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English Toffee

Life is sweet!  And so is this classic English Toffee! A layer of buttery, crunchy toffee covered with a layer of rich chocolate and sprinkled with chopped toasted almonds. This sweet, decadent confection is easy to make and could become one of your holiday traditions.

Plate of English toffee with 3 pieces in foreground
Rich, crunchy and decadent

What is your favorite Christmas-time candy? For me growing up the traditional peppermint candy cane was always in our house.  But for homemade candy mom would make batches of sweet fudge and sometimes a creamy divinity. But it is hard to beat a good, crunchy English toffee with that rich chocolate and nuts! 

What is English Toffee?

This is an old-time confection that originated in England back in the early 1800s. The Brits use brown sugar in their toffee and they do not include nuts.  At some point in time the recipe migrated to America where white sugar replaced the brown sugar and nuts were added. 

American toffee is sometimes called Butter Crunch which, after one taste of this addictive sweet treat you will agree is an appropriate title. There is a prominent taste of butter in this English toffee and it is definitely crunchy.  What makes this stuff even more delicious is a thick (or thin) layer of chocolate and nuts embedded into the chocolate. Oh, yes….pass the candy plate, please! 

Equipment Needed to make English Toffee:

For a successful batch of toffee, prep all your ingredients before you start.  Have all your ingredients available with the nuts and chocolate chopped so you can use them when needed.  The chocolate can be either semi-sweet, milk or dark chocolate.  Buy the best you can afford and chop it up.

First off, is using the right equipment will greatly improve your chances of having a successful batch of toffee:

  • Use a heavy-bottomed pan. This is a large batch of toffee and I use my cast iron Dutch oven.
  • A candy thermometer is essential. Your eyes can deceive you, trust a thermometer to get the hot syrup to 300°F.  A candy thermometer is a good investment.
  • Kitchen digital scale.  Every kitchen should have a digital scale not only for candy but any baking and/or food prepping. No guessing or cup-leveling.  All measurements are accurate.
  • Offset spatula: This handy little tool will spread your toffee smooth without gouges and dips. It has a wide blade that sort of floats along the top of the toffee. It is especially useful in smoothing frosting on cakes and is well worth the cost of under $5.

Collage of toffee, chopped chocolate, smooth melted chocolate and topped with chopped nuts

How to make English Toffee:

Step 1:  Prepare The Nuts and Chocolate:

Spread the nuts in one layer on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Stir them a couple times during the roasting process. As soon as you see they have darkened and you can smell their fragrance take them from the oven. Set them to the side to cool.

When the nuts have cooled, chop them with either a sharp knife or in the food processor.  Chop them finely but not so into a powder. Set the chopped nuts aside.

Chop the chocolate in the food processor or with a serrated knife.  If you are using chocolate chips, break them in smaller bits in the food processor for faster melting.  Reserve the chocolate. 

Step 2: Prepare the baking sheet.

Toffee is rich and a small piece will go a long way in satisfying your sweet tooth. You can use any size pan or dish to make toffee as thick or thin as you want. We are using a 12x16x1-inch baking sheet which will make a medium thickness of toffee.

Line the baking sheet with either foil or parchment paper. Leaving several inches hanging over each end will be a big help in lifting the cooled toffee from the pan to cut it into pieces. Spray the foil/parchment paper with non-stick spray.

Step 3: Cook the syrup.

This is where you need that heavy-bottomed pan!  Pro-tip:  If you do not have a heavy-bottomed pan, use a cast-iron skillet as a heat diffuser.  Just set your cast iron skillet on the heat source and place the saucepan inside the skillet.   This will keep the toffee at an even heat.  A regular heat diffuser is another one of those handy kitchen tools to consider buying.

Set your pan on medium heat and add the butter, sugar, water, corn syrup. Stir the mixture continually until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the pan. Let the syrup come to a boil, stirring frequently. Do not hurry the process by increasing the heat as you will risk scorching the syrup.

Cook the syrup until it reaches 300°F.  This is going to take approximately 15-20 minutes and it will seem that the temperature will never increase! When the temperature gets to around 280°F is when you really need to be on the alert as the temperature will quickly increase and you need to be ready to pull it from the heat at 300°F.

Let the mixture sit for 20-30 seconds for the bubbling action to subside, give it a good stir then quickly pour it into the prepared baking sheet. Smooth it with the offset spatula getting it into the corners of the pan.

Step 4: Adding the chocolate and nuts.

Let the baking sheet of toffee sit for 1-2 minutes to develop a slight crust, then distribute the chopped chocolate evenly over the toffee.  Allow the chocolate pieces to soften for 3-5 minutes.  The smaller and more evenly the chocolate is chopped the quicker it will soften.  Spread the chocolate with the offset spatula so it completely covers the layer of toffee.

While the chocolate is still wet, sprinkle the nuts over the top of the chocolate. I also like to add a piece of parchment paper over the nuts and press the nuts into the chocolate using a very light touch. 

Step 5: Finishing the Toffee.

Now is the most difficult part of this toffee-making project…waiting!   So sorry people, but It will take from 6 to 8 hours for this English toffee to set.  Go off to bed and just let it sit overnight.  

