vanilla english toffee bars

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Proclaiming that I’m not an astute candy-maker would be a vast understatement. I am TERRIBLE at making anything that requires use of a thermometer — the fear of hot sugar on bare skin is that great. While I’m able to make complicated soufflés and levain for bread loaves, fixing English toffee has always alluded me. Perhaps it’s the simplicity of this recipe that causes me to overcomplicate it. Over the past two weeks I’ve fixed batches and batches of failed cookies — one from a recipe I found online whose butter to sugar ratio was completely OFF, which had me wasting sticks of butter. GRRRR.

Butter is not cheap, people. It’s $8 a pound and one can’t go all willy nilly with this stuff. So last night I pulled together a toffee recipe that I’m proud to have not screwed up (with the exception of a hand burn, but we’re not going to discuss that and say we did). I plan on shipping this delicious batch of goods to another blogger in a cookie swap. Hope she enjoys this as much as I did this morning!

INGREDIENTS
8oz (1/2 cup or 2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown cane sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup mix of pistachio + walnuts (or you can go the full pistachio route), toasted and blitzed in a food processor to a chunky, sandy grain
Equipment: Candy thermometer

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DIRECTIONS
In a large pot outfitted with a candy thermometer (I can’t stress how much you need a candy thermometer for this recipe. Don’t even bother making toffee without one, as a few degrees over and you’ve got supreme candy annihilation), melt the butter, sugars, corn syrup, salt. Place a sheet of parchment paper over a baking sheet and have this close by. Also, have your chips prepared and nuts toasted, blitzed and ready to roll because once your toffee is ready it’s a race to the finish line. Using a whisk, stir occasionally until all of the ingredients have melded together. Much like making risotto, candy making requires hoovering, you have to linger, keep your eye on the pot because one misstep and you’ve got chunky, cracked toffee.

Once your mixture reaches 250F, whisk constantly. Do not stop stirring. Seriously, I mean it. I experienced a toffee disaster a month ago because I walked away, started chatting and completely FORGOT that my candy was on the stove. Until, you know, it BURNED. If, by chance, your candy starts to clump, add in a teaspoon of water and stir vigorously.

When your mixture reaches 300F, take the pot off the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Pour the mixture onto your baking sheet (it’s perfectly OK that the mixture doesn’t cover the whole of your sheet. We’re not looking for perfection as you’re going to break apart the bark anyway) and immediately tumble in your chips. Wait a minute until the chips have melted and softened into the toffee, and using an offset spatula spread the chocolate across the toffee, ensuring that the mixture covers the toffee. Sprinkle over your nuts evenly, and then allow the mixture to cool. Because I have zero patience, I bung my sheet into the freezer and within 15 minutes I’m noshing on toffee bark.

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