English toffee is an old fashioned rich buttery confection. Enjoying this traditional treat is a long-standing tradition in many households. This crunchy, decadent holiday indulgence is reminiscent of many popular chocolate-covered toffee candy bars such as Skor and Heath. However, English toffee is even better since you can make it right at home. Unfortunately, candy making was never truly my forte. Luckily I had some friends I could count on to supply me with this easily giftable treat every December.
While working in Brookline, Massachusetts, many years ago, a coworker would slip boxes of her family’s beloved English toffee into everyone’s mailbox as a holiday coworker gift. The gift boxes were held together neatly by a candy cane patterned string. Nestled inside the box were the thickest pieces of English toffee covered in dark chocolate with toasted nuts wrapped in festive tissue paper. Her English toffee candies were undoubtedly the best I’ve ever eaten and always added extra magic to the holiday season.
When I moved away from Brookline, not receiving the English toffee around the holidays was greatly missed. Although I didn’t have her recipe, I tried my best to recreate an English toffee that seemed similar in shape, texture, and taste.
Old-Fashioned English Toffee, A Holiday Tradition
- 2 cups walnuts, pecans, or almonds, minced and toasted (halved)
- 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (halved)
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- baking sheet
- parchment paper, or Silpat
- baking sheet, 9×13 inch baking dish, or 11×7 inch baking dish
- large, heavy saucepan
- wooden spoon
- candy thermometer
- spoon or an offset spatula
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the nuts on a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Bake the nuts for 8-10 minutes. Allow the toasted nuts to cool, then mince them. Set aside.
Determine the thickness of your toffee by selecting your pan. For a thinner toffee base, choose a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. For thicker uniform pieces, use a 9×13 inch baking dish or an 11×7 inch baking dish lined with a parchment paper sling.
Arrange half of the toasted nuts on the bottom of the pan, along with half of the chocolate. Set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the salt, brown sugar, water, and corn syrup. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until blended. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil over medium heat. Do not stir once the mixture begins to boil.
Continue to boil the mixture until the temperature reaches the “hard-crack stage” (300-310F on a candy thermometer). This process will take 10-15 minutes and will require patience.
Once your mixture reaches 295-300F, immediately remove your saucepan from the heat. Quickly add the baking soda to the boiling mixture and stir.
Quickly pour the toffee over the crushed toasted nuts and chocolate in the prepared pan. Then sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the warm toffee. Allow the chocolate to melt for about 2-3 minutes, then spread with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Then continue to garnish the top of the toffee with the remaining toasted nuts.
Allow the toffee to harden and cool slightly before removing it from the pan. Using your hands or a knife, depending on how thick the toffee is, break the pieces into large chunks.
Store your English toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks. Enjoy!
What Does Baking Soda Do In English Toffee? Do I Need To Add It?
You don’t need to add the baking soda in English toffee. But we highly recommend it. Baking soda reacts with acids in the sugar, which make several bubbles in the mixture that become trapped. These trapped bubbles create a desirable airy, light texture within the toffee.
Is Toffee The Same Thing As Caramel?
Not exactly. Although they have similar flavors, toffee is hard and crunchy while caramel is soft and chewy. Toffee is cooked to the hard crack stage of 300 to 310 degrees. To prepare caramel, you would cook to a firm-ball stage of 245 to 250 degrees.
Do I Need To Use A Candy Thermometer To Make English Toffee?
Although you don’t need to use a candy thermometer, it will be extremely challenging to know when your toffee is ready to be poured and frustrating when you get it wrong. To test your toffee without a candy thermometer, use the cold water test. This involves dropping a spoonful of your hot mixture into a cup of cold water. When you attempt to remove it, bend it with your hand, and it should be brittle and crack.
What Makes English Toffee, English?
The ingredients for toffee are not complicated. You more than likely have them in your kitchen, as they’re considered everyday baking essentials, sugar, water, and butter. If you surf Pinterest for English toffee recipes, you’ll come across hundreds that list white granulated sugar as the primary sweetener. Surprisingly, British toffee, “authentic English toffee,” is traditionally made with brown sugar. Brown sugar gives the toffee a much richer flavor than white sugar could ever achieve.
Additionally, classic English toffee has no chocolate or nuts. It’s a naked piece of toffee. When chocolate and nuts are added, it becomes buttercrunch. But, the names are becoming interchangeable in today’s modern candy making world, which is why you’ll see hundreds of recipes labeled as English toffee.