Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Candy - Toffee

I started making candy at Christmas time about 7 years ago. We were living in Santa Clara, a lovely town right next to St. George, Utah, and I got a toffee recipe from dear Ethel McArthur. Ethel was an elderly lady who had lived in Santa Clara for years and years. She was related to just about everybody in town and she'd been making toffee for years and years. I still have the recipe card, it's neon orange and written in a lovely cursive script, the kind I see only from my grandmother and others of her generation. It's a good recipe, and relatively easy.

A few tips with candy making: 1. Always use a candy thermometer. I don't have a great one. They always manage to get broken so I buy a cheap one every couple of years. Works for me. 2. I also test to see if my candy is done with the cold water test. I keep a glass of very cold water next to the stove and when I think the candy is close I drop a small bit in. It cools down quickly and you can see right away what consistency you have. Here are the stages, taken from the 11th edition of Better Homes & Gardens.
1. thread stage (230-233 degrees) When a teaspoon is dipped into the hot mixture, then removed, the candy fall off the spoon in a 2" long, fine, thin, thread.
2. Soft-ball stage (234-240) When the ball of candy is removed from the cold water the candy instantly flattens and runs between your fingers.
3. Firm-ball stage (244-248) When the ball of candy is removed from the cold water, it is firm enough to hold its shape, but quickly flattens at room temp.
4. Hard-ball stage (250-266) When the ball of candy is removed form the cold water, it can be deformed by pressure, but is doesn't flatten until pressed.
5. Soft-crack stage (270-290) When dropped into the cold water, the candy separates into hard, but pliable and elastic, threads.
6. Hard-crack stage (295-310) When dropped into the cold water, the candy separates into hard, brittle threads that snap easily.

You should cook toffee to the soft-crack stage, caramel to firm-ball stage.

Ethel McArthur's Toffee
2 c. nuts (almonds or pecans) optional (I usually don't put nuts in it)
2 c. sugar
2 c. butter
2 T. white corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
Grind or chop nuts and place in a 10X16 pan.
Cook remaining ingredients to 290 degrees, stirring often and add vanilla and pour into pan covered with nuts. Cool and break.
*Sometimes I sprinkle chocolate chips on top (once the toffee is cool), put in the oven to melt and then spread to form an even layer of chocolate.


rachel said...

The years I have a candy thermometer I am mad at myself for all the years I tried to do it without one. I never thought of having the glass of cold water nextt to the stove. So smart!

Anonymous said...

I love seeing the recipe card. It will become more of a treasure through the years.
Love, Donna

Denise said...

Mmm, I'll try this. My toffee recipe doesn't turn out great in NY so I'm up for a change. I was like you, buying a new candy therm every few years. For my birthday, Daniel bought me the digital therm from Pampered Chef. It works for both candy and meat. It's terrific! I'm not sure how I managed without. It's so much easier to use -- an much more accurate.

liz said...

awesome erin. this is such a christmas gift for me- i love to eat it and have all that stuff on hand. yay!