Welcome to the October Baking Challenge! Since this month marks the 3rd birthday of Sally’s Candy Addiction cookbook AND I’ve had several requests for a candy recipe challenge, I figured now is the perfect time to challenge you to make a candy recipe from my book! And not just any recipe, literally the best recipe. This is pumpkin spice toffee and you can find the recipe below and on page 109 in Sally’s Candy Addiction.
ABOUT SALLY’S CANDY ADDICTION
My best-selling cookbook, Sally’s Candy Addiction cookbook (<– more book photos and info there!), was published in 2015. This cookbook is complete with 75 photographed recipes that are exclusive to the cookbook. You will find how-to’s, tips, tricks, and recipes for everything from toffee, caramels, and fudge to truffles, chocolate bark, and marshmallows. Plus a chapter filled with cupcakes, cookies, and cakes using candy such as Snickers, M&Ms, and more. This cookbook was voted one of the best cookbooks of October 2015 on Amazon!
Have you ever eaten homemade toffee before? Like REAL homemade toffee? A simple combination of butter and sugar, toffee is your sweet tooth’s dream. Unlike hard-as-rock brittle, toffee softens and melts in your mouth. There are dozens of ways to prepare it including adding spices or dark chocolate. You can even make a shortcut version with saltine crackers. But for the October Baking Challenge, we’re focusing on a seasonal gem. Thick, sweet, salty, pumpkin spiced, toasted pecan filled, white chocolate covered toffee. This is my favorite recipe in the entire cookbook and if you visited me on my book tour 3 years ago, you likely tasted it!
BEHIND THE RECIPE
I bet you didn’t know that you only need 5 ingredients and a stove to make homemade toffee. Each ingredient is as important as the next:
- Butter: The base of toffee. Cut it into pieces before adding to the saucepan.
- Warm water: The melted butter will be warm, so the water should be as well. Any sudden changes in temperature spells candy disaster.
- Granulated sugar: Not brown sugar, which holds too much moisture. Though brown sugar is my ideal choice in most baked goods, I never use it for toffee because the candy won’t set properly.
- Salt: Toffee is supremely salty and sweet! It’s the best.
- Light corn syrup: There’s a lot of debate over adding corn syrup to toffee, but I always use it. Corn syrup guarantees a smoother texture (no sugar crystals!) especially when cooked to a high temperature. Though other liquid sweeteners can sometimes be substituted for corn syrup, candy making is not one of those instances. Again, it’s chemistry! You only need 1 teaspoon for the recipe.
These 5 ingredients will be cooked on the stove until the candy reaches 290°F (143°C), known as the Soft Crack Stage. Once it reaches 290°F (143°C), about 25 minutes (though that highly depends on your stove because on an electric stove in my old kitchen, it took 40 minutes and now on my gas cooktop– 25 minutes!), you’ll stir in the pecans and pumpkin pie spice. If you have 10 minutes before you begin, I strongly recommend toasting the pecans in the oven. Hello heightened flavor! After they’re stirred into the toffee, pour it all out onto a lined baking sheet, then let it cool for about 5 minutes before topping with melted white chocolate, more toasted pecans, and pumpkin pie spice. Let it cool and break into pieces.
I guarantee this will be the best pumpkin treat you taste the entire fall season because it’s not muffins, cookies, or bread. It’s homemade pumpkin spice candy!
You may have most in your kitchen supply already!
Candy thermometer. There’s no way to make old-fashioned toffee that (1) has a crumbly texture (2) has zero sugar graininess and (3) is literally bursting with the caramelized flavors of properly cooked butter and sugar… without a candy thermometer! This tool makes the entire candy cooking process EASIER– there’s no mistaking temperature. For ease, I recommend a digital candy thermometer that clips onto your pot like this one or this one. If calibrated, a candy thermometer is more accurate than using your eyes to detect candy’s doneness.
- Calibrate: I’ve never had to do this, but if you have a feeling your candy thermometer’s readings are off, you can test it with a pot of boiling water. At sea level, water boils at 212°F (100°C). Each 500-foot increase in altitude lowers the boiling point by about 1 degree. If your candy thermometer reads above or below the boiling point for your location, make the necessary adjustment when cooking candy.
Heavy bottomed saucepan. Oh the many batches of toffee I ruined from using a cheap saucepan. A deep and thick saucepan with straight sides is the ideal place to cook candy. Thin pans, which often have hot spots, do not withstand the heat required for toffee cooking. I burned 837258 batches of toffee and my candy cooking confidence before realizing this. These days I have a few pans I use for making toffee: here, here, and here. All three pots are excellent choices for homemade candy. The Cooks Standard is a great option for beginners, while the All-Clad and copper pot are ideal for controlling the temperature of your candy. Well-crafted, heavy, and maintaining precise temperature, copper cookware is the best for candy making.
Wooden spoon. Wood has a high heat tolerance. It also doesn’t conduct heat, so it won’t suck heat out from the cooking candy which causes crystallization. If you need one, here’s a wooden spoon set that I love for all my cooking!
- Crystallization: the formation of sugar crystals in cooking candy. It will turn your smooth syrup into a lumpy and grainy mess!
Pastry brush. A pastry brush is essential to candy making. Its purpose is to help rid the saucepan of sugar syrup that may have splashed up along the sides. This syrup could burn and crystallize, ruining your batch of toffee. Wet it with water and wipe the sides of the pan clean. It’s ok if some water drips down into the cooking candy.
Rimmed baking sheet. A 12×17-inch (or similar size) rimmed baking sheet is where you’ll pour out the toffee to cool.
Silicone baking mat. A silicone baking mat will make your candy making experience much easier. Why? When you pour the toffee out onto the baking sheet, it is so much easier to spread onto AND remove from this slick silicone surface compared to a bare baking sheet, parchment, or aluminum foil. Not only this, I don’t bake cookies on any other surface!
