"I can make the toffee," I told my neighbor when we discussed what we were going to make for our book club meeting we were co-hosting. I make tortes, soufflés, and Italian bread from scratch so what was toffee? Little did I know.
The month we hosted book club, we read Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. When she described making toffee I thought it would be so easy. What is there to it? It's just like caramel sauce but hardened.
Wrong and wrong again. After my first total toffee fail, I remembered Jen Hatmaker blogging about repeated toffee fails and how she could never figure out what in the world she was doing wrong. Just expect to fail your first time, ok? Low expectations folks, low expectations.
What I learned:
Shauna Niequist's recipe made it look way too easy and I needed to look elsewhere, say the Pioneer Woman with her step by step instructions with pictures!!
Start with melted butter, don't melt the butter with sugar, I'm convinced that's where my problem lay (because it was a problem from the get go).
Stir constantly. Usually when recipes say stir constantly, I ignore them. Don't ignore this instruction. Stir constantly.
If this recipe doesn't work, goggle toffee mistakes and expect everyone to give you conflicting advice. Then find a food blog that you generally have good success with and try their instructions. It's just sugar and water and butter folks, it's not like you're throwing out chocolate or a tasty fruit or vegetable.
It's ok to mess up and try again.
Here's the version I came up with--a lot of the Pioneer Woman's and a little bit of Shauna Niequist's.
from The Pioneer Woman and Shauna Niequist
1 c (16 T or 2 sticks or 8 oz) butter, melted
2 c (or 8 oz) sugar
1/2 t salt
3 T water
1/2 t vanilla (optional)
1 c good quality dark chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 c or so chopped pecans (you can use more or less depending on your whim)
1 t good quality coarse sea salt--fleur de sal or a fancy salt
In a saucepan (I use my stainless one--not my cast iron one because it heats up faster), combine melted butter, water, salt, and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over medium-high heat (a 6 or 7 on my stove), stirring gently the whole time. Using a candy thermometer, bring the sugar mixture to 298 degrees faranheit or until it is a deep amber color. (I like candy thermometers. If your mixture doesn't seem to be reaching 298, turn up the heat a bit). Be very careful not to let any of the melted sugar get on your skin. I have a scar to show what it can do to you on my wrist.
Remove from the heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet (cookie sheet) lined either with parchment paper or a silpat. Let cool until solid to the touch.
In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. Pour it over the toffee and top immediately top with pecans and sea salt. Let cool until solid and rather hard. Break into irregular pieces and serve.