The trouble with making toffee

Let’s start off by reminding you that I am a food scientist, if there is a rule I follow it :).  Most of the time my outcome is successful because I was diligent about following the recipe word for word.  I know, Nerd.  Well when presented with the task of making toffee, I though what could be so bad.  The directions were skimpy but my mom has been making this for years.  Boy was I wrong.  Here’s a little glance into our disaster.

We have a simple recipe.  It calls for butter, sugar and water to make the toffee.  The ingredient list seems so simple, too simple.  Plus the instructions just say to Boil to 300°F and pour into pan.  Okay, easy, bring on something more challenging we thought.  Somehow simple ingredients and simple instructions give a false sense of confidence.  Since this recipe was so simple we thought maybe we would double the recipe.  We know there are rules about recipes you shouldn’t double but we couldn’t think of what they were.  And then my mom remembered it’s jam, you can’t double jam.  Whew, we were safe, double away we said.  Meanwhile my mom was recalling all of her failures with this recipe.  Once it crystallized, a few times it was too soft and didn’t have a nice crack, I think she may have jinxed us.

So we plopped all our ingredients into the pan and it started bubbling away.  Then we began trying to remember all the rules to making caramel.  Some people say never stir, others say swirl, some wipe down the sides with water and even other say put the lid on and walk away.  What does Martha Stewart boss everyone to do?  We couldn’t remember.  Instead of stopping and looking it up we just kept going.  I, myself had a terrible time just watching it and not stirring it.  It just seems sooo wrong.  My mom on the other hand tried all the methods.  Everything seemed to be going very slowing but finally it got to 300°F.  We quickly took it off the stove and poured it in the prepared pan.  And out came a brown specked goopy mess which had separated into burnt solids on the bottom and tons of oil.  What did we do wrong?  We were so upset, this was two batches wasted.

Look at that burnt pan and the separation.  Yuck.

I convinced my mom to stay up late, to try it again.  I am nothing if not persistent.  This time we set up two smaller pans and tried it again.  This time we turned the heat up and tried different methods for each pot.  After a long hour we poured it out and the same thing happened!  We are toffee failures, the hard crack stage has beaten us again.

The next day my mom looked up what we did wrong and found some tips that we will remember next time, if there is a next time.  First stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved and then again before you pour it out.  If it separates you can mix it back together (or so they say, this mess would not have mixed back together) and use a low heat, etc.  And then my mom checked her original recipe.  We were working off of a copy she made for me a few years ago.  And to our disbelief she discovered the problem.  The original recipe said 2 cubes of butter and she wrote 2 cups of butter (4 cubes).  Ahhhaaaa.  Three hours wasted but mystery solved.  The butter separated because there wasn’t enough sugar.  Instead the milk solids burnt on the bottom of the pan and only the oil was left.  That explains why some of it did form a nice caramel with the correct crack.

Even though the recipe was a flop and the toffee was really greasy because of all the extra butter I have eaten about half the pan.  Which means 2 sticks of butter.  I would hate to have my cholesterol checked today.  Will we try again?  I’m not sure but you can try out the correct recipe (below) and let me know how it worked.  Hopefully it looks better than this.

Almond Toffee

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup sugar

1/4 water

8 oz chocolate chips

Slivered almonds

Bring to boil – cook to 300°F.  Pour onto greased foil on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle chocolate chips onto hot mixture and spread evenly.  Sprinkle almonds over top.  Cool and then break apart.

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8 responses to “The trouble with making toffee

  1. I loved reading this post

  2. OK, great. Now I have to try and make some, right now. I will let you know how it turns out!

  3. It was perfect! Best toffee I have ever made. Thanks for the recipe. This is what I did: I used a 1 quart Le Creuset sauce pan and warmed the sugar and water before adding the butter. I turned the burner to just under the ‘medium’ setting and left it there the whole time. It took about 30 minutes to reach the full 300 degrees, I stirred it with a wooded spoon about every 7 or 8 minutes. It seemed to take a long time to reach 280 degrees and it shot up to 300 degrees in just a few minutes, so beware! Next time I might try adding some rough chopped toasted almonds to the mix just before pouring it out.
    Now I can’t stop eating it!

  4. I have been making this toffee for years and I think it turned out better when I knew nothing about what temp to bring it to….I did have some failures though…as far as copying the recipe wrong….oops….;)

  5. That’s okay, it was still a lot of fun.

  6. Pingback: There’s No Honey in Baklava, I’m Crushed | His and Hers Homesteading

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