Remember way back when I talked about butterscotch? And then I sort of went on a tirade about the differences between caramel and butterscotch and how ripped off I feel when offered butterscotch but given caramel, or vice versa for that matter. Well, today we're all about the toffee. And toffee has a lot in common with butterscotch.
Traditional butterscotch is made by cooking sugar, butter and molasses together to about 240F. If you take those same ingredients (which today we often shorten to butter and brown sugar since brown sugar contains molasses) and cook them to 310F, you end up with toffee. Where butterscotch is chewy, toffee breaks and crunches. It also contains nuts or seeds, and part of the fun is choosing which nuts or seeds to use. Because you can use whatever you like. I chose to make cashew toffee this time. I might choose otherwise next time. It's part of the fun!
Toffee is also related to brittle. In my experience, brittle gets its signature crunch from the addition of baking soda. Just a bit of soda adds a ton of wee tiny bubbles to the candy which makes it easier to chew than say, a lollipop. Which is what you'd have if you didn't add the baking soda. Toffee gets its crunchability from a relatively large amount of butter. Since the fat in butter is a soft solid at room temperature and retains that property even once heated to Very Very Hot, it tends to temper the crunch, allowing you to enjoy your candy while keeping all your teeth in your head. Another thing that the butter does while it's cooking is brown. All the milk solids in the butter get nutty and lovely at higher temps, and lucky us, 310F isn't hot enough to burn them. Just enough to brown them, making your candy taste that much more interesting.
In this cashew toffee, I did not use brown sugar (or add any molasses). This is the candy that we used to make at the restaurant (except with almonds) and break up into small pieces to give as mignardises in place of mints, so I just went with it. It gets most of its flavor from the interplay between the nuts and the browned butter. I must note that I would not be opposed to making it with brown sugar though since the molasses in it would bring a bit more dark complexity to the candy.
A fun thing about this formula is that it is nice and scalable. It's easy to make exactly the amount you want, from a lot to a little. All you have to remember is 1 stick of butter per 1/2 cup of sugar. Add to that a squirt of corn syrup (about 1 Tablespoon) as insurance against Premature Crystallization, enough salt to make it taste good and 1/2 cup of nuts or seeds of your choice. Once you've made your cashew toffee, you can decide to melt chocolate on top or not. I can't imagine why you wouldn't, but like I said, it's your choice.
I made a "four times" batch, which is 4 sticks of butter (1 pound) and 2 cups of sugar. Here's what I did.
- 1 pound unsalted butter (4 4oz sticks)
- 2 cups granulated sugar (feel free to substitute half of the granulated sugar for a firmly packed cup of brown sugar for more of a butterscotchy feel)
- ⅓ cup light corn syrup (6 Tablespoons) I never measure this--I just use 6 "squirts" from the bottle and call it a day
- salt, to taste. I probably used about ¾ teaspoon and thought it could have used a bit more
- 2 cups nuts or seeds of choice, toasted (if you've bought them pre-roasted, no need to toast)
- 1 Ferraro Milk Chocolate Toffee "orange" broken into segments (use the chocolate you have)
- whatever I had left from a bag of Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips, probably about ¾ cup (again, use what you have)
- fleur de sel or other flaky sea salt such as Maldon, for sprinkling on the finished candy (optional, but not really)
- In a large, heavy bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
- Add the sugar and corn syrup and bring to a boil, stirring.
- Put the lid on the pan and let boil for 2 minutes to wash down any pesky sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan.
- Take the lid off of the pot and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 265F.
- Slowly and carefully stir in the salt (at this point, the risk of crystallization has pretty much passed).
- Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, until the candy reaches 310F or up to 315F. You do have a bit of leeway here. Just make sure you've reached 310F.
- Dump in the nuts and stir them in so they're evenly distributed.
- Pour the molten candy out onto a Silpat-lined (or just pan sprayed) half-sheet pan or jelly roll pan and spread out to a uniform thickness with an offset spatula.
- Let the candy sit for a minute or two to develop a "skin," and then evenly place your chocolate/s on the candy and let melt. How much chocolate you use is totally up to you. You can cover it with wall-to-wall chocolate or you can leave some space for a thinner covering. My preference is for thin chocolate, so I left plenty of candy peeking out.
- Once the chocolate melts, use an offset spatula to spread it out in an even layer.
- Sprinkle fairly liberally with the fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, if using.
- Let sit until cool and the chocolate has completely set up.
- Cut or break into pieces as large or small as you like and enjoy.
Thanks so much for spending some time with me today. Take care, and I'll see you again soon.