We are in the final days before Christmas, and while I’m pretty much finished with my shopping (except maybe a few stocking stuffers and gift toppers), I still have lots of baking to do to make sure I can get our tokens of appreciation to the bus driver, mail delivery person, neighbors, coworkers and far-away family. We like to make cookies, candy and other small homemade treats for these people as a thoughtful, personal way to show our appreciation for all of their help and love throughout the year. I love making and wrapping homemade gifts in small packages tied with pretty ribbons. Some of our favorite treats that we make and share every year are shortbread bites, rosemary spiced nuts, gingerbread cookies, and marshmallows, but we decided to try something new this year with easy English toffee.
As noted by its title, this English toffee is super simple. I didn’t realize before writing this post, but adding the almonds makes it English toffee, rather than just toffee, as if the British have a monopoly on almond usage. I love making this recipe with chopped toasted pecans in place of the almonds (which I guess would then nullify “English” in the title). Not only does it have a wonderful flavor, it also reminds me of the delicious Chapel Hill toffee we love to give family and friends as a memento from our small college town.
Though not absolutely necessary, it is helpful to have a candy thermometer (or at least a clean meat thermometer) to make this recipe. In order for the mixture to become a hard toffee, it has to reach a high enough temperature. The great thing about this easy recipe is that if your butter-sugar mixture doesn’t get hot enough to create hard toffee, you will have a delicious soft candy treat that is still wonderful to gift! It is difficult to mess up this recipe, which makes it great for the week before Christmas when you don’t have time for re-dos.
If you aren’t into toffee (though you should still try this because it is delicious) I have listed a few of my favorite homemade gifts you can make this week for the service people in your life, stocking stuffers, or just the difficult person on your list who you still haven’t found a present for.
Homemade rosé gummy bears
Hot chocolate mix (homemade or not) with homemade marshmallows
Easy English toffee (recipe below)
This toffee is just as the name states – easy and delicious. And with the adjustment of a few ingredients it goes from English toffee to Chapel Hill toffee :)
Easy English Toffee
1 cup finely chopped raw almonds, divided in two (you can also use pecans for this)
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks, divided in two (you can also use dark chocolate)
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
a pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (good quality, if you have it)
For this recipe, it is important to make sure everything is chopped and prepared before starting. You won’t have time or hands to do so after you start.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (as mentioned in the gift guide for bakers!) and sprinkle half of the chopped nuts onto the lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the almonds are fragrant and slightly golden, stirring a few times while they bake. Toasting the nuts adds a great flavor to the toffee.
Melt half of the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second increments until smooth and spread evenly on top of the toasted nuts. The nuts might move around a bit – this is fine. When you are finished spreading the chocolate you can move some of the nuts back into place to make sure they are evenly dispersed.
Get ready, set your music and have your tools ready – this is where you are married to your pan and the toffee that is to come. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter and brown sugar together, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F on your candy thermometer. For those who don’t have a candy thermometer, the color of the mixture will be about the color of peanut butter. This takes 15-20 minutes.
Remove the mixture from the heat and quickly add in salt and vanilla. Immediately pour the toffee onto your nut and chocolate covered baking sheet, spreading it out evenly with a rubber spatula or offset spatula. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate over the hot toffee and when it looks like it is melted, spread with an offset spatula (like in the gif above!). Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top and gently press them into the chocolate.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. I find that it stays fresh longer in the fridge. You can also make this ahead and freeze for up to 3 months.