Make toffee from scratch! Candy making, the old fashioned way, is simple as long as you have the right instructions, patience, tools, and ingredients.
I hope you brought your sweet tooth with you today. I’ve been waist deep in toffee all week and I’m thrilled to share some toffee with you. Including lessons, how-to’s, tricks, mistakes, and everything in between. It’s a toffee kind of November.
A simple blend of sugar and butter, toffee is my hard candy of choice. Well, unless we’re talking these–> am I 5 years old? I love those. Unlike hard-as-ice brittle, toffee softens when sucked or chewed. That’s the best part about it! And there are many ways you can flavor toffee. Cinnamon, vanilla, nuts, top with chocolate, or just make it au naturel.
In the kitchen this week, I made three types of toffee. About 189758934754 different times. My stove (and sanity) need a break. Everyone at my event today can taste test the pounds of toffee taking over my counter– there’s a ton. But let’s focus on the cinnamon almond version. It’s my favorite one.
Along with the recipe, I’m sharing quite a few step-by-step photos. When it comes to candy making, step-by-step visuals are just as imperative as the recipe itself. There is NO room for error when making a candy like toffee. Old-fashioned, authentic toffee. I really want you to make this! I really want you to challenge yourself and become comfortable using a candy thermometer and cooking candy from scratch on the stove-top. Not just for obtaining the finished product, but for the experience. The pleasure of making something so timeless. Something you can pass down to future generations. And obviously, something that tastes SO UNBELIEVABLY GOOD from scratch.
Today’s post isn’t just a recipe. It’s a lesson.
Making toffee from scratch is not at all difficult if you (1) take your time, (2) practice, practice, practice (3) read the recipe in full before beginning, and (4) have everything ready to go. Because once stovetop candy hits certain temperatures, you have very little time to grab something from the pantry. There is nothing worse than discovering halfway through a recipe that you don’t have half the ingredients! So, save yourself from ruining a batch of this candy and have your ingredients ready.
A few special tools you will need to make my toffee:
Candy thermometer. There is no way you can make old-fashioned toffee with no sugar graininess, a hard yet soft texture, and a toffee bursting with the toasty caramelized flavors of properly cooked butter and sugar without this tool. I recommend a digital candy thermometer. The one I own is easy to hook onto my pot and very easy to read. No mistaking temperatures with this particular model. Don’t be scared of a candy thermometer! It’s literally just a thermometer telling you when your candy reaches certain cooking stages. Using a candy thermometer is so much easier and more accurate than using your eyes to detect doneness.
A heavy bottomed saucepan. Oh, the many batches of toffee I ruined from using a cheap saucepan. An ideal saucepan for making today’s candy is one that is deep and thick. Thin pans, which often have hot spots, do not withstand the heat needed for toffee to cook. I burned 1,000 batches of toffee before realizing this. Well, not really. But it sure as heck seemed like it. I have a few pans I use for making toffee: here, here, and here (copper is pricey but it’s awesome for candy making).
A silicone baking mat. This will make your candy making experience much easier. Why? Well, when you pour the toffee out onto a large 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! Always a silicone baking mat. I own 9 of them. I wish I was joking. I’m ridiculous.
Besides these three items, you’ll also need a wooden spoon, the ingredients, and patience.
One bite into my cinnamon almond toffee and you’ll understand why there aren’t many ingredients required. The focus is on the pure flavors of butter and sugar– along with spicy cinnamon and nutty toasted almonds. That’s all. And hey! If you want to leave out the almonds and toffee, go right ahead. What I love most about this toffee recipe is that the finished candy has a nice crunchy snap, but is still easy to chew without breaking your teeth.
Ok, enough rambling from me. Here is the recipe. Below the recipe you’ll find step-by-step photos and my commentary for each step as well as some troubleshooting tips.
Cinnamon Almond Toffee
Candy making, the old fashioned way, is simple as long as you have the right instructions, patience, tools, and ingredients. Read through the recipe before you begin and use my photos below as a guide. You will love the toasted almond flavor paired with the spicy cinnamon in this sweet and salty toffee!
