I found this recipe many years ago when I was tasked with finding a good gluten free dessert that I could bring to book club. Having a candy thermometer takes a lot of pressure out of this recipe so that you can monitor what is going on with the toffee and not burn your sugar. Here is where I put my inexpensive candy thermometer to the test.
I compared the thermometer that I use that clips onto the side of the pan with my thermometer that alarms and my expensive, but super accurate instant read thermometer. It is hard to tell without zooming in, but the ten dollar candy thermometer was within 2 degree of the instant read one. Ditto for the one that has an alarm and is on a cable. I wanted that one to work so that I could set the alarm a few degrees below the done point so that I could be doing other stuff in the kitchen and not over cook my sugar. Turns out that it was too complicated to get it clipped onto the pan since it is not designed for that use. So regular candy thermometer it is.
Can you make this without a thermometer? Yes, absolutely, but you will have to watch the sugar closely as it can go from done to burnt in a matter of minutes. When you first start boiling the ingredients, it is very pale in color. Here you can see when it is just beginning to boil, and once it is boiling.
As you begin to approach the hard crack stage it will become more golden brown:
and then suddenly darken. This is what it looks like when it is done.
The color can be just a tad lighter to a tad darker. Too much darker and it will taste like burnt sugar. You can check to see if it is at the hard crack stage by using a spoon to drip some into a glass of ice cold water. If it snaps when you try to break it you are done. Just do that quickly as once the sugar is burnt there is no way to rescue it.
Using a parchment lined baking sheet allows you to make multiple batches without having to use multiple cookie sheets. Just slide the parchment off the cookie sheet while you wait for it to cool and you are ready to make the next batch. This makes great holiday gifts and it requested year after year.
Don’t skip on toasting the nuts. It really makes a huge difference in the taste. It takes this from good to amazing! Here is what the almonds look like toasted vs straight out of the bag
And here is what happens when you get distracted and toast the pecans for too long. Yep, that is a whole bunch of pecans that I had to toss in the trash since I scorched them.
- 2 cups pecans, or almonds, toasted (8.0 oz) I use a 50:50 mix of almonds and pecans
- 1 cup salted butter, 2 sticks (8.0 oz) if you use unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt.
- 1 ½ cups sugar (10.5 oz)
- 3 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 ½ - 3 cups chocolate chips (15 - 18 oz) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped also works.
- Heat oven to 350 °F. Place nuts on an un-greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch carefully starting at about 8 minutes as you want the nuts to be golden brown and not scorched. Set aside and let cool.
- In a large deep saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to boil gently without stirring until the mixture reaches 300 °F on a candy thermometer. It will go from light-colored to a darker amber quite quickly. Watch carefully as you don't want to burn the toffee.
- While the toffee is cooking, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly. Spread out half of the nuts and half of the chocolate on the baking sheet. If you want a thinner toffee, spread the nuts and chocolate further apart, thicker, keep them closer together. You can also use a parchment-lined and greased 9 x 9 or a 9 x 13 pan to try to keep the toffee more uniform.
- Once the toffee has reached 300 °F, remove from the heat and stir in the baking soda. The toffee will bubble and fizz quite a bit which helps make it light and fluffy and easier to bite into. Pour the fizzing toffee syrup over the prepared chocolate and nuts and immediately sprinkle the remaining chocolate and then nuts over the hot toffee.
- Wait 2-3 minutes for the chocolate to soften, then use the back of a spatula or a greased piece of parchment paper in your hand to gently press down on the chocolate and nuts to make sure everything adheres to the top of the toffee.
- Let cool and for the chocolate to set, then break it into chunks. If you are like me, you will stick the whole cookie sheet in the fridge or outside in the cold to speed up the chocolate sets.