by Stephanie Zonis
2 to 2-1/2 lbs. toffee
This really was a sensation when I served it at a holiday party. Making your own toffee at home requires a candy thermometer and some time, but it isn't terribly difficult. You have your choice of nuts to work with; pecans, hazelnuts, and walnuts would all be good here. I have seen a toffee that called for cashews, but I haven't tried those in this recipe. In addition, while the chocolate you use for dipping must be of very good quality, it can be straight milk chocolate or a combination of milk and semisweet (I think that straight semisweet overwhelms the delicate flavor of the toffee).
There's an easy way to "shape" this, if you don't want to go to the trouble of scoring the hot toffee repeatedly. Use a 13" by 9" pan (at least 1" deep). Line it with heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side up, then butter the foil and a broad-bladed metal spatula. When the toffee has reached the correct end temperature, pour it immediately into the prepared pan, then quickly spread evenly with the back of the buttered metal spatula (the toffee mostly spreads itself, but it might need a little help). Let cool to room temperature, then proceed as directed below.
To store the dipped toffee, place it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature. This would make a wonderful gift for Valentine's Day.
2/3 cup pecans, very finely chopped
1 cup plus 2 tsp. unsalted butter, cut into slim pats
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
Few grains salt
1-1/4 cups strained granulated sugar
(strain the sugar before
measuring to remove any lumps)
One lb. good-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped,
OR up to 8 ozs. semisweet chocolate,
finely chopped, plus enough milk chocolate
to make a total weight of 1 lb., finely chopped
2 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. vegetable shortening
Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pecans in single layer in foil-lined, shallow pan. Toast in preheated oven, stirring often, about 8 minutes, or until very fragrant and lightly golden. Remove to cooling rack; cool completely. Measure out 1/2 cup to use in toffee; reserve remainder, airtight.
Line a 9" square pan with two lengths of aluminum foil such that there is about an inch of overhang on all edges of the pan. Lightly butter the foil. Place prepared pan on a cooling rack near stovetop. Butter the sides of a heavy-bottomed, nonreactive two quart pot. Adjust a candy thermometer so that the bulb does not rest on the bottom of this pot when the thermometer is clipped onto the side (if the thermometer has a metal frame, the bottom of the frame can rest on the bottom of the pot). Remove thermometer from pot. Pre-warm by placing in a separate, unbuttered two quart pot filled to within 1" of the top with cold water; place this over medium-low heat. Butter a large, heat-resistant rubber spatula (it MUST be heat-resistant); a large, sharp, straight-edged knife; and a broad-bladed metal spatula. Set all aside near stovetop.
Place butter pats, water, corn syrup, and salt into buttered two quart pot. Set over medium-low heat and stir often until butter is melted. Add sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar; this may take 5 to 8 minutes or longer. When sugar is dissolved, increase heat to medium-high; stir frequently until mixture comes to a boil. By this time, the water in which the candy thermometer rests should be at or close to a boil. Remove the candy thermometer from the water, shake off, and clip onto the side of the toffee pot.
You want the toffee mixture to come to and maintain a rolling boil, but you may have to reduce the heat if it threatens to boil over. Stir the boiling mixture every minute or two; you don't need to stir quickly, slowly is fine, and don't beat it. You might also wish to wear long sleeves and/or a potholder while stirring, as boiling toffee will occasionally spatter.
The temperature of the toffee will increase quite quickly; once it gets to about 260 degrees F., I stir it constantly to prevent the now-thickened mixture from scorching. At higher temperatures, you may notice that some of the butter has separated out of the toffee--OK. The toffee will become thick and jelly-like, and it will begin to brown. Cook the toffee to 300 degrees F. (this only takes about 20 minutes from the time a rolling boil is achieved), then immediately remove from the heat. Immediately sprinkle on the 1/2 cup of toasted nuts, and stir in quickly with the buttered, heat-resistant rubber spatula just until evenly distributed. Pour immediately into the prepared pan, and spread as evenly as possible.
If you have opted to use the 13" by 9" pan, let the toffee cool completely at room temperature. If you are using the 9" square pan, however, allow the hot toffee to stand 6 to 7 minutes--no longer!
Now, using the buttered edge of the broad-bladed metal spatula, begin to score the toffee into small squares (I make 64 squares per batch). Press the spatula blade straight down through the toffee to the foil, then lift it up and repeat this process; do not "drag" it through the hot toffee. You will probably have to rinse the spatula blade off with hot, then cold water, then re-butter it, at least several times, as the toffee can stick.
