Dark Chocolate Toffee
This is the recipe that taught me proportion and temperature are important.
I like to think that I am a pretty good cook. I pride myself on my ability to take whatever ingredients I have on hand and make something delicious. The opposite is also true: Think up something delicious, buy ingredients and make it, with nary a recipe or question asked. I do it all the time, it’s almost second nature to me. The thing is, I do it with real FOOD. I’m a meat and potatoes chef (allegorically), not a patisserie chef.
I’ve always struggled with candies for that very reason. When you’re making Caesar dressing, or vodka sauce or honey roasted carrots it’s easy (for me!) to go by smell, taste and texture. When I’m making peanut brittle, fudge or toffee, I don’t have that luxury! It’s either on it’s way to done, or hard, burnt mess, and somewhere in the middle of that is perfect. Even just a different pan thickness though can change the length of time that it needs to be cooked, and an extra tablespoon of butter can completely change the results.
Because of these reasons, and my unashamed loathing of following a recipe word for word, I’ve always shied away from candy recipes. I somehow felt I was ‘better’ than the recipe…but, spoiler alert, I’m not! I came to the realization this year that it was time I expand my knowledge base, and as much as I hated to hear it, if I can’t do it without a recipe, I’m obviously NOT better than the recipe! So I had a firm talk with myself, told myself that I needed to get over myself, and decided to start working on becoming better at candies, cakes and cookies. After all, a real chef doesn’t only know how to cook meat and potatoes!
So first off, it hasn’t been easy. My husband has actually forced me to read a few recipes out loud to make sure I’m actually reading, and not just skimming (my specialty). But I’ve been getting better. And guess what? When you actually read the recipe, making candy is pretty darn easy! All you need is a good thermometer and a bit of patience.
So I’m not going to come off saying that I’m a pro now. Far from it. But I’m finally starting to learn some techniques, and it feels good! There’s a whole new world of methods and recipes that is starting to open up to me! For example, I’m sure everyone has heard of the soft ball, hard ball, and brittle string stages of candy making, but did you know that there are actual, reliable temperatures that go along with each of those stages?? (Yes I know any halfway decent baker is rolling their eyes right now.) I guess I should have, but I’d never put the time into finding out what they were. Candy making is SO much easier with a good thermometer and some basic temps under my belt!
OK, enough talk. Below is my first, official candy recipe. Buttery Dark Chocolate Toffee. It’s seriously so easy. The only disclaimer? Follow the recipe. Don’t do a Leah and skim through, because 1/4 cup of water is not the same as a 1/2 and 335 degrees is not the same as 325!
As an alternative to the walnut toffee I have outlined before, you can also do a plain, sea salt toffee variation. Exclude the walnuts completely, and in the last step, instead of pressing walnuts into the top coat of chocolate, sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top!
- 8 oz Butter
- 1 Cup Wh. Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 Cup Water
- 1.5 Cups Roasted Chopped Walnuts
- 2 Cups Dark Chocolate Chips
Prepare a 9x13 pan by fully lining it with two sheets of foil. Make sure the foil comes up high enough along the sides so that you can grasp it to lift the toffee out later. Spray the foil lightly with cooking spray.
Melt the stick of butter in a 2 quart saucepan over medium heat. Once it is melted, pour in the water.
Swirl the pan a few times to distribute the water and butter and then pour the sugar into the center of the pan, being careful not to get any along the edges. Pour the salt on top of the sugar and distribute the sugar just a bit in the pan by patting it down with a spatula. Do not stir or get it on the edges of the pan! Just knock the pile down a bit.
Once the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture is a light amber, swirl the pan a few times. It should be bubbly. Cook until the mixture registers 300F on a candy thermometer. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook until the thermometer registers 325F. The mixture will be a bubbly amber.
Turn off the heat and pour 1 cup of chopped walnuts into the mixture. Beat them in thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
Pour the toffee into the prepared 9x13 pan and tilt the pan to evenly distribute it. Set the pan in the fridge for about 30mn to fully harden.
After the toffee is hard, melt one cup of chocolate chips in the microwave, stirring every 30 second to prevent them from burning. Once they become runny and glossy use a spatula to evenly distribute the chocolate over the toffee. Return the pan to the fridge to harden for another half hour.
This time when you take the toffee out of the fridge, you're going to need to flip it over. Using the foil 'sling' that you made earlier, remove the toffee from the pan, carefully peeling the foil back. Flip the toffee over, chocolate side down and place it back in the pan, in the foil again.
Melt the remaining chocolate chips in the microwave same as before, until they are smooth and glossy. Spread them over the toffee, and then quickly sprinkle the remaining walnuts over them, pressing them in firmly with your hand. Refrigerate the toffee one more time harden, and then it is ready for gifting!
Toffee can be kept for up to two weeks in the fridge!