My Gift To You: Mom’s Famous Toffee Recipe
It’s not fancy or difficult. Doesn’t include expensive ingredients or take a lot of time.
But people LOVE this toffee.
My mom has made it my whole life, every year at Christmas. So, naturally, I make it too.
I also make things like truffles and cookies and dark chocolate bark and one year I even made marshmallows. I give out heaping plates of these treats to neighbors and friends, I always took in a huge tray to the office when I worked in one.
No matter what I make, it never ceases to shock me that the most attention goes to the toffee. Every single year, without fail. People rave and beg for the recipe, which I’m always happy to provide verbally, but I’ve yet to write it down.
This recipe is not rocket science, similar recipes are all over the web. Nonetheless, there’s something about this recipe that people love, so I thought I’d share!
First up, a sheet pan lined with parchment and covered in an even layer of chopped pecans.
Things go really fast, so I get everything else ready before even turning on the stove. That includes the melted chocolate. I put 23 oz of chocolate—half semi-sweet and half milk—in a large glass measuring cup and microwave it for 30 second intervals, stirring in between until it’s smooth and pourable.
Set the chocolate and sheet pan with pecans next to the stove. Grab a rubber spatula and set it near by too.
Next step is the caramel, which begins with butter.
I like to use my big cast iron Le Creuset pot because of it’s weight and even heat distribution. Plus it’s pretty in pictures.
With the heat on medium high, get the butter melting. I don’t thaw it, just throw it in frozen. A whole pound.
As it melts, start adding your sugar. Four cups. Sloooooow-ly. About a 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it’s incorporated until adding more.
Four sticks of butter + four cups of sugar = caramel.
At around nine minutes, the mixture should be good and bubbly, very well combined.
Keep stirring. Not necessarily fast like a crazy person, just keep the caramel moving to prevent burning.
Then this will start happening. The butter will begin to separate from the mixture, kind of floating around on top making little rivers in the browning sugar. .
This is probably the most questioned part of making this caramel recipe. Just use a little caution stirring at this point because the butter can “slosh” easily and it’s very hot. Like lava.
When everything looks wrong and seems un-rescuable, at around the 15 minute mark, I grab a whisk. It makes me feel more productive in my stirring and seems to help bring things back together.
At 25 minutes, the world is right again and it all comes back together. A perfect golden caramel.
Next up is the dangerous part—pouring the molten caramel over the pecans, CAREFULLY. Use giant oven mitts, this stuff is no joke. My mom and I have straight up battle scars from caramel burns. Think “melted plastic”.
As you pour, the caramel will seep into all the crevasses and bubbles will surface. If you work quickly, a spatula can be used to fill in any empty spots. I use a zig zag to get a nice even coat right off the bat.
Pour the chocolate over the still gooey caramel, gently spreading it with a spatula, being careful not to disturb the caramel. Some people like to put chocolate chips right on the hot caramel and let them melt, and I’m sure that works great. We just do it this way.
Let the lovely chocolatey goodness hang out on your counter for a few hours to set. I’ve tried “fast setting” in the fridge or freezer right away, but advise against it—it causes chocolate adherence issues. Once set, stick the pan in the fridge to harden. I sometimes leave mine for a day or two until I’m ready to break it up.
I’ve tried adding sea salt to the top, tried using salted caramel, and experimented with several different types of chocolate, but really the original version is the best. If it ain’t broke…
Here’s the recipe, let me know if you try it. Thanks to my mom for passing it down!
Mom’s Famous Toffee
Makes one sheet pan of toffee
3 cups roughly chopped pecans
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter
4 cups sugar
10 oz semi sweet chocolate
10 oz milk chocolate
Line a sheet pan with parchment. Spread and even layer of chopped pecans in the sheet pan and set near the stove. Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (microwave for periods of around 30 seconds to one minute, stirring often to prevent burning). Set aside with the pecans.
Heat a large pot (cast iron works great!) over medium-high heat and add all four sticks of butter. When the butter starts to melt, add sugar, one cup at a time, stirring often. Continue stirring the caramel as it boils for approximately 25 minutes. Butter and sugar will separate but will come back together, a whisk may be helpful in reincorporating the butter.
When the caramel is rich brown (a caramel color…ha ha), immediately pour it evenly over the pecans, trying to leave as few gaps as possible. Be sure to use good pot holders! Hot caramel is pretty darn dangerous. Use a spatula to fill in any uncovered areas, but work quickly as the caramel sets fast. Finally, pour the melted chocolate over the caramel layer, again using a spatula to even it out.
Let the toffee set at room temperature. Once completely firm, place in the fridge to harden more, around 24 hours. Break the toffee into small pieces with your hands. This recipe makes enough to fill a gallon-size zip lock bag. Keep the toffee in the fridge or freezer all holiday season!
NOTE: At a higher elevation, you may run into trouble with this caramel recipe. At around 425 feet here in St. Louis, it always works.