When the English toffee has completely hardened, lift the toffee from the pan with the extra ends of parchment/foil, then use the tip of a sharp knife to break the toffee into irregular pieces.

Finally, relax and enjoy a crunchy, sweet chunk of English toffee. ?

Pan of English toffee with nuts being sprinkled on top
Three layers of deliciousness!

Troubleshooting toffee separation:

Sometimes the butter will separate from the mixture and create an oil slick on top of the candy. The separation is usually from sudden temperature changes or uneven cooking. This is why a heavy-bottomed saucepan helps when you make candy. A nice thick saucepan will distribute heat more evenly.

Some other tips that will help keep the toffee from separating:

  • Use medium heat. Don’t heat the mixture on high or it will get hot too fast and promote separation.
  • Stir gently. Agitating the mixture can contribute to separation.
  • Stir constantly (and gently). Constant stirring will prevent hot spots.
  • Use a candy thermometer. A thermometer will help you get the right temperature without any guesswork.

How to fix toffee when it separates:

If the toffee separates while it is still in the saucepan simply add a couple of tablespoons of hot water to the mixture and stir until it comes back together. 

Pro-tip:   

If you already poured the toffee into the sheet pan and then notice that it separates, the excess butter will keep the chocolate from adhering to the toffee.  There are a couple of things you can do to remedy this issue. 

  1. Wipe the excess butter off with a dry paper towel to absorb it.
  2. Add a light sifting of cocoa powder over the top of the toffee before adding the chopped chocolate.  The cocoa powder will absorb the buttery film so the chocolate will not fall off when it is cooled and cut.

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Plate of English toffee with 3 pieces in foreground

English Toffee

Yield: 3 pounds
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Classic English Toffee!  Sweet, buttery and crunchy with a layer of rich chocolate and sprinkled with chopped toasted almonds.  This sweet, decadent confection is easy to make and could become one of your holiday traditions. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole almonds
  • 16 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate
  • 1 pound butter
  • 2-2/3 cups (530 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  2. Spread the nuts onto a baking sheet in an even layer and roast them for 8-10 minutes, stirring the nuts half way through the cooking time.  As soon as you begin to smell the nuts, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool.  
  3. Place the cooled nuts into a food processor and pulse them until they are finely chopped.  A sharp knife can also be used.  
  4. Chop the chocolate either by hand or in the food processor and set it aside.  
  5. Coat a 12x16x1-inch baking sheet with non-stick oil spray and line it with parchment paper or foil. Leave enough overhanging to use as a handle to lift the finished toffee.  Coat parchment/foil with non-stick oil spray.  

Cook the Toffee:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan set over medium heat, add the butter, sugar, water, corn syrup and salt.  Stir constantly as the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.  Clip a candy thermometer to the pan and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Cook the mixture, stirring frequently, until the temperature reaches 300°F to 310°F (hard crack stage).  Be patient and do not wander off from the stove.  As the temperature climbs past 280°F keep a close eye on it as the temperature will increase quickly.
  3. Once the toffee has reached 300°F, remove the pan from the heat and let sit for 30 seconds to settle the bubbling then stir in the vanilla.  
  4. Pour the toffee into the prepared baking sheet and spread to an even thickness with an off-set spatula.  

Add the Chocolate and Nut Layers:

  1. Sprinkle the chocolate evenly over the hot toffee and let it melt about 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it evenly over the top of the toffee using the off-set spatula .
  3. While the chocolate is still warm and soft, sprinkle the surface with the chopped nuts and gently press them into the chocolate.   Allow the toffee to cool completely 6-8 hours, preferably overnight, then break the toffee into pieces by using the tip of a sharp knife. 
  4. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. 

Notes

  • Make sure the saucepan is large enough that the sugar mixture doesn't boil over. Don't use a saucepan smaller than 3 quarts.
  • Set a timer and watch the nuts carefully.... stir them at least once as they cook as they will quickly turn from perfect to burned. When you can smell their fragrance, remove them from the oven.
  • Chocolate chips can be used, chopping them will help them melt faster.
  • Weigh the ingredients on a kitchen scale, it will give more accurate measurements.
  • Use real butter!
  • Clip a candy thermometer to the pan for accurate temperature.
  • Keep the heat on medium until it reaches 300°F.
  • When the thermometer reaches 275°F the color of the toffee will begin to darken and thicken.
  • Break up the cooled toffee with the tip of a knife using a stabbing motion rather than slicing/cutting it into pieces.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 2 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 273Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 199mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 2gSugar: 14gProtein: 2g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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Katerina

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

This looks amazing! I love old-style recipes like this. I am definitely putting it on my Christmas sweets list. Thanks for sharing and hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

Pat Nyswonger

Sunday 22nd of December 2019

Thanks for your comment, Katrina! Toffee is so good and it doesn't last long at our house! Merry Christmas to you also!

angiesrecipes

Saturday 21st of December 2019

wow, I love all the layers of goodness and thanks for all the great tips on making perfect toffee!

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 21st of December 2019

Awe, thanks Angie

Jeff the Chef

Saturday 21st of December 2019

I love toffee. Thanks for the recipe. Thanks especially for all the helpful tips!

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 21st of December 2019

You're welcome Jeff. Hope you make plenty of this, it is great for gifts :)

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