This is one of those things that it seems everyone has made at one time or another, but maybe not well. If everyone else is working from the same recipe I started with, it's no wonder. Someone once gave me a bag of this stuff as a gift and the toffee part was very light in color, lacking in flavor, and had no snap. Definitely not what I had in mind when it comes to toffee.
If you really want to make good butter toffee, you have to push the temperature much higher than many recipes specify. The one that I have gives instructions to remove from the heat at 280 degrees. At 280 degrees, the sugar hasn't had a chance yet to develop much flavor and, if you want good snap, you need to bring the sugar all the way to the hard crack stage or 300 degrees.
The good news is that armed with this knowledge, you can make some darn fine butter toffee. If you give it as gifts, you can be guaranteed the recipients will love you for life. What's even better? It's the quickest, easiest candy you've ever made! Well, maybe except for lollipops.
For a single batch, you need to use at least a 2-quart sauce pan. This recipe can easily be doubled, but if you do, be sure to use a much larger pan. The candy will bubble up quite a bit higher than you might expect when it really gets going. The last thing you want is molten sugar overflowing in your kitchen!
Stir together the butter, sugar, water, and corn syrup in the sauce pan and place over high heat.
Place your candy thermometer into the pan to keep track of the temperature. Cook over medium-high to high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. As you see in the picture below, it will come to a violent, roiling boil. Just keep an eye on the thermometer and let it do its thing. It may take anywhere from 10-25 minutes to reach 300 degrees, depending on your stove, so don't be dismayed if it seems to be taking a while.
As it cooks, it will lose water and shrink back down in the pot, becoming very gelatinous and gloppy. This is all part of the process, so just keep watching the thermometer. When you reach 285 degrees, you will need to be very vigilant; those last 15 degrees can go fast. Notice the difference in color between the picture above and below. That color is your flavor. Be ready to remove the pan from the heat right at 300 though... there's a fine line between flavor and burnt!
As soon as you remove the candy from the heat, add the pecan pieces, stir, and pour out onto a cookie sheet. There is no need to prepare the cookie sheet in any way. This candy has enough butter in it, it couldn't stick even if it wanted too! Jiggle the pan or help it to spread out with your wooded spoon. Be sure that you have a towel or trivet under the pan to protect your counter from the heat. Let the candy cool for a bit before moving on to the next step.
When the candy has cooled quite a bit (you should be able to touch it without hurting yourself), add the chocolate chips. I like to use the mini-morsels because they melt so much easier. The reason you need to let the candy cool before adding the chocolate is related to tempering. If you add the chocolate when the candy is too hot, it will heat the chocolate up too much and then it won't harden properly. It still tastes good, but is a real mess since the chocolate won't harden up like it should. The candy should not be warmer than about 105 degrees when you add the chocolate.
Let the chocolate sit on the candy for a bit to melt and then use a utensil of some sort to spread the chocolate evenly over the top. I use a butter knife. If you want, you can sprinkle some more crushed nuts on the top. They look pretty, but I find they tend to make the candy too messy. Move the tray to a cool area to firm up. If necessary, you can place it in the refrigerator. Avoid placing it in the freezer as this could also interfere with the chocolate's temper. (You can read my post about tempering chocolate if you want to learn more about this process).
When the candy is completely cool, break into small pieces and store in an air tight container. It will keep for at least a couple of weeks.
Toffee Butter Crunch
Yield: about 1 pound of candy
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 TBS water
1 TBS light corn syrup
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini-morsels work best)
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (optional)
Place the butter, sugar, water, and corn syrup together in at least a 2-quart sauce pan. Turn the heat to medium-high/high. When the butter melts, stir everything together and place a candy thermometer in the pan.
Let the mixture boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until it reaches 300 degrees and has a nice caramel color. Be very vigilant once the candy reaches 285, as the temperature can go up very rapidly from there. Remove from the heat as soon as it reaches 300. Immediately add the coarsely chopped pecans and stir.
Pour the hot candy out onto a sheet pan. Be sure there are some towels or pot holders under the sheet pan to protect your counters. Jiggle the pan or use your wooden spoon to help spread the mixture out, if necessary. Let cool until the surface is no warmer than 105 degrees. (Just feels warm to the touch). Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and let them sit to soften. Spread with a knife into a nice, even coating. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts, if desired.
Place tray in a cool area or the refrigerator to harden. When fully cool, break into pieces and wrap for gifts or store in an air tight container.
NOTE: If you are making this toffee to give as gifts, you may find yourself wanting to make a lot at one time. I have made as much as a triple batch and it works great. For a triple batch, you want to be sure you are using at least an 8-quart pan. A triple batch will fit perfectly on two 11x17 sheet pans.