I never had success making toffee until a friend shared her recipe with me. It’s not a difficult process, but I somehow managed to throw enough unsuccessful batches in the trash over the years that I thought maybe I was missing the toffee-making gene.
Needless to say, I was thrilled when I finally happened upon a recipe that worked perfectly the first time without a fuss. As I am usually want to do, I have altered it a bit over the years, adding brown sugar and vanilla, and sprinkling the top chocolate layer with coarse sea salt to add texture and a pleasant saltiness that so well complements the sweet, rich caramel essence of the toffee. This confection is firm, but also so luxuriously tender that it will melt in your mouth.
The key is in cooking it patiently to the proper temperature. Watch the caramel carefully as it cooks. Once you place the candy thermometer in the saucepan, stand at or near the stove as the toffee cooks. Don’t do dishes or answer the phone, as the mercury zooms to the final temperature during the last few minutes of cooking.
This toffee is as pretty as it is tempting. The chocolate layer and sprinkling of sea salt add complexity of flavor and texture, as well as an understated, minimalist panache. Arrange the pieces in an attractive dish for parties, place them in cellophane bags tied with ribbon for tasty gifts, or keep some stashed in your pantry whenever the mood for an extravagant sweet hits.
Makes 1 1/2 pounds
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the butter in the pan and heat over medium heat until melted. Stir in the sugars, corn syrup, and water and bring to a boil. Place a candy thermometer in the pan and cook the toffee to 290ºF (soft-crack stage), about 10 minutes, watching carefully as it approaches this temperature. Remove the toffee from the heat and quickly but carefully stir in the vanilla extract. (Be careful as the toffee might spit a bit when the cool extract hits the hot mixture.) Pour the toffee evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and set aside for about 5 minutes until it begins to harden.
Sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly overtop and let it sit and begin to melt, about 30 seconds. Spread the chocolate over the toffee until it is completely melted and smooth and set aside for a few minutes, just until it starts to set. Sprinkle with salt and set aside on a wire rack in a cool area until firm, about 1 hour.
To serve, break the toffee into pieces. (Store in an airtight container in a cool area for up to 3 weeks.)