Anyone can pop into to Sucre and buy $2 chocolate pieces, but that seems so, well, yesterday and pre-recession. Thrift is the new indulgence, and nothing is thriftier than homemade candy. Try your hand at butter toffee; it is better than store-bought and easy enough for a novice candymaker to perfect on the first try. The recipe just calls for butter, sugar, corn syrup, nuts, and chocolate, and the toffee is ready to eat within an hour or so.
Start off by toasting about 1 1/2 cups of your favorite chopped nuts–I like pecans in toffee. Spread them in a single layer on a sheet pan with sides and cook at 300 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes until fragrant. Slide the nuts off the pan & set aside; meanwhile, line the pan with aluminum foil and spritz it with nonstick spray, then sprinkle the nuts evenly over the pan. Or, use a silicon pastry mat to line the pan.
In a 2-quart saucepan (a deeper pan is better than wide & shallow), put 2 sticks of salted butter, 1 1/3 cups sugar, 1/8 cup corn syrup, and 1/6 cup water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula. Once it reaches a hard boil, set a timer for 7 minutes.
The mixture will bubble & thicken, slowly changing color from pale golden to darker amber. A candy thermometer is helpful, but not necessary–cook the mixture until it reaches 300 degrees (for this volume of toffee, it’s about 7 minutes over medium heat after the initial boil). Pour it onto the prepared pan, spreading with the back of a spoon to completely cover the toasted nuts.
Wait a few minutes for the surface to cool & firm, then sprinkle on 1 cup of chopped chocolate (chips are fine). Watch the surface of the chocolate: when it changes from dull to shiny, spread it evenly over the toffee. Place the pan in the fridge for 20-30 minutes until firm. Lift the foil & toffee off of the sheet pan; cut into chunks with a heavy knife.
Try not to eat it all before you share it with your valentine…