Crunchy, sweet, and salty homemade toffees and brittles are that bite of heaven you are craving. They receive plenty of attention during the holiday season, when people are looking for creative and thoughtful gifts, but we think you should make them all year long. Sprinkle the broken pieces over ice cream sundaes or simply store them in Tupperware for a convenient treat.
You can even get around not having a candy thermometer by using Better Homes and Gardens‘ guide for the different stages of the “cold water test.” This will allow you to approximate the temperature of your candy by seeing what happens when a spoonful of the hot mixture is dropped into cold water, determining if it is in the “soft ball,” “firm ball,” or one of the other stages.
1. Nut Brittle
What Food & Wine’s recipe does spectacularly — other than make a delectable brittle – is show how adaptable these candies are. Put in virtually any nut you would like for a a sweet and salty homemade candy.
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup light corn syrup
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 12 ounces roasted salted peanuts, cashews, pistachios and/or pecans
- Fleur de sel or crushed Maldon sea salt
Directions: In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, water, butter, and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is light brown and registers 300 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully stir in the baking soda. The mixture will bubble. Stir in the nuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed, nonstick baking sheet. Using the back of a large spoon (oil it lightly if it sticks), spread the brittle into a thin, even layer. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large sections.
2. Microwave Peanut Brittle
If candy thermometers don’t appeal to you, take the easy way out by following Kraft’s recipe for peanut brittle that you make in the microwave. Like the previous brittle, you could substitute another nut for peanuts if desired.
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- 1½ cups dry roasted peanuts
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Directions: Microwave the sugar and corn syrup in large microwaveable bowl on high for 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes. Stir in peanuts. Microwave an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Add butter and vanilla; stir until butter is completely melted. Microwave 1 minute. Stir in baking soda; the mixture will foam. Spread mixture onto baking sheet. Cool completely. Break into pieces.
3. Creamy Pecan Pralines
Emeril’s creamy pecan pralines, via the Food Network, are the Southern treat that will soothe your sweet tooth’s cravings. You could also take them and make homemade pralines and cream ice cream – or, at the very least, stir the pralines into a container of store-bought ice cream.
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup pecan halves
Directions: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the light brown sugar, granulated sugar, heavy cream, butter, and water. Place over a medium-high heat and stir constantly until the pralines reach the soft ball stage, 238 to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the pecans to the candy and pull the pan off of the stove. Continue to stir the candy vigorously with a wooden spoon until the candy cools and the pecans remain suspended in the candy, about 2 minutes. Spoon the pralines out onto a parchment- or aluminum foil-lined sheet pan and cool completely before serving.
Technically considered a cookie, the process for making florentines is much like that for candies, toffees, and brittles. Creamy and flavored with orange, you won’t need a candy thermometer for Chow‘s buttery, zesty cookies. Also called almond lace, you can drizzle the cookies in chocolate or dip an entire side, like in the picture above.
- 1¼ cups sliced almonds
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest (from 2 medium oranges)
- ⅓ cup granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter , cut into 4 pieces
- ¼ cup light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon fine salt
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
Directions: Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and arrange the racks to divide the oven into thirds. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Place the almonds, flour, and zest in a medium bowl and toss with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to combine; set aside. Place the sugar, butter, corn syrup, cream, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat, add the almond mixture, and stir to combine.
Drop heaping teaspoons of the batter at least 3 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets, six per sheet. Using a rubber spatula, pat the batter out into 2-inch-wide circles, spreading the almonds into an even single layer. Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom, and bake until the florentines are light golden brown around the edges, about 4 to 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven to wire racks and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes. Carefully remove the florentines from the baking sheets with a thin metal spatula, transfer to the wire racks, and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter — you can reuse the baking sheets and parchment while still warm. Reserve the parchment sheets for drizzling the chocolate over the cooled cookies, if using.
Place the cooled cookies on the reserved parchment sheets. Melt the chocolate chips in a small saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave. Dip a fork into the chocolate and drizzle it over the florentines in a zigzag pattern. Let the cookies sit until the chocolate has set, about 30 minutes. Store the florentines in an airtight container for up to five days.
5. Butter Toffee
Land O’Lakes leaves the decision up to you as to whether your butter toffee will be made with walnuts or pecans, and you could try a mixture of both. When broken into pieces, this recipe will yield about 60 candies.
- 2⅓ cups sugar
- 2 cups butter
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted
- 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet or milk chocolate chips
Directions: Butter 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan; set aside. Combine all ingredients except nuts and chocolate chips in heavy 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium low. Cook 25 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit or a small amount of mixture dropped into cold water forms hard brittle strands. Stir in 1 cup nuts.
Pour mixture into prepared pan; spread to desired thickness. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy; let stand 5 minutes. Spread melted chocolate evenly over candy. Sprinkle with nuts. Cool at least 3 hours. Break into pieces. Store in container with tight-fitting lid in cool dry place up to three weeks.
6. Hazelnut Toffee
Crunchy toffee with hazelnuts in the base and topping are in order with this recipe from Taste of Home. Dark chocolate and hazelnut are also a stellar combination if you’d rather try a different type of chocolate chip.
- 2 teaspoons plus 1 cup butter, divided
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- ⅓ cup chopped hazelnuts
- 2 cups (12 ounces each) semisweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup finely chopped hazelnuts
Directions: Line a 13-by-9-inch pan with foil; coat the foil with cooking spray and set aside. Butter the sides of a large heavy saucepan with 2 teaspoons butter. Cube remaining butter; place in pan. Add the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook and stir until mixture turns golden brown and a candy thermometer reads 300 degrees Fahrenheit (hard crack stage).
Remove from the heat; stir in hazelnuts. Pour into prepared pan without scraping; spread evenly. Let stand at room temperature until cool, about 1 hour. In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Spread evenly over toffee. Sprinkle with hazelnuts, pressing down gently. Let stand for 1 hour. Break into bite-sized pieces. Store in the refrigerator.
7. Cashew Butter Crunch
If you or someone you know has visited Amish country, you might have sampled cashew butter crunch. Various Amish communities make the candy to sell to visitors, and if a trip to the direct source isn’t possible, you can test out Food.com‘s recipe instead.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup butter (no substitutes)
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1½ cups salted cashew pieces
Directions: In 2-quart sauce pan, combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer reaches 290 degrees Fahrenheit, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cashews. Spread ¼-inch thickness on a wax paper-lined jellyroll pan. Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in airtight container.