Try using both the blade of the metal spatula and the straight-edged knife here, and see which works better for you (I usually end up using both, but whichever you choose, keep the edge buttered). Keep re-scoring the toffee, repeatedly going back over the "lines" you've made in it, until the score marks go at least three-fourths of the way through the toffee. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely. When toffee is completely cooled, cover airtight and let stand at room temperature if you are not proceeding with the next step immediately.
Have ready a cookie sheet lined with several layers of paper towels. Remove the toffee, still in foil, from its pan. Now, working carefully, peel off the foil. If you have used the 13" by 9" pan, the toffee will come out in one thin sheet. Place this sheet gently on the paper towelling, then cover with several additional towels. Be careful!--if you scored the toffee as it was cooling and are lucky, individual pieces will pop out as you're peeling off the foil. If they don't, you'll have to break or cut the squares to separate them. Place the individual squares on the paper towels, and cover them with other paper towels. This process will absorb at least some of the extra butteriness. Wait 5 or 10 minutes for the toffee to "drain". Then, if working with the single sheet of toffee, break it into small, irregular pieces. Now, if not proceeding with the next step immediately, store the toffee pieces airtight at room temperature, making sure you separate layers in the container with wax paper.
To cover the toffee with chocolate, determine the kind of chocolate you wish to use and the amount you'll need. Pure milk chocolate is a traditional favorite, but in truth it doesn't give much chocolate flavor, so I use a blend of milk and semisweet chocolates. If you have 64 toffee squares from a 9" pan, you'll need one pound of chocolate; I'd suggest using ten ounces of milk chocolate and six ounces of semisweet, but you can use a 50:50 blend.
If you have irregularly-shaped pieces of toffee, you'll need about twenty-two ounces of chocolate, due to the increased surface area you'll be covering (for twenty-two ounces of chocolate, you'll need 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons of vegetable shortening). In any case, the chocolate must be very finely chopped and placed, with the shortening, into a medium heatproof bowl. Have ready a small bowl (deeper than it is wide, preferably), a dinner fork, a foil-lined cookie sheet to put the dipped toffee on, and the remaining finely chopped, toasted pecans for garnish. Have the toffee to be dipped laid out on paper towels or a cookie sheet.
Place the bowl of chopped chocolate over hot water on low heat. Stir frequently until about half-melted. (Alternatively, place the chopped chocolate and vegetable shortening in a medium microwaveable bowl; microwave at 50 percent (medium) power for short intervals, stirring well after each, until half-melted). Remove bowl of chocolate from heat source. Stir frequently until completely melted and smooth. (Melting the chocolate this way provides for some cooling before the toffee is dipped; if the chocolate is too warm, it will run off the toffee and "pool" at the bottom of each piece.) Scrape the melted chocolate mixture into the small bowl.
Place one piece of toffee into the chocolate. Submerge it with the fork to cover completely. Pick up the toffee on the ends of the fork tines; scrape off any excess chocolate against the upper lip of the bowl. Place the dipped toffee piece onto the foil-lined baking sheet, maneuvering it carefully off the fork (a toothpick or another fork might be useful here). Repeat with each piece. If you notice that chocolate is "pooling" at the bottom of the dipped pieces, the chocolate is too warm (let it cool slightly at room temperature, stirring often), or you aren't scraping enough of the excess chocolate off the dipped pieces before placing them on the foil-lined sheet.
After dipping every fourth piece or so, place a small pinch of the pecans on top of each dipped piece (keep these decorations small and dainty). If the chocolate thickens too much to enable you to dip the toffee easily, you can reheat it very briefly, either over hot water on low heat or at 50 percent (medium) power in the microwave, just until about half-melted. Again, let stand at room temperature, stirring often, until melted and smooth, then continue dipping. When you fill up the sheet with dipped toffee, refrigerate it just until the chocolate is set. Then using a tissue or paper towel, peel each piece from the foil and place into an airtight container with wax paper between the layers.
Store the toffee in the refrigerator or at cool room temperature, airtight. Let come to room temperature before eating for best flavor.
Substitute skinned, finely chopped, toasted, cooled hazelnuts for the pecans.
Substitute maple sugar (available at some health food stores) or maple granules (really just evaporated maple syrup) for the granulated sugar. Place the maple sugar or granules in a food processor fitted with a steel blade; process until almost powdered and any lumps are gone. Proceed as above. This toffee is darker in color than that made with granulated sugar, and it has a lovely, delicate maple flavor.
Copyright © 1999 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created February 1999
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