crack toffee

Candy. Let's talk about it. 

Is it intimidating? Yes. Making candy at home is definitely a task that can go terribly, terribly wrong. But! The rewards are worth it, I promise. At least, I promise if I give you a candy recipe, it's one I've made dozens and dozens of times, and I'll walk you through the whole thing. This toffee has the perfect texture and it is such a winner: four ingredients, including water, and this crazy concoction can be yours.

This toffee is the candy that comes with training wheels. It is so easy to make. I daresay this is a recipe you could even do with young children. 

Personally, I like my toffee heavy on the butter, heavy on the sugar, hold the nuts. If you like nuts in your toffee, I'll tell you where you can add them in- it would still work beautifully.

This recipe doesn't make a ton. You'll get enough to give as gifts to one person (you really like) or two people (who are on your list, but you don't want to buy for). It's also pretty dang handy to have around during the holiday season- if you have unexpected guests, you can always put it out on a little plate and be all, "yeah, I'm basically Martha Stewart, I made my own toffee, would you like some?". They'll never know it only took about twenty minutes.

I actually got this recipe from a cookie exchange a few years ago. It was a family recipe of one of my coworkers- I haven't changed a thing. When it's right, it's right. There were no temperatures given in the recipe, and I haven't given them to you here- I have found that it's easier to just watch the mixture, and if I'm constantly checking the thermometer, it's easy to get distracted or second-guess the process.

I call it crack toffee because it cracks when you drop it...and because you just can't stop eating the dang stuff.

Ready? Here's how it's done:

First: set up a sheet pan with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Make sure it is sitting on a trivet or other heat proof surface.

Combine the butter, the sugar, and the water in a medium saucepan. The mixture will become quite voluminous, so you want a pot that has a good amount of headroom.

Over medium heat, stir until the mixture starts to boil. At first it will look very dry and crystalline.

As the butter melts, it will become a thick liquid. 

Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat up to medium high, stirring all the while. 

It will become a creamy yellow color, then light tan, as it expands in volume and boils vigorously. Make sure you're scraping all the nooks and crannies so there isn't any sugar burning on the bottom of the pot.

Continue stirring and boiling until the mixture turns a- you guessed it- caramel color. The darker you allow the caramel to get, the more bitter your toffee will be, with a strong burnt sugar flavor. If that's your jam, go for it.

The picture below is just the right color!

Carefully, and I mean CAREFULLY, remove the pan from the stove and pour the sugar mixture onto your prepared pan.

(If you want to add nuts, stir in 1 cup now.)

See how it's still boiling? This is definitely not the part where you want children close by.

Don't worry if there's a bit of darker toffee at the bottom of the pan. Scrape it all out in a puddle and just leave it to cool for five minutes. The infusion of hot sugar will immediately turn your sheet pan scorching hot too, so don't try to move it with bare hands at this point.

After five minutes, most of the bubbles in the surface will have settled and it will be smooth. Gently place your chocolate on top of the sugar, trying not to press down on the toffee.

The sugar is still extremely hot, so the residual heat will melt the chocolate as it sits on the surface. 

Can we all marvel for a second about how much that pool of sugar looks like a celestial formation? So pretty.

Now let the chocolate sit for another five minutes. The pieces may sink into the surface a little- that's okay.

After five minutes, grab a small spatula and very gently start spreading around the chocolate. The pieces in the thicker parts of the toffee (usually the middle) will melt first, so I typically start there and work my way around. If you find that the very top of the chocolate is not quite melted, just keep spreading it around, and soon it will all come together.

This part is super fun.

You can spread the chocolate all the way to the edge if you like, but I like to leave a little bit showing around the outside because I am an artiste.

Now the hard part: you have to leave the candy until it is COMPLETELY COOL. This is very important because you want to make sure the chocolate sets properly. You don't need to chill it, just don't touch it and let it cool naturally.

You can tell by looking at the chocolate when it's ready. In the above shot, everything is very shiny and liquid.

Once the chocolate has cooled and set, it will look like this.

To break the candy, just pick up the sheet tray and drop it on the counter a few times. The chunks will crack off naturally.

Keep the toffee in a cool, dry place in a sealed container for up to a week- if you can.

Here's the recipe! :