English Toffee Recipe and Tutorial

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English Toffee is the perfect candy to make if you've never made homemade candy before.  This English Toffee recipe is fast and easy to make, and the toffee itself is incredibly delicious, with a buttery, sweet crunch and coating of chocolate.

English toffee in a white paper cup, tied with red and white baker's twine.

Did I mention that it's easy to make?  It really is, I swear.  Even if you've never made homemade candy before, even if you are intimidated by the thought, you can TOTALLY make this amazing toffee.  I promise.  You don't even need any special tools like candy thermometers for this English toffee recipe!

English toffee ingredients on a white marble background.

English Toffee Recipe Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) salted butter
  • 1 T clear Karo corn syrup 
  • 1 t vanilla
  • chocolate bars or chocolate chips
  • chopped pecans (optional)

Preparing to Make English Toffee

This English toffee recipe comes together pretty quickly, so you need to be sure that you've prepared  your pan ahead of time.  You won't have a good opportunity to do it while the toffee is cooking on the stovetop.

I always make my English toffee in an aluminum sheet pan, because I want a pan with a lip, so the hot sugar mixture can be easily contained as it cools.  

Traditionally, the pan is prepared by coating it in butter.  A LOT of softened butter.  You don't want to skimp on this step, or the toffee will need to be chiseled out of the pan.

I prefer to line my pan with a silicone baking sheet, which works much more reliably than buttering the pan.  I do still butter the perimeter of the pan, where the silicone mat doesn't quite cover all the way to the edge.

How to Make English Toffee

Combine the sugar, butter, and Karo corn syrup in a sauce pan.    Cook on high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns this nice toffee brown color in the following picture:

English toffee spread on a silpat lined baking sheet.

It should take about ten minutes to reach this color. 

Remove from the heat and mix in the vanilla, and pour out into your prepared pan.

Homemade English toffee on a lined baking sheet, sprinkled with chocolate chips.

Let cool slightly, then cover the toffee with chocolate.  I used chocolate chips here.  My grandmother used plain Hershey bars.  

If you do this right after pouring the toffee, the weight of the chocolate will make the chocolate chips sink down to the bottom of the pan.  While it would still be delicious, we'd rather have a layer of toffee topped with a layer of chocolate.  Just give it a minute before sprinkling on the chocolate.

Melted chocolate chips being spread over homemade English toffee

When the chocolate looks shiny, that means it's sufficiently melted, and it's time to spread the chocolate across the surface.  An offset spatula is a really nice tool to use for this job.  

Chocolate spread over homemade English toffee on a silpat lined baking pan.

If you're going to sprinkle with chopped pecans, as is traditional (and pretty, and yummy), this is the time to do it. 

English toffee covered in chocolate and ground nuts.

Topping Ideas for English Toffee

  • Chopped pecans.  These are the classic topping to sprinkle on the still-melted chocolate.
  • Sea salt crystals.   Give your English toffee a modern, trendy, delicious topping by sprinkling it with flakes of sea salt.
  • Sprinkles.  Add some festive flair to your English toffee by adding a mix of holiday sprinkles to the still-warm chocolate.
  • Candy Cane Pop Rocks.  You really want to surprise your taste-testers?  Sprinkle on some pop rocks!  
  • Freeze dried mini marshmallows and peanuts.  Mmm, rocky road toffee!

English toffee being broken into pieces with a metal spatula.

Pop the whole pan in the fridge to cool and harden completely.  Once it's completely cooled, slide a spatula under the toffee and break the candy into pieces.  

English toffee in a white paper cup, tied with red and white baker's twine.

So few ingredients, but so absolutely, amazingly delicious!  Give it a try!  And if you can't get enough of delicious toffee treats, try making the best graham cracker toffee you'll ever taste!

Why did my English Toffee Turn out Grainy?

Grainy English toffee is caused by candy-making phenomenon called "sugaring."  If you use just regular sugar in the toffee recipe (and eliminated the corn syrup), you'll be much more likely to end up with a sugared (grainy) finished product.  Basically, sugar wants to revert to its original state.  If you started with grains of sugar, the sugar wants to return to that crystal form.  Fats help inhibit the formation of crystals in candy, and this toffee recipe does have a lot of fat in the form of butter.  But the real secret to preventing crystallization is to add another form of sugar that's already in a non-crystaline form: the corn syrup.  Corn syrup is a nonsucrose sugar, and is mainly glucose.  When you combine even that little bit of corn syrup in the recipe, the toffee is much more likely to stay smooth, even though this recipe calls for stirring the mixture as it cooks (agitation is a leading cause of sugaring of candy).

In summary:  

  • Don't skip the corn syrup.  It has a scientific purpose in this recipe.
  • Don't try to reduce the fat content
  • Stir constantly as the toffee cooks, but don't over-stir.  We want the toffee to cook evenly, but we want to resist the urge to whip it up and provoke those sugar crystals into forming again.

English toffee in a white paper cup, tied with red and white baker's twine.

Other Homemade Candy Recipes You Might Like

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Nicole Wills, creator of Tikkido

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