- 1 cup (170g; 6 ounces) quality whole almonds, such as Diamond of California Whole Almonds 1
- 1 cup (230g; 8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed
- 1/2 cup (120ml; 4 ounces) warm water
- 1 cup (199g, 7 ounces) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 300°F (149°C) degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spread the almonds onto the sheet and bake for 15 minutes, stirring them around twice during that time. Toasting the almonds brings so much flavor to the toffee. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and give them a rough chop-- a very rough chop; I like to keep a few of them whole. They will go into your toffee soon.
- Line a 12x17 inch jelly roll pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Set aside.
- Melt the cubed butter over medium heat in a 3-quart heavy duty saucepan. Stir occasionally (about every 2 minutes) with a wooden spoon as it melts. Once melted, add the water, 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. Do not let it touch the bottom of the pan.
- Once dissolved, stir occasionally as you bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, stop stirring. Rapid bubbles, a thicker consistency, as well as a slightly darker color forms around 235°F (113°C). At the 265°F (129°C, hard ball stage) point, stir in the toasted whole almonds. The mixture may separate when you add the nuts. If it does, temporarily remove the candy thermometer and stir vigorously until it all comes back together. Carefully reattach the thermometer and brush off any candy on the side of the pan with the pasty brush. Cook and stir the candy until it reaches 290°F (143°C, soft crack stage).
- Turn off the stove, remove pan from the heat, and stir in the cinnamon. Pour the toffee out onto the prepared jelly roll pan. Smooth into an even layer. The toffee should be thick and not spread all the way to the edges of the jelly roll pan. Allow the toffee to cool for 5 minutes,then slip the pan into the refrigerator to set for about twenty more minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice or break into pieces. As large or small as you want.
- Make ahead tip: Store toffee in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Toffee freezes well. Break it up as directed, place into an airtight container and freeze up to 3 months.
- Salted or unsalted almonds - this is your choice. There is salt in the toffee itself and I actually found using salted almonds made my toffee a little too salty. And I love salty sweet!
Did you make a recipe?
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First, begin with 1 cup (170g; 6 ounces) quality whole almonds. Unsalted or salted is your preference– there is salt going into the toffee so unless you love really really salty with your sweet, use unsalted. Diamond nuts are my top choice. Learned that from my mama. Toast the almonds at 300F for 15 minutes, stirring them around twice during that time.
You’ll be thankful you toasted them. Toasted almonds bring an unparalleled nutty flavor and aroma to the toffee that you just cannot match.
Coarsely chop the almonds and set them aside so you can get started on the toffee.
Melt 1 cup (2 sticks; 230g; 8 ounces) of cubed unsalted butter in a heavy bottom saucepan (my pans of choice are linked above in this post) over medium heat. When you cut the butter into smaller pieces it melts quicker, easier, and more evenly.
We all know what melted butter looks like. But the reason I took this next photo is to remind you to use a wooden spoon. Wood = high heat tolerance, strong, will not scratch your pan. Most importantly? It’s insulated. A wooden spoon guarantees you are not going to cause a sudden crystallization by sucking out a bunch of heat from your candy.
Pour in 1/2 cup (120ml; 4 ounces) warm water, 1 cup (199g; 7 ounces) granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon light corn syrup. Here is further information on each ingredient, for which I recommend no substitutions.
Candy making (chemistry!) is very precise.
Warm water – not cold, not cool. Warm to touch. Your melted butter is warm and so should the water. Again, any sudden changes in temperature spells disaster.
Granulated sugar – not brown sugar. I prefer granulated because it does not have added moisture like brown sugar does. Too much moisture and your toffee will be too soft. Though brown sugar is my ideal choice in most baked goods, I never make toffee with it.
Salt – duh! Toffee is supremely salty and sweet. It’s the best.
Light corn syrup – there is much 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.
Stir until the sugar dissolves, then brush down the inside of the pan with a wet pastry brush to avoid a burning, smoky mess in your pan. Alternatively, you can lightly butter the inside edges of your pan with butter before beginning this recipe.
