Scottish Toffee

By • December 9, 2009 • 101 Comments

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Author Notes: I make batches of this during the holidays and I've done so for so many years that I didn't have a recipe written out. Folks love it so much that they ask to be added to my toffee list and are prompt to remind me if I'm a little late in my deliveries. The December holidays at our house mean batch after batch of toffee-making. I could make this in my sleep! I taught my mother how to make this and we enjoyed making it together once my folks moved to San Diego in 1988. (I've included a photo of our first "California Christmas" together.) After she died, it took me three years before I could bear to make toffee and I renamed it "Scottish Toffee" in honor of her MacPherson roots. For me, this recipe is all about giving and sharing -- everything I love about cooking and being in my kitchen, just as women in my family have always done.Lizthechef

Food52 Review: WHO: Lizthechef is inspired by the recipes and techniques of Ina Garten and Melissa Clark.
WHAT: An edible gift that your friends, family, and neighbors would probably pay you for (but don’t get any ideas).
HOW: Sandwich buttery caramel between layers of melted semisweet chocolate and finely chopped almonds. Freeze for an hour before breaking and gifting.
WHY WE LOVE IT: If you’re planning on giving this as a present, be warned: Once you’ve had one piece of this simple-to-make candy, you will have to have another. It's chocolatey, nutty, and crunchy, and the story behind it (read Lizthechef’s headnote) is in the spirit of the holiday season.
The Editors

Makes one cookie sheet's worth

  • 1 cup finely chopped almonds, divided in two
  • 18 ounces (1 1/2 packages) semisweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli, divided in two
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, generously packed
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon best-quality vanilla extract
  • Good-quality sea salt, optional
  1. Put half the nuts and half the chocolate chips onto a cookie sheet.
  2. Using a candy thermometer to monitor, cook butter and brown sugar over medium-high heat in medium-sized pot until you reach "hard crack" stage -- 300° F. Stir constantly. This will take about 15 minutes. (Using a copper pot allows you to cook at a higher temperature without burning the caramel.)
  3. Remove the pot from heat and quickly add salt and vanilla.
  4. Carefully pour the caramel mixture over the mix of nuts and chocolate. Sprinkle remaining chocolate over hot mixture. When melted, smooth out with the back of large spoon. Sprinkle remaining nuts and gently press into the toffee. If you like salted caramels, you may want to sprinkle some good-quality sea salt on top of the candy.
  5. Freeze one hour before breaking into pieces for storage -- or snacking.

Tags: candy, Holidays, Holidays, toffee

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Comments (101) Questions (2)

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4 months ago Michelle Trim

Made this tonight with 1 bag of chocolate chips and some chipotle glazed pecans I had left over from another recipe. The flavor is fantastic but the texture is not quite right. It did not get brittle enough so it is closer to a praline than toffee. The mixture did separate when I was cooking, and I did apply the hot water fix. It seemed to work, but perhaps that was the reason for the overly soft outcome.

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4 months ago Lizthechef

I guess this is my last comment on my recipe. It works, as written.

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4 months ago Michelle Trim

That's okay - other comments have been super helpful in trying to sort out the (obviously) common separation problems. Hopefully if anyone else had the lack of hardness problem, they will also post what worked to solve it. Other than slightly modifying the additives (chips and nuts), followed recipe as written.

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5 months ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

Congratulations on the wild card win!

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5 months ago MRubenzahl

Oh, and no issues with it separating or graininess. I added a couple of tablespoons of corn syrup, as I walys do for candies, as it helps prevent crystallization.

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5 months ago MRubenzahl

Love this! But I am about to use three words I never thought I would: "Too much chocolate!" More like chocolate bark with some toffee under it, delicious but for me, the toffee is kind of lost. I love the idea of pouring the toffee over the chocolate chips to melt them. Just would use 1/2 - 2/3 the amount. But that's just me.

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5 months ago Peg Wolfe

Toffee recipes that use this much butter can break very easily. There's a similar recipe on the Land o' Lakes site, and they advise:

" - If your toffee separates during cooking, carefully and slowly add 1/4 to 1/2 cup hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Stir constantly until mixture goes back together."

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5 months ago Cands Sia-Laurente

I have issues with graininess from the brown sugar but none of I use white sugar. Is it supposed to be grainy?

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5 months ago Deb

Some toffee recipes call for baking soda and some call for no stirring at all. Do you know how each of these changes the finished product? Thank you!
Love your story

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5 months ago Brenda

Almost word for word same as King Arthur recipe with a couple slight changes. How can it be entered in so many contests?

