Sweet Technique: How to Make Toffee

Sweet Technique

Master the basic skills necessary to become a great pastry chef.

[Photograph: Lauren Weisenthal]

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Do you remember your first-ever taste of toffee? I remember mine distinctly. It was on visiting day at summer camp, and the toffee was a Heath bar, smuggled in by my father against very strict "no food in bunk" rules. I suppose that the rule was only partially broken, because as soon as it was opened, it was devoured. Such flavors! Such texture! One taste of buttery, nutty, coffee, chocolate, sweet, salty, crunchy goodness and I became an addict.

My obsession with toffee has only grown over the years, thanks to some friends in California who have taken to sending me a box of See's (my favorite) from time to time. Between these shipments, I cope by making my own toffee, which I've perfected to be crisp and buttery, with strong coffee flavor, great salty balance, and just enough chocolate coating to make the perfect ratio.

Toffee can be troublesome for some, because there is a bit of precision involved when cooking the sugar base. Being organized from the start makes all the difference because you can focus your full attention on the thermometer, turning off the heat and adding other ingredients only when the time is exactly right. Here are some tips to consider when making toffee:

  • Before you begin to cook anything, lay out all of the tools you will need, and measure out the ingredients in advance. Be sure everything is within reach while you cook.
  • Handle the candy with care while you are cooking. The sugar mixture is extremely hot and can cause serious burns.
  • Be sure to cook the sugar mixture in a saucepan with high sides, to accommodate sputtering and growth when you add other ingredients, especially the baking soda.
  • Be sure to allow the toffee to cool completely before applying the chocolate later.

Click through the slideshow to learn step-by-step tips for making toffee at home. Then try my recipe, which includes a healthy hit of espresso, to soothe your own craving for toffee.

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