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I’ve been a little ambivalent about how to approach this whole the world coming to an end on December 21, 2012 along with the wind-down of the Mayan calendar thing. I mean, we’ve known that the Mayan calendar was going to come to an end for a long time, but we didn’t know what that was going to mean. So during this holiday season I tried to rebalance the oddness of uncertainty with something I don’t feel ambivalent about – toffee.

I figured, the benefits of making toffee would work whatever the outcome:

OMG, the world is coming to an end. As I watch the fiery apocalypse sweep over Twin Peaks on its inexorable drive to the sea, what better companion by my side than a pan of sugar supersaturated with butter and covered in chocolate. Let’s have some toffee!

or

Hooray! The world is still here and it was all a stupid, overwrought misunderstanding. We never bought into that doomsday mularkey anyway. Bring on 2013 and, hells yeah, bring on the toffee!

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Toffee is a paradox in itself. Making it is both boring and a white-knuckle, suspenseful experience. You cook and cook and cook sugar and butter and a couple of tablespoons of light corn syrup together until it bubbles and boils and you think it is almost burning and you think it’s never going to hit the right spot on the candy thermometer and then you smell the burning sugar and it’s got another 15 degrees to go to reach that hard crack stage and you just have to hang on, stirring furiously and staring at the candy thermometer until it’s time to yank it off the heat and pour it onto a lightly buttered jelly roll pan.

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I don’t know why some people are intimidated by the idea of making candy. 🙂 Especially when the rewards are so high.

It is a requirement, however, to have a candy thermometer, and they are a little bit of a pain. It is easy to burn the pan if you don’t keep sweeping the spoon under the spot where the thermometer is sitting. Then, as the bubbling stuff boils down a bit you need to reposition the thermometer too. That’s what that handy, funky little wooden ball is for on the back of the thermometer, because you don’t want to touch the molten butter-sugar-caramel or the pot with your hands. That would hurt a lot.

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So without further ado, here is a nice and tasty toffee recipe to make and share. I’ve lost the copy of the Saveur magazine that it came from, but the source of the recipe is a woman foodwriter from Texas who made lots of candy with her mom, as I recall. Toffee and tablet are the only two candies I’ve ever gone to the trouble to make and both require a lot of butter and sugar and standing by the flame and stirring longer than you think it’s humanly possible. But the results are heaven. They don’t call it the hard crack stage for nothing.

Best wishes to everyone for a sweet New Year 2013!

xo Janice

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Pecan Toffee
Makes About 2 1⁄2 Pounds2 tsp. plus 2 cups butter
2 cups sugar


2 tbsp. light corn syrup


2 tsp. kosher salt


2 cups chopped toasted pecans

1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 10″×15″ jelly roll pan with 2 tsp. butter and set aside. Put remaining butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1⁄2 cup water into a medium pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat while stirring constantly. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pot and cook, continuing to stir constantly, until sugar mixture is deep golden brown and registers 310° (the hard-crack stage), about 20 minutes. [Okay, it has always taken longer for me, this time I clocked the arrival at hard-crack at almost 30 minutes. Don’t despair!]Image

2. Pour the hot toffee onto the prepared pan and, using oven mitts, tilt and turn the pan to fill it evenly. Sprinkle the pecans over the top.

If you’d like to coat the toffee with chocolate before adding the nuts, let the toffee cool for 5 minutes, then sprinkle 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 1 minute, then use a rubber spatula to gently spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate and gently press them down.

3. Refrigerate toffee until it hardens, about 1 hour, then break into bite-size pieces. Serve toffee immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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