Grandma Joyce’s culinary skills were not reserved for daughters only. Sons and grandsons spent time in the kitchen too, and Scott’s extraordinary breads, pastries, and treats are favorites at the Sunday dinner table. Scott’s expertise is in taking the time to find out the WHY and the HOW of cooking. He’s a “test kitchen” aficionado, since there’s actually a science to making some recipes turn out right every time. Here’s a favorite example:
PERFECT EVERY TIME ENGLISH TOFFEE
The bane of every toffee making experience is butter and sugar separation. If you search toffee recipes online and read the comments you will find all kinds of theories to why separation happens and how to stop it. The cause of separation has been attributed to things such as the wrong kind of sugar or butter (Note: Do not substitute margarine for butter, it will not have the right flavor) altitude, atmospheric pressure and relative humidity. Once you find the right weather pattern and combination of ingredients, you are still at the mercy of you ability to stir at the exact right rate (60 revolutions per minute) for the exact right amount of time. And finally make a peace offering to the gods of candy making. Only then can you have perfect toffee. It seems that secrets of toffee making are left only to the alchemist bakers of the world.
I say hog wash to all that!
The most common recommendation is constant and even stirring from beginning to end. I say that is unnecessary too! After much trial and error (clumps of grainy caramelize sugar swimming is a pool of melted butter) I have come up with my own method that is foolproof and perfect every time. Forget all the stirring, finding the perfect ingredients, baking on the perfect day. Follow this method and you will have perfect toffee every time.
I have found the most important steps of this recipe are steps 1 and 3-4. Creaming all the ingredients together and then slowly melting all of the butter and sugar together is the key to success. These steps alone will ensure success more than anything thing else. Don’t be impatient and skip or hurry these steps, they are critical! If you do skip these steps than failure is eminent. Trust me!
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter (2 sticks) softened. (do not substitute margarine)
- 1 cup Sugar
- 2 teaspoon Water
- ⅛ teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- 6 oz. Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
- ½ cup of Chopped or Slivered Almonds. (optional)
- Cream butter, sugar, water and salt together until all smooth and consistent.
- Put butter/sugar mixture into a pan large enough to allow the mixture to expand to double in volume.
- Turn on to LOW heat and let the butter melt completely. This will take approximately 8-10 min or longer depending on how low the heat is. Don't be impatient here! Let it melt slowly over low heat! The butter and sugar will separate once it has completely melted. Don't worry about the separation at this point, it will come back together once the heat is turned up.
- Once the butter has completely melted, turn the heat up to med high.
- As the heat of the mixture increases, it will bubble and foam as the water boils off. The mixture will double in volume at this point, so make sure your pan is big enough to accommodate the increase in volume. This will take about 5 minutes.
- NOTE:[i] Most recipes recommend constant stirring from start to finish to prevent butter and sugar separation. Constant stirring will not hurt the mixture, but I have found it is unnecessary. You will stir the mixture a little as it cooks. When you stir, do it gently and slowly! Stir for about 10 seconds every few minutes as the heat of the mixture rises. The goal here is to gently even out the heat. As the temperature of the pan and mixture rises you will notice the color darkening around the edges where the mixture touches the pan. Stir the sides and bottom of the pan occasionally to even out the mixture temperature.
- When the water has boiled off the volume will collapse and thicken and the temperature of the mixture will rise quickly (read stirring note). As the mixture heats up the color will change from a burnt yellow to a caramel brown hue. This will take approximately 5 min. Watch the mixture for this color change, this is a clue that it is getting close to done. Once the color reaches a nice caramel brown it is almost time to remove it from the heat. If you are experienced in making toffee than you may feel comfortable cooking by color change to know when to remove from heat. However, I recommend using a candy thermometer to get the exact temperature and time to remove it from the heat. Optimal temperature of the mixture is 300F (150C). Remove the mixture from heat at about 285F (140C) - 290F (140C). The mixture temp will continue rise for a minute or so after being off heat so don't be afraid to take it of early. Just don't go over 300F (150C).
- After you have removed the mixture from the heat, stir in the vanilla.
- NOTE: You may like almonds mixed into the toffee like a peanut brittle. If you prefer almonds in the toffee stir them in with the vanilla. Save a few almonds for step 11.
- Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet and spread evenly into an approximately 3/16" thickness.
- Let the toffee cool for a few minutes.
- When toffee is still warm spread chocolate chips evenly over the surface of toffee and allow the heat of the toffee to melt the chocolate. Once chocolate has melted sufficiently, spread it evenly over toffee surface.
- Sprinkle almonds over melted chocolate.
- Let toffee and chocolate cool completely (to speed the cooling place in refrigerator or freezer). Using a butter knife break the toffee into pieces and serve. Store in refrigerator.
posted by SCOTT