English Toffee with Chocolate and Pecans

English Toffee on English china

Bite into a piece of English Toffee and your mouth will encounter the rich, creamy chocolate layer, followed by the buttery burnt sugar snap of the center. The confection sits on a bed of pecans, which leaves a buttery, chocolatey, nutty goodness in your mouth.

Why not make a batch for Valentine’s Day? Such an elegant candy to share.

Zoe waits for me to throw her ball

Zoe’s all ready for Valentine’s Day, but of course, I can’t share the toffee with her because of the chocolate. But she would love it if I’d just throw her ball – over and over – all day – endlessly.

great for gifts

Toffee can be a bit controversial. In searching for a definition, I noted that it can be confused with caramels or butterscotch. Toffee is made from boiled syrup and it can be formed into a shape; it has more of a crunch when you eat it. English Toffee is usually covered in chocolate and contains nuts. Oh yeah, that’s why I made English Toffee.

spread chopped pecans in a buttered cake pan

This is another heirloom recipe I made as a kid. The recipe is straight out of my 1972 Betty Crocker Cookbook and is labeled merely “Toffee.” The same cookbook contains a recipe for Toffee Bars, which I made and wrote about earlier. http://www.nanaclareskitchen.com/2011/12/17/toffee-bars/

The bars have a definite cookie bottom; the candy does not.

The syrup will get quite thick

I have a cousin who had a candy business for a number of years and toffee was one of her best sellers. For good reason. It is such a treat to the taste buds.

quickly pour over pecans

1 ½ cup pecans, chopped
1 ½ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks) Do not substitute margarine!
¾ cup dark or semi sweet chocolate chips

sprinkle on the chocolate chips

spread warm chocolate

• Butter a 9” x 13” cake pan. Please do not use cooking spray or shortening; just use butter.
• Spread the pecans into the buttered pan evenly.
• Heat the sugar and butter to boiling in a medium sized pan, stirring constantly.
• Boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 6-7 minutes. (Hard crack stage.) (See notes below.)
• Use a clean basting brush dipped in water to make sure there is no sugar clinging to the sides of the pan. (Clinging sugar will cause the toffee to become gritty.)
• Immediately spread mixture evenly over the nuts. It will set up very quickly, so be fast. You may want to use a buttered spoon to push the syrup into all the corners.

cut while warm

• While it’s still hot, pour the chocolate chips evenly over the toffee.
• Put a baking sheet over the pan to contain the heat. Leave about a minute.
• Remove the top baking sheet and spread the chocolate evenly.
• Cut into bars while toffee is still warm, if you can.
• Chill until firm.

bottom side up

no one will mind the funny shapes

• While you are boiling the syrup, if it smells as if it’s burning, turn down the heat and be sure to stir vigorously. I found six minutes were plenty long to boil.
• You can test to see if your syrup is at the hard crack stage (300 degrees on a candy thermometer). Simply drop a small amount of syrup into a glass filled with ice water. If the syrup separates into threads which are hard and brittle you’re done.
• These are very difficult to cut when they’re set up, so you’ll end up with all sorts of odd shapes. No one will complain once they get a taste of them.

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Toffee Bars

toffee bars

Toffee bits really add to this traditional recipe for toffee bars. Years ago I always put walnuts over the chocolate layer, but then they started marketing these bits and they really work well. This is perfect for those times when you need bars in a hurry, but you don’t want them to taste as if you just threw something together. Everyone always asks for this recipe – even when they haven’t tried it.

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toffee bits

I was chatting with my favorite “checker” in the checkout lane of the grocery store when she scanned my bag of “toffee bits.”
“What do you do with these? I always see them and I wonder where people use them,” she said.
“Toffee bars,” I said. “Make a simple crust, melt chocolate on the top and then sprinkle on the toffee bits.” YUM. Here it is in better detail.
This adapted from Betty Crocker, the 1972 cookbook.

1 cup butter (Oh Yeah!)
1 cup packed brown sugar (no wonder they’re so good.)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp salt

1 cup chocolate chips, milk, dark or semi-sweet. Your choice.
1 cup toffee bits

heavy batter

plop dough in pan

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
• Grease 9” x 13” baking pan
• Mix together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla.
• Blend in flour and salt.

press dough flat

• Batter will be heavy. Press it into the pan.

spread the chocolate

• Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
• Turn off oven.

sprinkle the toffee bits

• Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips.
• Put back into oven for a minute.
• Spread chocolate.
• Sprinkle with toffee bits and lightly tap into the chocolate.
• You can cut them into bars while still warm.
• Makes about 32 bars.

Some clever people like to cut their bars into diamonds. That would look even more elegant, but I never remember to try that. Habits die hard. But I am happy that I’ve started to use the toffee bits on top of the melted chocolate. The crunch really works well with the toffee flavor of the bar itself.