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5 months ago dymnyno

There probably a million recipes for this candy, all "with a couple of slight changes" and what a difference those changes can make, as anyone who cooks on a regular basis can attest!

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5 months ago mainesoul

I rarely make desert and I have never made candy. Yet I attempted this without a copper pot. I did have a candy thermometer and a glass pot. I used pecans instead of almonds. This came up perfect.

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5 months ago Lizthechef

So glad it was a success for you. It was years of toffee-making before my husband gave me a copper pot. The copper allows me to cook it at a higher heat without scorching the toffee.

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5 months ago mainesoul

I understand about the copper pot. I was pleased with myself that I had great results with a glass pot.

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5 months ago kit

Hi Liz. About to attempt this... Does it matter whether dark brown sugar or light brown sugar?

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5 months ago Lizthechef

I use light.

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5 months ago kit

Made different batches with light and dark and think the light is better. I had ghiradelli bittersweet chips (not semi sweet) which are quite big for chips so in latter versions I deleted the bottom layer of chips and just melted them on top. It turned out nicer looking and didn't sacrifice the sweetness. Thx for sharing this recipe. Going to try and make it an annual tradition!

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5 months ago dymnyno

Congratulations on a great recipe! (I just saw this after 2 days without internet)

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5 months ago Lizthechef

Thanks, Mary, I missed it myself - xo

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6 months ago Lizthechef

Thanks, lapadia - I had missed that my toffee was a wildcard winner -

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6 months ago lapadia

I have this recipe on my "to make" list this holiday...fyi!

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6 months ago Lizthechef

I have made 8 batches of it for gifts and happily stored my copper "toffee" pan away until next year. Good luck -

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about 1 year ago Gilda Pratt

My daughter and I made this for her Heritage day at school, here in SD...in honor of HER MacPherson roots! Thank you SO much for sharing what I know will be a traditional treat in our home!

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about 1 year ago mlrj

I have been making this for over 30 years but have always used white sugar. I'm going to try it next time with brown sugar. (I also always use milk chocolate chips.)
The separation problems have happened to me and my sister too. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. We have never figured it out yet. It doesn't matter how hot you get it or the brand of ingredients or whether it's salted butter or not. We can't even tell if it's a humidity issue. It just happens.

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about 1 year ago Food Cobbler

Thank you for sharing this recipe. I look forward to succeeding and sharing my results with friends.

For those of us with separation problems (I tested the recipe today and experienced separation somewhere between 250 F and 275 F on my glass bulb candy thermometer, though I did reach 300 F at the 15-minute mark), I recommend reading this page (http://www.melskitchencafe...) and checking the reading on your thermometer in boiling water. I tested mine and, for my elevation, it read 11 degrees too low. I read other sources that indicate their thermometers are less accurate at higher temperatures. The next time I test this recipe I will ignore the thermometer and go by look and feel now that I've experienced what I believe is passing the proper point and reaching the separation stage. I don't have experience with candy making, but I can see how experience with the look and feel of the stages is very beneficial given the fallibility of our tools.

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over 1 year ago Raquelita

could the next person to successfully make this please weigh the brown sugar? I haven't had success since the first time I made it. I'm terribly sad about it.

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over 1 year ago Raquelita

also, do you really stir the whole time? it seems like first melting the sugar, then stirring, might produce the right results.

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over 1 year ago Lizthechef

I just made a perfect batch last night but that is an excellent idea to weigh the brown sugar! Try lightly packing the one cup measure. And yes, I stir it constantly.

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over 1 year ago luciadillon

Liz, how do you chop your nuts and what do you consider to be a cookie sheet? 1/2 sheet pan?

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over 1 year ago Lizthechef

1/2 sheet pan - I throw mine in my 25-year-old processor. Get them finely chopped.

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over 3 years ago Lizthechef

I suggest to use "medium-high" heat in my recipe - wonder if you did this? I just made 20 batches - no problems - except I'm pooped ;) Sorry it didn't work for you. Couldn't you stir it together?

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over 3 years ago lovelola

Uh oh- my attempt ended up in the separation of the oil from the mixture as well. It happened around 250 degrees of slow heat in a heavy pan. It looked beautiful up until that point- I have no clue what went wrong...

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over 1 year ago Angel

I don't know if it's true- but I've been told Salted butter prevents the "breaking"