There are a few things that I love about English toffee. It’s sweet, crunchy, nutty, and (my favorite of all) covered in chocolate. But what makes toffee even better is that everyone thinks it’s hard to make, so when I whip up my signature toffee for the holidays, I’m treated like a master chef! This is why it’s my go-to Christmas treat for the office, gifts, and each of our family get-togethers. The truth is that toffee is easy to make if you follow some simple tips. So put the kids to bed, gather your ingredients, and prepare for your moment in the baking spotlight!
It’s true, toffee can be intimidating. That’s why it has a great wow-factor when you produce a beautiful, homemade plate of toffee perfection. The great thing is that it requires mostly standard ingredients and it only takes about 15 minutes of hands-on time to create the undeniably delicious and elegant treat.
Without further ado, here is the tried and true recipe and all the tips you need to make glorious toffee this holiday season:
1 cup unblanched (skin on) whole almonds
1 cup butter, cut in chunks
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 (12 oz) package milk chocolate chips (2 cups)
¼ cup finely chopped pecans
Plus: 9×13 pan, a 2 quart heavy saucepan, wooden spoon, and aluminum foil
Tip 1: Nuts can often be expensive. The cheapest place I’ve found to buy the whole almonds for this recipe is from Hy-Vee. They come in a giant can so you can have them on hand all season (much more cost effective than buying small portions).
Toast the almonds, then arrange them in a single layer on a foil-lined 9×13 baking sheet.
Tip 2: The easiest way to toast almonds is to spread them out on a plate and zap them in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring after each minute. Times vary with different microwaves, so do a taste test after 2 minutes and see if they need more time. They shouldn’t taste burnt, but more robust then before roasting.
Tip 3: Don’t worry about greasing the foil–the hardened toffee will pop off easily once cool.
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan combine your butter, sugar, vanilla and salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is totally melted.
Tip 4: When melting the ingredients in your saucepan, use a dry wooden spoon to stir constantly. You don’t need to stir quickly but stirring constantly will help prevent overcooking as the sugar caramelizes and will help prevent your butter from separating as the ingredients melt.
Continue cooking (and stirring) for about 7-10 minutes or until the mixture caramelizes (it should be the same shade of brown as the skin of the almonds).
Tip 5: The saucepan mixture will go from grainy (with chunks of butter), to smooth, to foamy. It will bubble and thicken as the color darkens. Don’t freak out if it smokes a little bit! Totally normal.
Tip 6-AKA the best toffee tip ever: Use an almond as your color cue. When the toffee mixture is the color of the almond skin, it’s done! There is no need for a candy thermometer but watch it carefully because it can go from perfect to burnt pretty quickly. Remove immediately once the almond color is reached. Take a deep breath–this all happens fast.
Immediately pour the candy mixture over the almonds in your pan – do your best to spread it evenly over all the nuts.
Tip 7: Don’t scrape the pan when you pour the toffee mixture out onto your almonds. The edges may be burnt and you need to immediately spread the toffee mixture over the almonds before it hardens.
While still hot, sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the toffee mixture. Wait about a minute to let the chocolate melt, then spread until smooth.
Tip 8: While your chocolate chips melt, fill your dirty saucepan with hot water and it let it soak for a few minutes to dissolve the leftover toffee in your pan. This makes clean up a breeze!
Sprinkle the chocolate layer with chopped pecans. Let cool completely and then break into pieces.
Tip 9: Allow plenty of time for cooling. It may take more than 2 hours before your toffee is cool enough to break and eat. You can speed things up by setting the pan in your refrigerator for an hour or so. When the chocolate is completely hardened you can break the toffee into pieces.
Tip 10: Store in a sealed bag or tightly covered container in a cool place.
Enjoy! (Both the toffee itself and your new-found toffee-maker’s fame!)