Saturday, December 11, 2010

English Toffee

In addition to the many cookies my mother would bake, she also made candy;  fudge and divinity were her favorites. I also make fudge, but English Toffee is my favorite and that's what I made this morning.  It was also Kelly's favorite--something else we shared.

The caramel flavor and color, so reminiscent of candies like toffee and brittles is not from the sugar caramelizing...because it doesn't.  It's from a complex series of reactions between proteins and sugars called the Maillard reaction or Maillard browning.  The Maillard reaction is not only responsible for the browning in confections, but in many of our favorite foods and beverages.  Toffee contains some important ingredients: sugar, water, corn syrup, a dairy product (which can be just butter, but in this case I used sweetened condensed milk), butter, and flavoring that will react together to produce the crunchy caramel.  Pouring this mixture over chopped roasted almonds and then, spreading bittersweet chocolate over it and finally a sprinkling of more almonds makes this a very special gift in your food boxes.

Before beginning any candy confection, make sure you have on hand a heavy 6-quart saucepan and a candy thermometer--the ingredients need to reach a temperature of 290F-degrees, which is a soft-crack stage, and a candy thermometer is a must.  Also, because this mixture needs to be stirred constantly, investing in a silicon spoon or spatula would be a great addition, but as my mother used, a wooden spoon will also do.

English Toffee
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup Light Karo Syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 T Vanilla Extract
2 cups toasted and finely chopped slivered almonds
6 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate Bits

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees and toast almonds for 6-8 minutes.  When cooled, chopped finely. Spread half of the almonds on a buttered-prepared 12 x 17-inch baking sheet.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine the water, sugars, condensed milk, Karo syrup, and butter.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, with a heat-proof rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Attached candy thermometer to the side, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan.  Turn the heat to medium and continuing to stir constantly, check thermometer and when the mixture reaches 290F-degrees remove from heat.  Add the salt and the vanilla. 
Pour the mixture over the toasted almonds.  Smooth with an off-set spatula.  Then, sprinkle the bittersweet chocolate chips over the top.
The chips will melt from the heat of the toffee.  Spread with an off-set spatula and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.
Let cool completely, making sure the chocolate has set, then, break into pieces and package for your gift-giving.

Confections like candy, cookies, fruited breads, and jams are just some of my favorites to share with friends and family.  I'd love to hear about your traditions and what you're baking for the holiday. Enjoy!


  1. Good morning dear Susan,

    I think I will make these, but NOT with the grands. The hot, hot makes me nervous for them, but Ilyahna (almost 13) wants a candy thermometer for Christmas, so maybe she is ready.

    I know how hard this time is for you without your Kelly. The just doesn't stop and only a mother knows the feeling.

    I am sending you love, love, love,


  2. Hi Susan,

    Now you know, Jeff is my hubby and I sat down at his computer without even thinking. Oops. Handsome, isn't he?


    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  3. these look wonderful susan, i make something similar with saltines... sending you love xoxo

  4. Toffee is my favorite, too! It is one of the candies we make each year. This year I saw a recipe for Almond Roca and thought I'd try it. Almond Roca was my Dad's favorite. We also make peppermint bark and Cranberry pinwheel cookies. Last year we added Nicole's candied orange peels to our gift bags. :)

  5. Sharon, Jeff is very handsome and nice to let you use his computer :) I was about 10 or 11 when I made fudge, using a candy thermometer, but I agree, the wee ones are too little to be around the hot mixture. Love and the happiest holidays to you and your family, Susan