Things are heating up! By the way, sorry for my awkward lighting. I didn’t edit these photos because the color of the toffee is important to show. I was also making this toffee at 8am.
Stir the mixture lightly and occasionally. If you aren’t stirring enough, your butter with separate. Your toffee will be slippery, greasy, and unattractive. Give it a few stirs every 2 minutes.
You’ll begin to see bubbles around the edges around 155°F (68°C).
Remember, stir lightly and occasionally as the mixture comes to a boil.
Once it’s boiling rapidly, stop stirring. You’ll notice a thicker consistency and a slightly darker color around 235°F (113°C).
The glorious color change around 250°F (121°C).
At the 260°F (127°C) point, stir in the toasted almonds– and keep stirring! The mixture may separate when you add the nuts, but continue to stir and it will come back together.
Around the 265°F (129°C) mark, things are getting darker amber.
And after 265°F (129°C), things begin to move quickly. I couldn’t shoot many more photos of the process. This is why I need two of me! Anyway, like I said: after your candy hits 265°F (129°C), things move quickly and you need to stir constantly.
Stir, stir, stir.
Cook and stir the candy until it reaches 290°F (143°C). If cooked longer than that, your toffee will be incredibly hard and be closer to almond brittle than slightly thicker, slightly chewier almond toffee. I find 290°F (143°C) degrees to be the perfect spot: hard, but still crumbly and soft when you chew it.
Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon. Pour onto a silicone mat-lined (my preferred surface; read more detail above in this post) baking sheet. Look at all that cinnamon!
Allow the toffee to cool for about twenty minutes, then slip the pan into the refrigerator to set for about twenty more minutes. Using a sharp knife, slice or break into pieces. As large or small as you want. Eat, gift, enjoy, savor, and congratulate yourself on making candy from scratch the real way. You freaking ROCK.
* TROUBLESHOOTING TOFFEE *
When butter separates out of toffee. Toffee recipes contain a large amount of butter and in the course of cooking the candy, it is not uncommon for the butter to separate and create a slick, oily layer on top of the cooking candy or the finished candy. The causes? Temperature shifts; if the candy is heated too hot too quickly. Slow and looooow heating is best. And by looooow, I mean medium heat. Another culprit is a thin saucepan. Thin saucepans do not conduct heat evenly and may have hot spots where portions of the candy can be overheated. Another culprit I’ve experienced is not stirring often enough. Stirring is so imperative, so make sure you are stirring as directed in the recipe. And finally, humidity can cause the butter separate, so if your kitchen is very warm or humid, it’s not the best time for toffee.
All is not lost! If your toffee does separate, you can sometimes fix it. Briefly remove the pan from the heat and stir vigorously to bring the candy back together. Unfortunately, if you notice the separation after the toffee has been poured out of the pan onto the sheet, it is too late. You may *try* dabbing any excess butter off with a moist paper towel. If you find the toffee is too hard (because of the lost butter), you can chop your toffee up and use the toffee bits in baking recipes like cookies.
When toffee is too soft and sticky. Soft and sticky toffee is a result of too much moisture in the candy, which can be caused by humidity in the air, undercooking the candy, or using too much corn syrup. Soft toffee cannot be hardened after the candy making process. Avoid cooking toffee in a high humidity environment and make sure you are following the recipe and proper temperature readings.
When toffee is too hard and brittle. It’s been cooked too long. If you find the toffee is too hard, you can chop your toffee up and use the toffee bits in baking recipes like cookies.
When toffee is gritty and sugar crystals can be tasted. This is why corn syrup– no substitutions– is used. Also, make sure you are stirring as directed in the recipe. And as you stir, make sure you aren’t scraping the sides of the pan. If there is crystallized sugar on the side of the pan (if you did not brush with a wet pastry brush or butter as directed in the recipe), you will bring this crystalized sugar back into the boiling mix which can turn your entire batch into a grainy, coarse mess.
I’m working with the well respected Diamond of California to bring you this recipe because I love their nuts and products!