Thursday, November 24, 2016

Frugal Snacks: English Toffee

Every winter, I read over my copies of The Tightwad Gazette I, II, and III. They revamp my commitment to frugality, give me new ideas and help me think more creatively about my daily doings.

While I was rereading them, I found a recipe for English toffee that for some reason I hadn't tried, and wow! I can't believe I haven't been making this before!  It is unbelievably easy, frugal and delicious. Here is the basic recipe, along with ideas for changing it up a bit for variety. This is a great, easy snack to whip up for dessert, for company coming over or to give as a gift.

* 1/2 cup butter
* 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
* 1/2 cup chocolate chips (or shaved chocolate of any sort)
* Optional: nuts such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc, chopped.

Grease a 8x8" baking dish (or use whatever baking dish or pie plate you want. Bigger will give a thinner toffee, smaller will give a thicker hunk of candy). If you want to add nuts to the toffee, sprinkle them on the bottom of the dish.

Over medium heat, cook the butter and brown sugar, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Remove from heat immediately once it starts to smoke (7-9 minutes). Be extremely careful not to spill this super-hot mixture on anyone as it will burn like the dickens. Don't allow to cook after it starts to smoke or it will burn. Immediately pour the toffee mixture into the baking dish. Spread with the spatula as needed to cover the bottom. Add chocolate chips to the top and cover with a plate or cookie sheet so the chocolate will melt. Once it has melted, spread smooth with a knife or spatula. Garnish with more nuts if you want.

Allow to cool completely. Once cool, break into pieces. You can score the toffee while it is still hot to try for more even pieces, but I never bother.

This stuff is addictive and lovely. It is a great gift item. For me the cost is very affordable. I buy butter when it goes on sale for $2/lb, so the cost is $.50. I buy brown sugar for $1.50/2 lbs. Each pound contains about 4 cups, so the cost is around $.14 for the sugar. For the chocolate, I used some semi-sweet baking cocoa squares that I got at the salvage grocer for $.99/4 oz. I used half of it, so that cost $.50. So not including nuts, I spent $1.14 for a batch of candy.

Variations and ideas (Use plain toffee without chocolate if desired):
* Don't add chocolate to the top. Once toffee is cool, break into pieces and dip into melted chocolate, either completely or just half for pretty presentation. Or you could drizzle with dark, milk or white chocolate (or with some of each).
* QUICKLY drop the hot toffee mixture into circles on a baking sheet for pretty round candies that can be decorated with chocolate, nuts, etc.
* You could use sprinkles on the melted chocolate for decoration.
* Use small broken pieces as an ice cream topping.
* Add broken pieces to milk shakes for a Blizzard type dessert (Heath candy; caramel apple, etc).
* Pour toffee and then chocolate over saltine crackers.
* Add coconut and/or dried fruit.
* Pour into candy molds for adorable gifts.
* Make into candy bars.
* Add bits to brownies or cookies or to decorate a cake.
* Pour over pretzels and peanuts.
* Add M+Ms to the top of the melted chocolate.
* Add to cookies or shortbread
* Add to homemade ice cream
* Add bits to the top of a caramel apple cheesecake.
* Add bits (without chocolate) to banana bread
* Add bits to biscotti (or use to garnish after dipping in chocolate)
* Add bits to caramel popcorn.
* Use bits to garnish chocolate dipped pretzel sticks
* Use bits to garnish cake pops
* Add to caramel apple scones
* Add bits to cinnamon roll filling

This is an easy introductory recipe to candy making, so feel confident. I've made it a dozen times and only once did it not work perfectly (and that time I was trying to quadruple the batch, so I think that was the issue). It makes a perfectly delicious and frugal gift.

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