Today I’m joining with some other great Canadian bloggers to share some great ideas for homemade Christmas gifts. I thought I’d share a recipe for some homemade sponge toffee, because if your peeps are anything like mine the homemade gift they really want is something super yummy they can eat.
I’ve never made sponge toffee before, but broke out my trusty candy thermometer and decided to give it a try. As with any candy recipe, the directions are really specific -it’s science after all, so no “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” it’s more like a controlled chemistry experiment.
It was all going so well. I made the candy after much research and followed all “the rules”: 300 degrees, no stirring after the sugar is disolved, add in the baking soda but don’t over stir. I tasted a tiny little bit I’d put aside as a tester and thought it was perfect.
The candy takes a couple of hours to set, so after it was finally ready I tried a little of the edge -so, so good. Sweet, crispy, lots of bubbles.
So, since the candy was for this blog post and I needed to get a photo in for the collage I set about dipping it in chocolate, setting up a picture, and working away. As I worked away, I just might have nibbled away. And as I nibbled the burnt taste of caramelized sugar gone too far became more and more pronounced. I burnt it.
But, hey it was my first attempt. Try, try again. I had to run some errands so when I got home that night I attempted another batch. This time I was super careful about the sugar -because it’s tricky to get it to 300 degrees (hard crack stage) without burning the sugar first. And you have to get it up to 300 so that the toffee will set properly and be crispy. The second time I turned the heat down a little and watched it like a hawk. I even calibrated my thermometer. I couldn’t recommend a recipe to you on the blog that didn’t work, so I had to figure this thing out.
Second batch and the mixture was still mostly clear by the time it got to 300, and tuned a little amber with the addition of the baking soda, just like my research told me it should and definitely not burnt this time.
But…you knew there was a but coming, it didn’t foam up like the first batch.
So, the next day when I got home that night I attempted batch number three. It came out pretty much the same as the first batch. Nice big bubbles and burnt.
I had the ingredients to do one more batch, so it was back to try, try again. Batch number four I again cooked at a much lower heat, and again succeeded in not burning it, but again not as big of bubbles.
Here’s a side by side comparison, with the over done, slightly burnt batch on the left, and the better one on the right.
After attempt number four I was starting to doubt myself. In fact I was thinking that after one full bottle of corn syrup and a bag of sugar that I should really be writing to you to save your time, and effort and invest the money for my four batches into a few Crunchie chocolate bars from the store -and if necessary rough them up a little, break them into pieces, tuck them into a cello bag with some ribbon and try to pass them off as your own to your friends and family.
I brought my attempts over to some friends and they loved it -batches two and four that is. They all really, really liked it, and declared it a win rather than a fail. So you see it only takes one bottle of corn syrup, one bag of white sugar, and eight hours to make a lovely Christmas treat for your loved ones.
Seriously though, just turn down the heat after the sugar is dissolved and you’ll be fine -perhaps there’s a life lesson here for someone like me who’s always in a hurry, got a speeding ticket recently, and only cooks on high most of the time. Patience is a virtue.
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup white corn syrup (it's important to use white)
- 4 tsp baking soda (make sure it's fresh)
- Optional -melted chocolate for dipping
- Measure and sift the baking soda into a small bowl and set aside. Line a 9x13 baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil, and set aside.
- Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a very large saucepan. (When you add the baking soda at the end, the mixture will increase in volume and be very, very hot so a large pan is essential to keep it from over-flowing.)
- Cook over a high heat, and use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and stop stirring the mixture. Occasionally brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to keep the mixture from crystallizing. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and cook until it just reaches 300 degrees F or hard crack stage. Be careful not to burn the sugar, if it starts to turn amber coloured at all, turn the heat down.
- When it comes to 300 degrees F, remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda until just combined. Be careful not to over stir and deflate the mixture. Pour the hot candy into the prepared baking dish -taking care as it's very, very hot. Do not smooth it out, or push down the mixture with the spoon as it will deflate it.
- Let set for about two hours until the candy is hard. Remove from the baking dish, and use a sharp knife to break the candy into smaller pieces.
- Optional -dip the candy into melted chocolate.
- Be sure to store the candy in a sealed container, it should last for several days to a week.
With homemade sponge toffee, life really is a party!
Now it’s time for some more DIY Christmas gift ideas from my Canadian blogging friends. Get ready for some wonderful handmade gift inspiration for your holidays!
From the top, they are: