Like most families, candy and cookie making is a part of our Christmas tradition. We have our favorites–you know, the goodies we have to make every year or it’s just not Christmas. We always made extras to give away because sharing food traditions is part of the fun of the season.
Special food gifts are perfect for gift-giving. They don’t have to be complicated to be delightful. In fact, today’s gift idea is one of the easiest, but most spectacular, food gifts I’ve ever made: toffee.
Rich, buttery toffee requires only four ingredients (and one of those is optional). You can whip up a batch in about half and hour, but the results are so impressive, it’s hard to imagine that something so decadent could be so easy.
With those credentials, I think it’s safe to say that toffee is the perfect food gift for a simply homemade holiday. Check out the recipe and you’ll see what I mean.
Homemade Butter Toffee
2 cups of high-quality, unsalted butter (4 sticks)
2 cups white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips
2 cups chopped, toasted almonds (optional)
Other Stuff You Need
A candy thermometer
Parchment-lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. A silicone liner works well in place of parchment if you have one.
How to Make This Yumminess
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. Don’t rush this step–the sugar has to dissolve or the toffee will turn grainy and soft. You may need to turn down the heat to give the sugar time to melt.
Try not to slosh the sugar mixture around in the pan. You do not want undissolved sugar crystals to get in to the mixture or, you guessed it, bad toffee will result (as if there could be such a thing as bad toffee).
Once the sugar has dissolved, you can turn up the heat to medium-high, stirring almost constantly to keep it from scorching.
The mixture will turn bubbly and darken from a lemony color to a rich, toffee color as it cooks.
You will notice that I switched from a spatula to a whisk once the mixture started to bubble. Whisking helps to incorporate the butter and the sugar. You do not want the butter floating on the top because that will not make toffee. That will make…something else. Mix it in!
Using a candy thermometer, bring the mixture up to about 298 degrees (it won’t hurt it to go a little over). This is the hard crack stage. Toffee cooked to this stage will have a nice crunch and flake into layers when you bite into it. Yum-o.
It takes a bit to get the toffee to the right temp, so while you’re waiting, you might want to taste the chocolate chips to make sure they are worthy.
As soon as the toffee is up to temperature, immediately pour it out onto the parchment paper. Working very quickly, spread it out as thinly as possible. You will only have a minute or two to make this happen because the toffee cools very quickly. It will begin to resist spreading, and once it does, you’re done.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the entire thing. When they soften, spread the chocolate over the toffee and follow with the nuts, if desired. Gently press the nuts into the mixture so they don’t all fall off as soon as you break the toffee into pieces.
Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator to allow the chocolate to set. Once the candy is completely cool, break it into pieces and package into pretty little containers for giving!
One batch of toffee makes three nice-sized gifts for teachers, neighbors, coworkers, or friends. Be sure to take some care in packaging because presentation can elevate a simple gift into something truly special!
If you plan to send the toffee in the mail, package it in several air-tight layers (Ziploc baggies inside of other Ziploc baggies inside of a cute little gift bag) so that the toffee arrives as fresh as possible.
If you really love someone, you can give them the whole shebang (minus the pieces you “tested,” of course). A lovely glass cracker jar is the perfect container.
As an aside, it’s best not to put these gifts under the tree while they’re waiting to be gifted or you might have to make up another batch. Toffee is hard to resist.
*Option: Salted Toffee
Take the toffee up to the next level of sophistication by making it salted. Oh. my. goodness. To do this, simply omit the salt in the recipe. Then, after you spread the chocolate on the finished toffee, allow it to cool slightly on the counter. Once the chocolate has just begun to set, sprinkle freshly-ground sea salt over the surface. Refrigerate to continue setting the chocolate.
Wait! I didn’t get a picture of salted toffee. I guess I’m going to have to go back and make another batch! Oh, the burden.
Tomorrow’s Simply Homemade project involves dirt and a pretty little pot.