. Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to eliminate sugar crystals from forming.  Insert a candy thermometer and continue to cook the sugar syrup, without stirring, until the thermometer reads 290. Add the chopped macadamia nuts to the saucepan and stir to incorporate the nuts into the syrup. Bring the mixture back to a boil and, stirring constantly; cook until the candy reaches 300.  Once at 300 degrees, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, and baking soda. Once these ingredients are incorporated, pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it into a very thin layer. Pull it if you want (see explanation in intro). Once cool, break the brittle into small pieces. The brittle will get sticky if exposed to too much moisture, so it is best to store it in an airtight container at room temperature. Serves 8 to 10.

MICROWAVE CHOCOLATE BRITTLE SURPRISE

This is a candy that your older kids can make with just a little supervision with the oven.

35 unsalted soda crackers

1 cup butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 cups semisweet or milk chocolate chips

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Cover a cookie sheet that has sides to it with foil. Spray foil with cooking oil spray. Place crackers on foil in 5 x 7 inch rows. Microwave butter on high for 2 minutes. Add brown sugar and stir. Microwave on high for 2 more minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour over crackers. Bake 17 – 20 minutes (should bubble but not burn). Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot crackers. Spread after 2 minutes (chips have softened). Sprinkle nuts on top. Refrigerate 1 hour. Break into pieces. Serves 10 to 12.

CLASSIC PEANUT BRITTLE

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups raw Spanish peanuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoon baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in a heavy 3-quart saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add salt. Cook over medium heat to soft ball stage (234 degrees). Add peanuts at 250 degrees. Cook to hard crack stage (290 degrees), stirring often. Remove from heat. Quickly, stir in butter and soda. Beat to a froth for a few seconds. Pour at once onto 2 well-buttered 15-1/2×10-1/2×1-inch pans, spreading with spatula. If desired, cool slightly and pull with forks to stretch thin. Break up when cold. Yield: About 1-1/2 pounds of peanut brittle

Modified from epicurious.com

 SPICED MIXED NUT TOFFEE

This recipes makes about 2 pounds and is great for gifts

1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups coarsely chopped toasted mixed nuts (such as cashews, almonds, and pistachios)
1 cup semi sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (not unsweetened)

Butter small rimmed baking sheet. Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar, brown sugar, water, molasses, salt and allspice. Stir until sugars dissolve. Attach the thermometer to pan. Increase heat to medium; boil until thermometer registers 290, stirring slowly but constantly and scraping bottom of pan with wooden spatula, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Mix in 1 1/2 cups nuts. Immediately pour candy onto sheet. Spread toffee to 1/4-inch thickness. Immediately sprinkle chocolate atop toffee. Let stand 1 minute. Using back of spoon, spread chocolate over toffee. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup nuts. Chill 1 hour. Break toffee into pieces. Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Chill in airtight container. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before serving. Serves 12 to 15.

Modified from gourmet.com

CHOCOLATE CASHEW TOFFEE

1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup finely chopped roasted and salted cashews

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine the brown sugar, the corn syrup, the butter, the vinegar, and the water, bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals clinging to the side with a brush dipped in cold water, until the sugar is dissolved, and boil the syrup, undisturbed, until it is deep golden and a candy thermometer 290°F. Stir in the vanilla, pour the mixture into a buttered 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan, tilting the pan and spreading mixture with a wooden spoon, and let the toffee cool completely.

In the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water melt the chocolate chips, stirring until the chocolate is smooth, and spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. Sprinkle the cashews evenly over the chocolate, pressing them gently into it, and chill the confection for 30 minutes, or until the chocolate is firm. With a thin knife loosen the confection from the pan and, using the knife as a lever, remove it in one piece from the pan. Cut or break the toffee into serving pieces. The toffee keeps, separated by sheets of wax paper in an airtight container lined with wax paper, in a cool dry place for 2 weeks. Makes approx. 1 1/2 pounds. Serves 10 to 12.

GRANOLA BRITTLE

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole almonds (2 1/2 oz)
1/2 cup pecans (2 oz)
1/2 cup shelled sunflower seeds (2 oz)
1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (2 1/2 oz)
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange zest
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, softened

parchment paper (yes, you need this)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350. Spread oats, almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds in an even layer in a large shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until oats are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with pumpkin seeds and zest.

Line a baking sheet with greased foil or greased parchment paper or a non stick silpat liner. In a sauce pan combine the brown sugar, syrup, juice, and salt and cook over a moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon (be careful not to splash or splatter while stirring; mixture will become extremely hot), until it registers 290 on thermometer, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in butter until melted (mixture will thicken and become opaque), then quickly add nut mixture and stir until coated well. Immediately pour into the prepared cookie sheet, then cover mixture with a sheet of parchment paper (see, I told you you’d need this). Roll out brittle as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Carefully peel off parchment paper and discard (don’t worry if some caramel sticks to parchment). Cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Break brittle into large pieces. Serves 10 to 12.

 Modified from about.com

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Laura Burch
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 07:38:42

    Hi Eileen, I’ve been a little delirious lately because of a high fever (Bronchitis). As I was sleeping on the couch, I was sure my big poofy blanket was a giant mushroom cap and I was dreaming of eating toffee! I asked Doron if he might be able to get some for me, he was doubtful. So, I found the toffee I was dreaming of on your site the next day, I think it’s a sign! So please tell me, can a mom who’s really not feeling well and 3 girls who love to cook make this toffee easily? I am initmidated by the candy thermometer. Laura

    Reply

  2. cuisinebyeileen
    Dec 12, 2010 @ 13:10:43

    Absolutly you can do this but not until you’re feeling better. Cooking when you’re sick is not fun. It’s no different than the exact measurements you have to make when you’re sewing. Yes, you can be a little off and it will still look (and taste good). After you’ve done it a few time you’ll be able todo this by sight, the color of the melted sugar mixture will just look and feel right. Good news is, even the mistakes are delicious

    Reply

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