I love me some toffee! I've been wanting to make it forever, but haven't until now. Candy involving a candy thermometer can be temperamental. Having attempted other types of candies, I knew that it was important to have all the ingredients measured and ready. This technique is called mise en place and I should really do it with all my recipes, but most of the time I don't.
My first attempt to make English Toffee went really well, until the very end. When the candy was ready to be poured into the prepared pan, I removed the candy thermometer and dropped it into the molten liquid. The glass of the thermometer broke, and I couldn't find any traces of it anywhere. Not knowing what else to do at the moment, I transferred the candy to the pan and let it cool. After breaking a piece off and examining it for glass, I tasted it, and it was excellent. It's a real shame the batch was ruined by glass because for my first attempt, this toffee could not have turned out more perfect. It was buttery, nutty and had a perfect sweet crunch.
I had enough butter and slivered almonds in the house to make another batch the next day. I awkwardly used my digital thermometer (nothing to attach it to the pot like my candy thermometer had). Other than the thermometer, I did everything the same as before, however the replacement batch did not turn out as well. The second time around, near the end of the cooking process, the butter and sugar started separating. I couldn't get it to come back together, but I soldiered on and spread it into the pan. Once it cooled for a minute I took a few paper towels and tried to get rid of the excess butter that was pooling. Before it cooled too much in the pan, I used a knife to score the candy to make more uniform pieces once broken apart. The toffee ended up tasting fine, but the texture turned out a little grainy. Not willing to waste another pound of butter, I decided that these were good enough and coated them in chocolate and chopped nuts.
Marilyn's English Toffee
From America's Test Kitchen
Yield: About 3 pounds
1 lb unsalted butter
1/2 tea. table salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tbsp. water
1 cup slivered almonds (do not use sliced almonds)
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (chips are fine)
1 1/2 - 2 cups lightly toasted pecans (or walnuts), finely chopped
Melt 3/4 of chocolate over hot water or in a microwave oven at half power for 2-3 minutes. When melted, stir in remaining chocolate and set aside. Line a large jelly roll or half-sheet pan with heavy-duty foil and butter the foil.
Melt the butter with the salt in a heavy 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Slowly add the sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add the water about halfway through this process.
After all the sugar is added, begin testing the mixture to see if the sugar is dissolved. Place a drop of mixture on wax paper; allow it to cool and rub it between your fingers to make sure it doesn’t feel grainy. If it does, continue to cook and test again. The mixture will probably be boiling at this point.
When sugar is dissolved, add the almonds, and increase the heat to medium high. Cook to the hard-crack stage, or about 310-320 degrees on a candy thermometer, stirring often to keep the candy from burning on the bottom. When it’s done, it should be a medium-dark amber color and have a caramel aroma. The almonds should have a toasted color but they should not burn. This is the tricky part, as there’s a thin line between perfect and overdone, and to some extent it’s a matter of taste.
Remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan, spreading as evenly as possible with an offset spatula. Be careful, this stuff is hot! Set the pan on a cooling rack. After 2-3 minutes, when toffee is just set, pour reserved chocolate on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, and press them in gently with a spatula or bottom of a glass to anchor them in the chocolate.