Friday, December 09, 2005

Toffee-making: extreme disaster

Things don't always work out as planned. I'm not perfect. I make mistakes, just like everyone else. And I recently had a major kitchen disaster - the worst since my horrendous experience with the chocolate-plastic-wrap-uncooked-spaghetti-cake. (And no, I haven't made it again. I doubt I ever will. The very thought makes me cringe.)

Making candy is a big part of the holiday preparations for many Swedes. In particular, toffee is big. Almond Cream Toffee - "knäck" (named for the sound your teeth will make as they crack..) is a real staple. I had gotten a couple of new recipes from an online forum, so I thought I'd try them out. While at it, I figured I'd go ahead and make four types at once. Hybris? You could say that again.

All four kinds ended in disaster. I thought I was so well prepared, but when three kinds of toffee were done at the exact same moment, I had to realise I was defeated. There was just no way I could handle it. One toffee burned, another got hard as a rock. My fudge turned.. oh, into toffee, kind of (at least that's edible) and my tried and true Almond Cream Toffee boiled over in the microwave and made a complete mess.

I'd love to share the recipes, but I have to try them again first. And I feel quite traumatized right now. I'll get back to you. The only thing which keeps me going right now is Lena's kind words: "Extreme disasters are meant to be forgotten."

If you want to read about more successful candy-making, head over to A Cat In The Kitchen who posts about it here and here.


Tanja said...

I'm sorry to hear about your problems, don't beat yourself up over it. Shit happens. I'm sure you learned one or two things from this :)

sailu said...

hey,its just one of those day anne.Dont be hard on yourself.I keep having disasters in my kitchen all the time...big deal..:)

janmarini said...


I just had my first toffee making disaster and it's good to know that I'm not the only one! Sorry it happended to you, hope I can help.

I've made it several times in the past with no problems and used the same simple ingredients and technique that I always used. But today the butter completely separated from the candy, and it looked terrible and I couldn't fix it! Ended up with burnt sugar with a layer of clarified butter on top.

After looking for remedies online I remembered that I had this same problem years ago and used the solution that I just found (too late).

I live in a usually dry climate (San Diego CA), but today it is very humid - and that seems to be a factor in candy making.

Anyway, in the future if you run into this problem (seems to be common), try the following -

slowly add a little water and stir(two teaspoons at a time, up to three tablespoons). During this process the ingredients should start blending again.

Here's how I make toffee:
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter (regular/salted)
ice water in a clear glass
chopped pecans (optional)
good milk chocolate (optional) (chips or bars)

Use a good saucepan and wooden spoon.
Stir butter and sugar constantly over medium-low/low heat (it takes a while but it's worth the wait and won't burn).

After the frothy stage the mixture will start to become smooth. Wait until it becomes a butterscotch color. At this point start using the cold water candy test. You want the Hard-Crack stage 300-310 degrees. The threads will be medium brown and brittle. Before this stage the threads are somewhat flexible - you don't want this. [at this point if the sugar is clumping and the butter is separating start adding a little water).

I usually make two pans - one recipe each, one plain and one with nuts (we prefer chopped pecans).

Pour the hot mixture onto a lipped cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper - but not needed). If making English Toffee add about 1/2 c. chopped pecans to mixture before pouring.

Place or sprinkle chocolate on top. After a few minutes smooth with a spatula. Garnish with chopped pecans.

Nice to meet you, and I enjoyed your site. Hope this toffee info may be of help to you.