It looks simple but. . . A toffee recipe, at first glance, looks deceptively simple. What could be easier...combine butter, sugar, and little water, cook it to a set temperature or certain color...poured out to cool, cover with chocolate and behold another perfect batch of toffee! If you have made toffee at home then you know that there are a host of things that can go wrong, many times for no apparent reason. I have personally produced hundreds of thousands of pounds of toffee...I am a professional toffee maker. I'm going to give you a few Toffee Maker's secrets to help you make that perfect batch of toffee, consistently, batch after batch after batch . . .and not just ordinary toffee, but World-Class Gourmet Almond Toffee! Toffee Maker's Secret #1: Use an accurate candy thermometer. Use the thermometer as a guide or as a roadmap. It'll give you an idea when you have arrived. As you gain experience, the color of the batch will also tell you when the toffee is ready. Toffee Maker's Secret #2: For consistency from batch to batch weigh each ingredients with a food scale and use only the finest ingredients available. Toffee Maker's Secret #3: Follow the cooking procedure exactly. When making toffee the procedure and timing is just as important as the ratio of ingredients. What makes toffee. . ."Toffee". . .is the procedure. Cooking The Batch. It's important that the butter is brought to the boiling point. Add the water and again bring to the boiling point. Boiling the butter and water will dissolve the sugar crystals very quickly. This will keep the batch from recrystallizing during the cooking process. Toffee Maker's Secret #4: Very important! Wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush and water. Any undissolve sugar crystals will cause the batch to recrystallize. If the batch recrystallizes it will be very grainy and will also separate. I personally have never been able to save a batch of toffee if this happens. You would need to throw the batch out and start over. Let's continue... Some critical temperatures to be aware of: At about 250°F the batch would recrystallize if the heat source you're using is not high enough to dissolve the sugar crystals as they form. From 250 to 280°F the toffee syrup will appear thick and heavy and will give the impression that the batch is partially recrystallized. But if your stove is hot enough the tendency to recrystallize would be eliminated. Toffee Maker's Secret #5: Every single Toffee Maker has experienced this problem. The butter and sugar will separate during the cooking process. To solve this problem all we need to do is add an emulsifier at the beginning of the cooking procedure. Lecithin is used for this purpose. Lecithin allows the butterfat to mix with the moisture in the batch. Lecithin is a by-product in the production of soybean flour and oil. The lecithin is purified and non-allergenic for people with soybean allergies. Soy lecithin can be found in health food stores, some major supermarkets and stores that sell candy making supplies and ingredients. Toffee Maker's Secret #6: Depending on your elevation, adjust your temperatures by subtracting 1°F for every 500 ft above sea level. (For example: at sea level water boils at 212°F, but where I live water boils at around 201°F). Now back to cooking the toffee... As the batch thickens it will not cling to the side of the pan. As soon as the batch shows some signs of scorching, at about 290°, the heat should be turned down. From this point on the batch will gradually become thinner and will again cling to the sigh of the pan. Cooking beyond the temperature of between 280° to 315°F will cause the batch to scorch and will invert too much sugar. If this happens the toffee will be too brittle and will not develop a soft grain as it ages. Toffee Maker's Secret #7: Toffee should be aged for a least one week. This aging process gives the toffee a chance to develop an ideal grain and maximum butter flavor. Let’s continue. . . At the end of the cooking process, 312 to 316°F, the batch will be free from grain. At this point, add a small amount of Baker's Special Sugar to start the graining process to give the batch a fine soft grain texture. Toffee Maker's Secret #8: Toffee should always be kept refrigerated or frozen and tightly sealed. NEVER, EVER, store toffee at room temperature or out in the open air! Toffee Maker's Secret #9: Occasionally I will receive a call or an e-mail about chocolate blooming after the toffee is coated. Blooming is caused by moisture on the chocolate. Now, I'm no chocolate expert, but one way to get around the blooming issue is to cover the chocolate (before the chocolate hardened, of course) with crushed nuts. In my case almonds! Toffee Maker's Secret #10: Another problem I hear about is the chocolate coating coming off the toffee. Some recipes call for coating the pan that you're cooling the toffee in with vegetable oil, such as Pam or another nonstick sprays. I have found that this may cause the chocolate coating to fall off after the toffee cools or is refrigerated. Coat the pan or cookie sheet with butter instead. This will solve the problem. Toffee Maker's Secret #11: Take the flavor of your toffee to the next level, pre-roast your almonds. Use whole, raw, shelled, Non-Pareil almonds. Speed almonds on a cookie sheet and place in a preheated oven at 350°F for about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Toffee Maker's Secret #12: Use only cane sugar. The above procedure can be applied to or adapted for any toffee recipe and in many cases can be applied to any of your candy making adventures...not just toffee making. The Toffee Recipe: 2 LBFresh Salted Butter 2.4 LBGranulated Cane Sugar 0.4 LBBaker's Special sugar 4.8 ozChopped raw almonds (to cover chocolate) 1 LBWhole dry roasted almonds 0.8 ozSalt 0.3 ozLecithin 6.4 ozWarm water The procedure: Place butter in a heavy pan. Bring to boiling point and add the warm water. Again bring to the boiling point and stir in the granulated cane sugar. Wash down sides with water and a pastry brush. Bring to a good stiff boil and add the lecithin. Cook to 250°F*. Add the roasted almonds. Cook to 280° -290°F* and then lower the temperature on the stove. Cook to 310°-312°F. *(Adjust your temperatures to your elevation - see Secret #6 above). Take the pan off the stove and add the salt and Baker's special sugar. Mix well and pour onto a buttered cooling slab or cookie sheet. Quickly spread batch and cuts to desired size. Coat each side with pure milk chocolate and sprinkle with nuts.
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Steven M Schultz lives in Loveland, Colorado USA. He is a professional candy maker: Columbine Gourmet Almond Toffee http://www.columbinetoffee.com, a martial artist (Black Belt in Haidong Gumdo). He has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administation and Computer Information Systems from Regis University in Denver. He's married with three children.