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:

Milk and dark chocolate toffee broken into shards.

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.

Chill It

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 …

Daley Toffee: a friend's family recipe.

…Gift It

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.

A stack of Milk and dark chocolate toffee shards.

How to Make Toffee: A Step-by-Step Guide

Sprinkle ground pecans into a buttered 9×9-inch pan. I love this USA Pan:

A 9-inch pan, buttere, and sprinkled with ground pecans.

Bring butter, sugar, water, and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan stovetop:

Butter, sugar, water, and vanilla simmering 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:

Layer of caramel in a pan for toffee.

Let stand 2 minutes; then sprinkle chocolate chips over top. Let stand another 2 minutes; then spread into an even layer:

Chocolate covered toffee in a 9-inch pan.

You can use dark or milk chocolate here — whatever you like best:

Two bags of chocolate chips: dark and milk.

Sprinkle more ground pecans over top and a pinch of sea salt if you wish:

Chocolate covered toffee in a 9-inch pan covered with ground pecans.

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.

Milk chocolate toffee broken into shards.
Milk chocolate toffee in a holiday cookie tin.
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Classic Milk (or Dark) Chocolate Toffee

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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


  1. Grease a 9×9-inch pan. Put 1/3 cup of the nuts in the pan.
  2. 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. 
  3. Pour the cooked butter/sugar mixture over the nuts.
  4. 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. 
  5. 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