Mixed-Nut Butter-Crunch Toffee
Published by Clarkson Potter
If I had to choose, this would be my favorite candy in the whole world. Savory, sweet, and incredibly delicious, this is a great choice when you want to prepare the “sweet part” of your menu a week or two ahead. The candy keeps really well when refrigerated in an airtight tin. If unsalted nuts are not available, reduce the salt in the recipe to ¼ teaspoon. Oh, and you might be wondering why I add baking soda to a candy recipe when there’s no obvious need for leavening. The candy mixture needs to be lightened in order to keep you from breaking a tooth on it once it’s hardened. When baking soda is stirred into the hot toffee, the soda is activated, producing millions of microscopic bubbles that “interrupt” its hard texture, forcing the candy to shatter (and not crack) when you take a bite. For those allergic to nuts, see the nut-free variation at the end of this recipe.
Timing is Everything
• Toast and chop the nuts one or two days ahead of assembling the candy and keep them at room temperature, securely covered. Freeze any extra nuts, or leave them at room temperature and use them within two weeks.
• These candies stay well for over a month when covered tightly and stored in the refrigerator.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCocktail Party, Cooking for a date, Family Get-together
Dietary Considerationegg-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free
Taste and Texturebuttery, chocolatey, crunchy, nutty, rich, sweet
Type of Dishchocolate dessert, dessert
- 1¼ cups (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons melted
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1½ cups coarsely chopped deeply toasted unsalted macadamia nuts
- 3 cups finely chopped toasted nuts (blanched almonds, walnuts, pecans, and/or macadamia nuts)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1½ cups sugar
- 1½ cup light corn syrup
- 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
Using some of the melted butter, coat a shallow 12 × 10-inch baking sheet and line it with a sheet of parchment paper, allowing some excess paper at both ends. Brush the paper with some more of the melted butter and set the sheet aside on a wire rack. Reserve any remaining melted butter for later. Line two more shallow baking sheets or trays with waxed paper, for holding and chilling the candy once assembled, and set the sheets aside.
Cut each unwrapped stick of butter in half and place on a plate next to your work surface, along with a tiny bowl with the premeasured salt and baking soda, an opened bottle of vanilla, and the coarsely chopped macadamia nuts. Place the finely chopped nuts in another bowl. Place a small bowl half full of boiling water next to the stove and insert a pastry brush in the water. Put your candy thermometer within easy reach. Place a medium bowl of ice water close by and, if by accident any hot sugar syrup should touch your skin, dunk the affected area into this bowl.
Place a 2½-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove. Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in the pan and stir gently to combine. Place the pan over medium-high heat and let the mixture come to a rolling boil. Don’t stir anymore. If, while the sugar was dissolving, any sugar crystals jumped to the sides of the pan, use the moistened pastry brush to wash the sides down. Cook the syrup until the color turns very light amber. Reduce the heat and add the butter, one half-stick at a time, stirring very gently with the clean stem end of a wooden spoon. Add the next piece of butter only after each preceding piece has melted and become fully incorporated.
When all of the butter has been added and the mixture is well combined, clip the candy thermometer on the side of the pan so the bottom is submerged in the boiling toffee without allowing the mercury tip to touch the bottom of the pan. Raise the heat to medium and boil the mixture until the temperature reads between 295° and 300°F. Remove the thermometer from the pan and stand the bottom in the bowl of boiling hot water. Working quickly but carefully, immediately take the pan off the stove and stir in the combined salt and baking soda, vanilla, and coarsely chopped macadamia nuts (in that order). Immediately, pour the candy mixture onto the prepared greased baking sheet and, using a long, buttered metal icing spatula or a table knife, spread the toffee into a thin even layer about 1/3 inch thick (the toffee won’t cover the entire pan). Use a buttered blade of a pastry scraper to frequently push the toffee into a rectangular shape as it cools, giving it a straight edge. Let the mixture set for a few minutes, or until it firms up a bit (not too long, however, or the candy will become too hard to cut).
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate, stirring constantly, either in a heatproof bowl set in a skillet filled with an inch of very hot but not simmering water over low heat, or in a microwave oven for 1 minute on high, stirring until smooth after heating. As you work with the chocolate, occasionally check the slab of toffee, using the straight edge of your scraper to move it back in line. Once the chocolate is melted, place the bowl next to your work surface.
While the toffee mixture is still warm and pliable, use a buttered pastry scraper to score it into 1½-inch squares. Let the candy set until it’s firmer, about 5 more minutes. Score again through the original cuts, making sure that the candy is in separate squares all the way through to the bottom. If stubborn, reapply butter to your pastry scraper and place the blade in your original cut. Using a heavy mallet, whack the top of the scraper, forcing the blade through any sticky, tough spots.
When firm and separate, make sure the toffee pieces are in their original positions and pour the melted chocolate over the top. Using a long metal icing spatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the toffee. (It’s fine if the chocolate runs down into the grooves.) Scatter 2 cups of the ground toasted nuts on top of the chocolate and press them gently into the chocolate. Reserve the remaining 1 cup of nuts. Lift one end of the parchment paper so the first line of cut candy bends and separates from the next line. One by one, carefully lift each piece away from the rest and, if there are any bare spots, sprinkle them with the nuts. Place the candy, in a single layer, on the prepared baking sheets and refrigerate the pieces, covered with plastic wrap, to let the chocolate harden, 1 to 2 hours. Once set, place the candy into an airtight tin in layers, separated with waxed paper. Although these candies may be stored at room temperature, to best preserve the freshest flavor, store them in the refrigerator.
Nut-Free Butter Crunch
For a nut-free version, make the following changes in the original recipe. Instead of using nuts in the toffee, use an equal amount of coarsely chopped salted thin pretzel sticks. Mix 1½ cups each of crushed Nabisco chocolate wafer cookies and Lorna Doone shortbread cookies, and use them to top the melted chocolate. Reduce the salt to ¼ teaspoon. All other instructions are the same.
2004 by Lauren Groveman