This recipe, written in my Aunt Joyce's charming hand, is for my Grandma Mary's English Toffee. I made three batches of it this year, so far. I realized, after the first batch, that I needed notes. It's hard to re-learn a year later. Also, I believe that a family's favorite recipes should be cherished, and shared. It's incredibly delicious candy.
However, it's not for wimps. If you aren't able to stir for 13 minutes, handle heat, probably get burned, and work fast, stop now. Go find a faux-candy recipe. This recipe is from a working woman who raised five kids. She was a tough nugget and she wouldn't have the patience for whiners.
Here is what you will need:
2 cups sugar
3/4 pounds butter (three sticks) . As you can see, Aunt Joyce used margarine, but that's not for me.
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla (I only use real vanilla)
2 cups ground walnuts (I use pecans; I like their buttery flavor). Get them all ground and ready to go.
2 cups good-quality chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (for buttering the cookie sheet)
Cookie sheet with sides
Microwavable bowl, for melting chocolate chips
Heavy saucepan (I only use Revere Ware for this. Don't use a cheap saucepan, at any rate. )
Candy thermometer. This is absolutely essential.
Ove Glove (yes, the Kevlar "As Seen On TV" glove. It's awesome.)
Tins or boxes to put the candy into
Here we go.
Don your apron. Your local hospital may not have a burn unit. Butter the living daylights out of the cookie sheet. This is no time to be cheap with your butter. Keep in mind: You are eventually going to need to flip this mother OUT of the cookie sheet.
Combine the sugar, water, and vanilla in a heavy saucepan. See my note above. Don't use a dinky, cheap pan. And, be prepared. This mixture is going to burn in your pan, every time. Suck it up and get ready to scrub. Photo will be below. If you use Revere Ware, it'll come off with a little elbow.
When this mixture comes to a boil, keep it boiling, and stir for one minute. Remove from heat and add the butter. Aunt Joyce suggests cutting it into cubes, which works well. She's a genius. I love her.
Now comes the tricky part. Turn the heat back up, and get your candy thermometer in the pan, and hang onto it (it won't stay put, even with that stupid clip. ) Hopefully, you have an Ove glove. Those have little grips that are handy. Start stirring. It'll come to a boil. Keep stirring. At first, the mixture is just foamy. No sweat, you think. You're wrong. Keep stirring. At the five-minute mark, your arm is shaking. Quickly, lest things burn, switch your glove/candy-thermometer hand and your wooden spoon hand. Resume. At the ten-minute mark, give up hope. Obviously, your candy thermometer is broken. Your stove is broken. This stuff is never getting to 325, is it? YES IT IS. Keep stirring. If you have a relief pitcher, send him in. If not, despair, and keep stirring. At the ten-minute mark, things start to happen. The mixture sort of gets thicker and pulls away from the sides a little. DON'T STOP STIRRING. You have to get to 325. At 300, the thermometer will give you a sliver of hope. It begins moving. Keep stirring. At 325, breathe, and remove from stove. Pour it CAREFULLY onto the buttered cookie sheet. It will spread out.
Now: Massage your arms. They will be involuntarily spasming. Fill your pot with water to let it soak. That will help with clean-up. Let the toffee cool for about 15 minutes. With your fingernail, you can tap it. It should be getting hard. You can now start getting the chocolate ready.
If you have a double boiler, I am very impressed. Also, you must be like . . . 80. Who has double boilers anymore? The microwave is great for melting chocolate chips. In your microwave-safe bowl, add the two cups of chocolate chips. Melt for 30 seconds, on high. Remove and stir. Put the bowl back in the microwave, and hit them for another 30 seconds. Stir. FOR THE THIRD TIME, another 30 seconds, and stir. This ought to do the trick, unless you have a wimpy microwave. If that's the case, hit them again.
Pour HALF of the melted chocolate over the toffee. Spread it around evenly with your spatula. Sprinkle HALF of ground nuts over it. Distribute and press, gently.
Now, guess what. We need to do the other side. Don't cry. It will be OK. This is good practice for making a frittata.
Get a big sheet of waxed paper and cover the toffee. Now, get your cutting board and put that on top. In one confident motion, flip that sucker. Yes, you will lose some nuts. It'll be OK. Take the rest of the chocolate, and spread it, just like you did on the other side. Same with the nuts. Now, let it all rest for 30 minutes.
Finally: Take a metal spoon, and press the edge onto the toffee. It will break into pieces. This is the fun part. It will also make a big mess, but that's life. Put a layer of pieces into your container. Add a layer of wax paper, and then the rest of the candy. Refrigerate until you are giving it away.
I have put together a slide show, below. E-mail me if you have questions. Try not to get burned. Use real butter.