Classic Milk (or Dark) Chocolate Toffee
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Here is recipe for classic milk or dark chocolate toffee, the perfect gift for the person in your life with a sweet tooth. This toffee melts in your mouth and is buttery, sandy-textured and delicious. Below you will find step-by-step instructions as well as video guidance:
This recipe, submitted by my friend Laura Daley, won The Philadelphia Bulletin’s 2007 “Annual Edible Gift Recipe Contest.” It’s buttery and chocolaty, sweet and salty, a festive treat to add to your holiday desserts repertoire.
There is one trick to making this recipe: cooking the sugar until it reaches the hard-ball stage or, in my experience, until it gets just beyond the hard-ball stage.
What is the hard-ball stage?
The hard-ball stage refers to the stage sugar reaches when it is heated to 250º – 266ºF (121 – 130ºC), but for this recipe you’ll want to cook it a little longer.
You, of course, can use a candy thermometer to test for this stage, but Laura uses a different method: she has you drop a small spoonful of the cooked sugar into a glass of cold water. If the syrup forms a ball — and if you press it between your fingers and it holds its shape — the sugar is in the hard-ball stage.
If you are comfortable cooking sugar and gauging this sort of stage, feel proud — it’s not easy. The more I make this toffee, the more I find myself relying on my Thermapen — so fast and so accurate — to assess when the sugar-butter mixture is done. I also am finding that cooking the sugar a bit beyond the hard-ball stage, more to like 285ºF-290ºF, is best.
Note: the texture of this finished toffee is almost sandy — it melts in your mouth as opposed to sticks to your molars. It doesn’t snap sharply when it breaks, but rather crumbles. I find the texture to be quite nice, but if you are looking for more of that crisp, snappy caramel texture, you should cook your butter-sugar mixture till it gets beyond 300ºF.
There is one other critical step to ensuring this toffee turns out well for you: chill the assembled toffee in the fridge for at least two hours before breaking it into chards. Chilling it allows the butter-sugar layer to firm up and solidify. Once it is solid, you can break it into shards and …
This toffee, as Laura notes in the recipe, makes a great gift for the holidays. Several years ago, I purchased a case of 100 brown stationery boxes from Uline. Although this large case of boxes takes up nearly half our storage space in the basement, every holiday season I am so happy to have these clear-top boxes on hand.
I have packaged biscotti and chocolate truffles in them for the past two years, and now I will pack Daley Toffee in them as well. For a nice presentation, use parchment paper as a base inside the box, wrap the box with a ribbon, and tie on a simple tag.
How to Make Toffee: A Step-by-Step Guide
Sprinkle ground pecans into a buttered 9×9-inch pan. I love this USA Pan:
Bring butter, sugar, water, and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan stovetop:
Have your Thermapen or candy thermometer nearby. You want to remove the mixture when it reaches 285ºF – 290ºF or when it looks caramel-colored. Reference the video for guidance. Pour it over your prepared pan:
Let stand 2 minutes; then sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Let stand another 2 minutes; then spread into an even layer:
You can use dark or milk chocolate here — whatever you like best:
Sprinkle more ground pecans over top and a pinch of sea salt if you wish:
Transfer to the fridge for at least 2 hours before turning the toffee out onto a sheet of parchment paper and breaking it into shards.Print
Classic Milk (or Dark) Chocolate Toffee
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 1 8×8-inch pan
This recipe comes from my friend Laura Daley, whose recipe won The Philadelphia Bulletin’s holiday baking contest in 2007.
Laura’s notes: This recipe makes a great holiday gift for those with a sweet tooth! It keeps up to 2 weeks if you put it in an airtight container.
Chocolate: I’ve used both semi-sweet (46% cacao) and dark chocolate (74% cacao), and I like both. Obviously, when semi-sweet chocolate is used, the toffee comes out sweeter.
Pan Size: You can also use a 9×13-inch pan if you’d prefer a thinner version — in which case increase nuts to 1 cup.
- butter for greasing
- 2/3 cup (72 g) ground pecans (or nut of your choice)
- 1 cup (226 g) salted butter
- 1 cup (218 g) sugar
- 3 tablespoons (40 g) water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup (140 g) premium milk chocolate or dark chocolate, see notes above
- Sea salt, optional
- Grease a 9×9-inch pan. Put 1/3 cup of the nuts in the pan.
- Cook butter, sugar, water, and vanilla over medium heat stirring occasionally until golden brown — you want the sugar to get just past the hard-ball stage or until it reaches: 285º – 290ºF (140 – 143ºC). You can use a candy thermometer or better a Thermapen to test for this stage or you can drop a small spoonful of the cooked sugar into a glass of cold water. If the syrup forms a ball, the sugar is in the hard-ball stage.
- Pour the cooked butter/sugar mixture over the nuts.
- Wait 2 minutes; then put the chocolate on top. Wait 2 more minutes; then spread the chocolate evenly over top — I use the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt if you wish. Transfer the pan to the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours.
- When the toffee has completely cooled, break it into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Category: Candy
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: toffee, milk, chocolate, hard-ball stage
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
22 Comments on “Classic Milk (or Dark) Chocolate Toffee”
Hi 🙂 I just found your blog while i was browsing. Everything sounds so delicious!
Hi Ali! I just made these toffees for the girls x-mas party/cookie exchange. Thanks for the great recipe! I haven’t cut them yet so hope they turn out good! The ingredients were simple and…like you always say…It was sooo easy to made them!!
not the finest fin, the funniest fin! thanks Miina. can’t wait to see you.
Did you use dark or milk chocolate? I know the recipe calls for milk chocolate, but it looked somewhat dark in the pictures. Thanks!