Now that you’ve read up on toffee-making, watch me make the pumpkin spice toffee from start to finish with helpful tips along the way. (Bonus points if you can spot our dog, Franklin!!!)
Most of the “work” is stirring on the stove. Not too bad, right?
5 CANDY MAKING TIPS
- Smaller/larger batch: I do not recommend halving, doubling, or tripling candy recipes, especially this pumpkin spice toffee. Increasing or decreasing the quantity may work for baking, but the extra or decreased volume could prevent the candy from cooking properly. Make separate batches instead. Or, if you need less, simply freeze or gift the leftovers.
- Weather: Candy is picky about the weather. Never cook candy on a particularly humid day, as it will absorb moisture from the air, which will result in too-soft candies or even crystallization. Cool, dry days are ideal.
- How to clean a sticky saucepan: It’s not always easy and it’s not always fun, but I have a helpful solution! When you’re finished making sticky candy recipes, simply fill the dirty saucepan with water until the water covers all of the candy residue. Place any utensils, such as spoons or knives, that may have gotten dirty inside the saucepan. Place the saucepan on the stove over low heat. Let the warm water simmer and melt the sugar off the sides of the pan. Pour out the warm water, then let the tools sit until cool enough to handle. Rinse clean.
- Medium heat: Fast doesn’t always win the race. Cook the toffee on medium heat. A gradual rise in temperature prevents scorching.
- Be prepared: Read through the recipe and watch the video above before starting. Have all of your tools ready and ingredients measured next to the stove because things happen quickly!
Homemade candy, toffee especially, has the reputation for being difficult and finicky. The rumors are definitely true; candy making is legit chemistry. However, if you have the right tools and follow the recipe closely, you’re guaranteed success. I’ve made way too many mistakes to let your batch of toffee fail!
Join the October Baking Challenge
Make the pumpkin spice toffee recipe below or alter the flavor based on your tastes. Leave out the pumpkin pie spice or use ground cinnamon instead, switch dark chocolate for white chocolate, swap chopped almonds for pecans, or leave out the nuts completely. As long as you follow the basic toffee recipe below (butter, sugar, water, salt, and corn syrup), you’re participating in the challenge!
If you’re not into this recipe, here is the alternate October Baking Challenge:
- any challenge recipe from the past
- butter cookies with dark chocolate ganache (they taste like Pepperidge Farm milano cookies!)
After you make the homemade toffee or alternate recipe, share your photos throughout October using #sallysbakingchallenge on your public Instagram or Twitter, or upload a photo of your recipe to my Facebook page or Facebook group. Or email it to me. By sharing or sending your photo, you’re automatically entered in the $250 giveaway!
Pumpkin Spice Toffee
- 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) chopped unsalted pecans
- 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup (120g) warm water
- 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon (215g) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1 and 1/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, divided*
- 6 ounces (170g) quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped*
- Toast the pecans: Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the chopped pecans on top and toast for 7-8 minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside. 1 cup will be used inside the toffee and the rest are sprinkled on top.
- Make the toffee: While stirring with a wooden spoon, melt the butter over medium heat in a 3-quart heavy-duty saucepan. Once melted, add the water, 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar, salt, and corn syrup. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the sides of the pan with a water-moistened pastry brush. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, making sure the bulb is not touching the bottom of the pan (as you'll get an inaccurate reading).
- Stir the mixture every minute as it begins to boil. Rapid bubbles, a thicker consistency, and a slightly darker color form around 240°F (116°C). Continue to stir every minute until it reaches 290°F (143°C; soft crack stage). Be watchful-- the temperature slowly rises in the beginning, but then skyrockets quickly. If you notice it's rising very fast, you can even turn off the heat when the toffee reaches 285°F (141°C), as it will continue to cook in the few seconds after.
- Immediately remove the pan from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 1 cup toasted pecans. Pour the toffee out onto a silicone baking mat lined baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer. The toffee should be thick and not spread all the way to the edges of the pan. Cool the toffee for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, get the toppings ready. Mix the remaining 1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice. Melt the white chocolate. You can melt it in a double boiler or use the microwave. I melt it in the microwave in 20 second increments, stopping and stirring after each.
- Spread the melted white chocolate on top of the toffee, then sprinkle with remaining pecans and sugar/pumpkin pie spice mix.
- Refrigerate toffee for 20 minutes or until white chocolate has set. Peel off the silicone baking mat and break toffee into pieces.
- Store toffee in an airtight container at room temperature in a cool dry place for up to 2 weeks.
Make ahead tip: Freeze toffee for up to 3 months and thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving.
- Pumpkin pie spice: If you don't have pumpkin pie spice, you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves + 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice.
- White chocolate: Use baking white chocolate, found in the baking aisle. I suggest Bakers, Ghirardelli, or Lindt brands. Baking chocolate is sold in 4 ounce bars, so you'll beed 1.5 bars. If desired, you could use 8 ounces and have an extra thick layer of white chocolate on top. 🙂
- If you notice the butter separating at any time during the cooking process, remove the pan from heat and stir vigorously to bring the mixture back together.
- Be extra careful as cooking candy is very hot and may splash; wear long sleeves and have a pair of kitchen gloves or oven mitts handy.
- Candy cooking stages: Though I always encourage the precision of a trusty candy thermometer, it's helpful to be familiar with candy cooking stages. I included a chart on page 17 in Sally's Candy Addiction, but you can find a thorough one here as well. To use the chart, simply drop a bit of the candy syrup from a clean spoon into a small glass bowl of very cold water and watch what happens. You'll cook toffee to 290°F (143°C), which is the soft crack stage.
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SHOP THE RECIPE
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