Sunday, April 14, 2013

Toffee Bits, Take 1 and Take 2

I need some toffee bits for the next cookie recipe. Sure, I could just buy them like the recipe suggests, but my recent candy-making experiences have let me believe I can make anything I want, anything at all! Candies as ingredients for other things, like cookies, even.

Lots of toffee Googling later, I've come to the conclusion that toffee is just butter and sugar in about a ratio of 1:1. Maybe throw in some corn syrup, maybe some water, maybe some salt. Then I Googled toffee bits recipe and here we are.

The ingredients are the same as the original recipe but I rewrote the instructions to illustrate what happened for me. Pay attention to this: don't worry about time, go s l o w. I know this because I did it twice, the first time going with the flow, the second time at reduced heat with much better results.

Toffee Bits
adapted from Zestuous

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter
1 tbsp water
pinch kosher salt

Place sugar, butter, water and salt in a small saucepan.

Melt the sugar and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar and gradually bring to a boil.

This boiling was achieved within 6 minutes of the photo above.

Allow the mixture to continue boiling. When nearing 300°F the solution will begin to brown.

This is in 2 and 3 additional minutes.

Throw in a candy thermometer, too late, and see that the sugar mixture has reached 314°F, and not surprisingly, doesn't look very appealing when removed from heat. Butter is clearly pooling above the potentially burnt sugar.

And in one more minute the temperature clocked in at 314°F. So the butter and sugar went from solid to burnt in a total of 10 minutes.

Set this aside and start Take 2 in a smaller, 1 quart, saucepan.

Within 15 minute of removing the saucepan from heat, the toffee part solidified (the slot is where I pulled the spatula from the saucepan) and the butter pooled. Hours later, the butter solidified and I scooped the whole thing into the trash.

Place sugar, butter, water and salt in a 1-quart saucepan.

Melt the sugar and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar and gradually bring to a boil.

The three images were collected over a 5 minute period.

Continue boiling until 300°F is reached.

The temperature increased from 188, 263, 269, 287, to 301 over 8 minutes.

Immediately transfer the solution to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread with spatula.

Let cool; the candy will harden.

Grasp the candy firmly by an edge and let excess butter drip off. Drop the candy sheet onto a second baking sheet lined with coffee filters, allowing the candy to shatter.

Pick up and drop the larger toffee pieces to break them into smaller pieces.

Pile the toffee between coffee filters and squash with a measuring cup to break into bits.

They taste good, just like toffee should - nice and buttery, but man, they are sticky - to my teeth and to each other. I don't want toffee bit globs in the cookies! While Take 2 was a million times better than the first, I can't help but think that the amount of butter that dripped from the toffee sheet was a lot. I mean, it was enough that I wanted to blot the additional butter with coffee filters. Certainly, remaining butter made the toffee pieces clump together.

I wonder if I cooked the mixture even slower more butter would go into the sugar solution. What's the point in using that much butter if not all of it goes in? Plus, the toffee on Zestuous look more matte than glossy, so that tells me something I did wasn't quite right.

The first batch, Take 1, went from solids to burnt in a total of 10 minutes. The second batch, Take 2, went from solids to spread-on-parchment paper in 18 minutes. Slower is definitely key.

  • sugar: $0.10
  • butter: $0.54
Total: $0.64 for about 1.5 cups of toffee bits. And, of course, it was another $0.64 that went into the garbage. I hate that.