Natalie, hi. I used milk chocolate only because it was the first time I made the recipe and wanted to follow the instructions without changing anything the first time around. You could definitely use dark chocolate. In fact, with my recent taking to dark chocolate, I’m sure that’s what I will use in the future. Milk chocolate works just fine, however, if that’s what you like. Good Luck!
Oh Deb, I’m really, really sorry about this. I will revisit the recipe tomorrow. Out of curiosity, did you use a thermometer or the drop in water test? I will update the recipe tomorrow once I give this a go, and in the meantime, I’ll make a note in the recipe to warn others … so sorry.
Deb, I am currently revisiting the recipe. I removed the sugar-butter mixture from the heat at 285ºF, and now my toffee is chilling in the fridge … which is another step not in the recipe …. ugh I feel horrible about this. I just did a bunch of googling and I am finding recipes that call for the 250-266F range, but they all call for chilling the toffee for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Did you throw it away?? Part of me wonders if it would firm up in the fridge. Again, apologies for the wasted ingredients/time.
Thanks for checking on this…yes I had to throw it all away. Unfortunately I had even made a double batch and at first thought this might have been my failure but I have done double batches of peanut brittle with no problems. I tried to think of things I could do with it like using it in ice cream or something but decided to toss it. I did use a proper candy thermometer. It was a bit granular in texture and I put it outside where it was cold and it stayed soft. The updates to the recipe look like they will work. All the best!
I used this recipe today and tried toffee for the first time with help from my 15-month-old daughter. 🙂 The result astes great, but the consistency of the toffee seems a little off…it is crumbly and little grainy. I used a thermapen and cooked it until it read 265 degrees (for awhile…it almost seemed to stall-out temp-wise, but maybe I just needed to be more patient) and had reached the hard ball stage from my cold water test. It was golden and I was worried I had overcooked it, but I think maybe I undercooked it? Not sure. Please advise. 🙂 It was a fun adventure to try, and like I said, it tastes delicious, but I’m going to have to try it again to feel like I’ve mastered it. Thank you for your careful attention to testing and fine-tuning!
Hi Susanna! I am in the process of revisiting this recipe and should be able to advise more tomorrow … i never got a chance to test the batch of toffee I made today.
I cooked mine to 285ºF today; then stuck it in the fridge, but I haven’t broken it into chards yet. Did you chill yours? Or let it harden at room temperature? I think you likely undercooked it, but I again, I will report back more tomorrow.
Great you have a Thermapen — a reliable thermometer is so key with these sorts of recipes!
Susanna, hello! Question, did you refrigerate the toffee before breaking it into shards?
I just broke the batch I made yesterday into shards and took a few tastes: the texture definitely is sandy, and this is how I remember it always being. But if you don’t like this texture, I think the key next time will be cooking the sugar longer. I actually cooked my sugar-butter mixture to 290ºF (realized this after watching my video, which I’m in the process of getting together to post), so I think for a really crisp toffee, you’d have to cook it past 300ºF.
I am in the process of updating this recipe with some more notes, so I will update the recipe very soon! Thank you for being understanding. It’s frustrating when things don’t turn out well. Glad you had some good company with you nonetheless 🙂 🙂 🙂
Hi Ali – This was delicious! I made it for a food swap and will be making another batch for teacher gifts! The question I have is regarding the pan size. I used an 8×8 since I don’t have a 9×9. It was a bit thick. You reference an 8×13 but I can’t seem to find one of those. Does this work in a 9×13 pan? Thanks so much – love your site! I make your peasant bread regularly and my son LOVES it!
Yes! 9×13 is perfect … will edit the recipe. Not sure where the 8×13 came from — I don’t have one of those 🤣 Thanks so much for writing. Great to hear about the peasant bread, too 🙂 🙂 🙂
Oh my gosh—much in the same way that your focaccia recipe helped me stop being scared of baking bread, this recipe helped me kick my fear of caramel and candy thermometers to the curb! Turned out perfectly the first go! Was so much fun to make and easy too—will be putting this into my holiday rotation from here on out.
So wonderful to hear this, Karen! Thanks so much for writing and sharing this. I love this one, too — such a fun, festive, super seasonal recipe! Have a wonderful holiday season.
I have not made this recipe yet but am planning to, hopefully today. Could you please give me the exact stock number of the uLine boxes? You mentioned stationery but under the white box category I did not see that listed. Thank you! Recipe and pictures look yummy?
I just looked and it’s actually not Uline, but this company: https://www.dancopackagingproducts.com/product/6169
Thank you. I will check them out!
I decided this was the perfect thing to make for my neighbors and so I doubled it on my first try and made it in a 9×13 pan. A few mistakes on my part. First, maybe wait longer than 2 minutes to go out the chocolate chips on top as they just melted right into the toffee. Maybe next time use a half baking sheet instead as the toffee was a little thick. Either way, the finished product is delicious and I will always use dark chocolate bc it’s otherwise so sweet. The texture of the toffee is perfect. I’m impressed by my first candy making adventure!
So nice to hear all of this, Megan, and thank you for writing and sharing your notes and suggestions. I prefer dark chocolate here as well. So glad to hear the texture is great! Happy holidays 🙂
I just made it again with the changes above. Using a half sheet pan was perfect for a double batch. And the chocolate won’t just sink in if the toffee isn’t too thick like the first time! I used dry roasted almonds bc I wasn’t go out in this below zero storm and I like the salt added by the nuts. Just a perfect recipe!
Great to hear, Megan! Thanks so much for writing and reporting back with your notes. So glad the toffee turned out well 🙂