Toffee making and I have had a long and chequered history. I have the scars to prove it. Over the years I have experimented with all sorts of permutations in my quest to achieve toffee nirvana. Recently I discovered a new and very simple technique. Maybe fifteen minutes prep time and an hour of waiting for the brittle to cool. Here’s how.
Simply melt sugar in an even layer over medium heat in a wide, heavy based saucepan or wok. There’s no need to combine the sugar with water to make a simple syrup first. There’s no need for the addition of honey, corn syrup or vinegar to stabilise the mixture and prevent re crystallisation of the sugar as it heats.
This technique is bold but fast. Yes, the sugar needs to be watched like a hawk as it melts, once heated through the sugar liquefies very, very quickly. Use the widest pan you can – even a skillet will do. Resist the urge to stir. The best way to achieve an even distribution of heat is to gently swirl and tilt the pan. I find it easiest to use my wok as it has a long handle and I know from bitter experience how painful toffee burns can be. A word of warning – stirring the sugar will cause it to clump and resemble something that looks like moon rocks. I’ve been there, done that. The good news is that the toffee can still be rescued – with a little patience those moon rocks will eventually melt into the sugar syrup – the process just becomes more time consuming and messy.
Once the sugar has melted, add nuts and butter. Cook for a few moments longer until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture reaches hard crack stage. For a sweet and salty hit, at this point I also like to stir through some sea salt flakes. Transfer the mixture to a preheated oven tray; the secret to achieving a thin, even layer of brittle with a minimum of fuss. Leave to cool before snapping the crisp buttery brittle into satisfying shards.
For a trouble shooting guide to making perfect toffee the old-fashioned way without a candy thermometer click through the link to my previous post It’s The Shatter That Matters. Old-Fashioned Homemade Honeycomb.
2 cups sugar
2 cups roasted peanuts or any other nuts of your choosing
125g unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon sea salt flakes
LINE a large oven tray with baking paper. Place in a preheated 150 C oven to heat through.
PLACE a large wide heavy based non stick pan or wok over medium heat.
ADD all the sugar in an even layer.
HEAT, without stirring, until the mixture caramelises, swirling the pan every now and then until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture is a light golden colour. The mixture will begin to caramelise very quickly in a matter of minutes. This should take about 5 minutes depending on the size of your wok or saucepan. The wider the base, the quicker the sugar will melt. As the sugar melts it may clump together, those clumps will dissolve as the sugar heats and liquifies.
REDUCE heat to low. Watch the mixture like a hawk and continue to heat through until the sugar turns a rich golden colour ( 130 C on a candy thermometer or test for hard ball stage by dropping a teaspoon of the mixture into a small glass of water).
STIR through peanuts and then butter. Allow to cook for a few more minutes, stirring constantly until the butter and nuts are completely incorporated ( 150 C on a candy thermometer or test for hard crack stage by dropping a teaspoon of the mixture into a small glass of water).
STIR in sea salt. Remove wok from heat.
REMOVE preheated tray from oven and quickly pour over the nut brittle mixture. The heat of the tray will help the brittle spread thinly and evenly. You can use a rubber spatula to smooth the edges, if desired.
ALLOW to cool completely, about an hour at room temperature. If it is a humid day, place the tray in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden.
BREAK the brittle into shards and store in an airtight container at room temperature.