(**Please note a 2014 update at the bottom)
My family has been munching on this since I made it earlier this week. It honestly is the most delicious, creamy, stick to your teeth, perfectly balanced toffee I’ve ever had. I seriously love this recipe for the compliments, faces of obvious enjoyment, and groans of gratitude it elicits.
I found this recipe years back. A friend of mine and I used to get together before Christmas for a number of years, and bake up treats in vast amounts to give to friends and ship to family. It was so much fun to share the chore, catch up on our busy lives, and celebrate a completed task with a bottle of wine. Some of our treats did not make the ‘repeat’ cut list, but this one has. I make it every single year now. Every. Single. Year. And no, I don’t gain a pound. (wink, wink)
Some tips and tricks for safety and success:
1. Anytime you are making candies, it is a good idea to have a bowl of ice water nearby in case some of hot liquid splashes on you. This stuff is cooked HOT and can do some serious damage to skin. Please, this is not a recipe for kids to be attempting, although, it’s fun to watch. (The boiling sugar looks like lava, even as an adult, I find myself mesmerized)
2. I use macadamia nuts. I prefer them over all other nuts as they lend just that slightly salty/creamy aspect that I personally feel balances perfectly with the toffee. You may use any other nut your prefer, or use no nuts. I know that macadamias are spendy, but it’s once a year, and it’s Christmas, so I splurge. Don’t skimp on the macadamia nuts. You’ll want all that creamy nutty goodness to shine through. I have tried off brands, but in my experience, Mauna Loa is a superior brand. (I am a macadamia nut snob….I fully confess)
3. You must have a candy thermometer for this. I know that there are the old fashioned ways to test by dropping a ball in to very cold water and ‘feeling’ it’s stage. In this case, we are looking for hard crack stage. I cook mine to exactly 300 degrees, and I’ve had great success. I consider myself still a novice in the candy making realm, but if you are a candy expert and can eyeball ‘hard crack’, my hat is off to you.
4. The original recipe calls for a chocolate layer, which is melted on the hot toffee as it cools. I skip the chocolate. Honestly? I think chocolate would be distracting to the simple purity of this toffee. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate. But there are times it can overshadow the star and, this is one of those times. I’ll let you decide whether or not you want to add chocolate or not. If you do, take chopped chocolate and sprinkle on top of the freshly poured toffee and let sit. The heat of the toffee will melt the chocolate, then you can take an offset spatula and smooth it out.
5. Lastly, you will need a Silpat mat (silicone) or parchment paper. I invested in a Silpat years and years ago and it has been a loyal workhorse in my kitchen. If you don’t have one, its Christmas…..
Macadamia Nut Butter Crunch
1 lb butter. (I use regular old salted butter)(***See 2014 update below)
2 C sugar
1 tbsp LIGHT corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts.
(8 oz chopped chocolate–as i’ve said, optional. I don’t use it)
Line a sheet pan, using the above tip. I use a sheet pan that restaurants use – Jelly Roll pans – they are rimmed. It keeps the toffee contained and reduces the mess!
Combine your butter, sugar, corn syrup in a heavy bottomed 4 quart sauce pan. You can use a non-stick pot for easier clean up. Get the butter melting first, then add the other two ingredients. Place over medium to high heat, stir with a wooden spoon and bring the mixture to a boil (*see note below), and reaches 300 degrees (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer.
Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in vanilla and nuts. (be careful, at this point it will bubble furiously!)
Pour on to your silpat IMMEDIATELY, and help even it out towards the edges. The nuts can be a bit stubborn and want to clump. Try to do your best to even them out, but don’t sweat it if there are parts with no nuts. It’s still awesomely delish.
Wait about 5 minutes for toffee to cool slightly. It should be still firm but not sticky. I say that because at this point, excess butter will likely break from the toffee. (**See 2014 update below ) No need to panic, simply blot up the excess with paper towels. Carefully test with your finger around 3 mins to see if it’s set or not. If the toffee is still too hot, blotting will end up with a ruined mess and the consumption of paper. At this point, after blotting, add your chocolate if you wish.
Let it cool until its firm, then crack and store in an airtight container. I layer it in between waxed paper in a ziploc bag or plastic food storage container. Stored at room temperature.
*I am very careful when stirring to not slosh the sugar/butter mixture up on the sides of the pan. Sugar can be temperamental and you don’t want the toffee to end up sugary in texture, you want it creamy. So, to prevent the re-forming of crystals, once the butter is melted I give the mixture a gentle whisk, then I leave it alone.
This year I made this with Hope Creamery Unsalted Hi-Fat Butter. The results were amazing! Because the butter was unsalted, I added a hearty ‘pinch’ (about 1/2 tsp) of Himalayan salt while it was cooking. Using the Hi-Fat butter created a more glossy surface and the butter did NOT break out of the toffee, eliminating the whole blotting step. You can use a less expensive butter and this recipe will still yield great results. But if you really want to kick it up a notch, give the High Fat butter a whirl.
Note: The photo at the top is with traditional store brand butter. The lower photos (added this year) are with the new Hi-Fat butter. (There are other brands, Plugra is one) As you can see, there is a marked difference in the look. Its less grainy, the color richer and more glossy. That said…trust me. Both will be gone in the blink of an eye!