As I know is true for many home cooks, the holidays are a favorite time of year. I learned how to make homemade candy and other treats by watching my mom and scouring her cookbooks and handwritten recipe cards. It wasn’t until I was older that I attempted to make candy without supervision. Ha! But once I did, it was a really fun, relaxing (yes! relaxing!) thing for me to do. I’ve made divinity, my maternal grandmother’s favorite. I’ve made caramel. I’ve made fudge. And just about everything else. But I think my favorite will always be toffee. This Maple Pecan Butter Toffee recipe is based on one from Aran Goyoaga’s book, Small Plates and Sweet Treats. The original recipe calls for toasted hazelnuts. I’ve quadrupled the recipe and added in one of my very favorite sweeteners – grade B maple syrup. It has incredible flavor on its own and in this recipe it offers a hint of maple to go along with the pecans, which also have a nice hint of maple.
Making toffee isn’t exactly difficult, but it does require some attention. For example, you can’t walk away from the pan to answer the door or check your email, or you could end up with a pan full of burnt toffee. It will only happen once and you’ll never do it again…I may have some experience with this. Ha!
When making homemade candy, it is important to use the right equipment. You’ll need a heavy-duty pan and a candy thermometer. I have made toffee without a candy thermometer before, but these days I don’t like to chance ending up with chewy toffee. It’s more reliable to use the thermometer. You can find basic ones for around $10 and up for fancier digital ones. The heavy pan is important because it distributes the heat more evenly and you won’t end up with hot spots that burn the toffee. If you don’t have a heavy-duty pan, you can set it inside a skillet or use a slightly lower heat. I also like to use a silicone baking mat placed on a rimmed baking sheet to pour the toffee onto while it cools. (Note: these are Amazon affiliate links.)
Another important part of toffee making is the cooking process. The toffee should NOT be stirred for the entire cooking time. Just at the beginning while the sugar is dissolving. Too much stirring can cause the toffee the butter to separate from the sugar and cause a greasy mess. If the toffee looks like it needs to be stirred, for example if there are hot spots that are turning dark more quickly than the rest, gently pick the pan up off the stove and swirl it. Lower the heat, too, as needed. So many factors affect how quickly or slowly the toffee reaches the proper temperature – your stove (gas or electric), the pan, your ingredients, etc.
Weather, climate, and elevation can affect candy making. Some days the butter toffee recipe may not take as long to cook, and others it may take significantly longer. If there is more moisture in the air, you’ll want to cook it a little longer. That’s why it’s important to stay close to the stove and keep an eye on things. If you live at a higher elevation, you’ll need to cook the toffee to a few degrees less. This chart is very handy for making altitude adjustments and includes other helpful candy making tips.
When it comes to nuts, I don’t toast the pecans here, but you certainly could. You can also substitute other nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc. If you aren’t a maple fan, simply substitute 1/3 cup sugar for it.
We like to package up our homemade butter toffee in cute little jars to give away to friends and neighbors. I haven’t have anyone refuse one yet! :)
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup grade B maple syrup
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon sea salt*
- 1⅓ cups pecan halves
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
- In a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan, melt butter. Add the sugar, maple syrup, water, vanilla, and sea salt. While stirring constantly, bring the mixture just to a boil. Lower heat to medium. Brush down sides of pan with a brush dipped in hot water to prevent the sugar from crystallizing on the pan sides. Stop stirring and clip a candy thermometer to the pan. Cook for about 20 minutes, keeping a close eye on the temperature. If the toffee starts to darken in certain places and not others, gently swirl the pan. This will prevent hot spots and burning. Once the toffee has reached the hard crack stage (at sea level, 300°F), remove pan from heat. Quickly stir in the pecans and pour out onto the prepared baking sheet. Do not scrape the pan. Gently press the top of the toffee with a silicone spatula to spread it into a thin, even layer. Let cool completely for 2-3 hours, or preferably overnight before breaking into pieces.
- Once cooled, break into pieces and transfer to an airtight container or package up to give as gifts.
- Yield: about 4 cups of toffee pieces
FTC Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
This post originally appeared on Your Home Based Mom as part of the Bake, Craft, Sew Holiday series.