English toffee tradition

When I was younger, my holidays were spent baking and decorating hundreds of cookies and candies to give as gifts. Over the last few years I’ve whittled the list down to my favorites: roll-out butter cookies, molasses ginger snaps, Russian tea cakes and English toffee.

Of those, English toffee is perhaps the easiest to make and gets the most raves, by far. Really, this English toffee is so good that it should be a controlled substance, something that requires a triplicate prescription. And with just four ingredients, butter, brown sugar, chocolate and nuts, a recipe is almost unnecessary.


A couple of things. First, you’ll need a candy thermometer. Second, learn from my mistake. Do not use a flimsy plastic spatula, or the molten candy liquid will melt the plastic.

Last, feel free to multiply this recipe. For example, I’ve actually quadrupled the recipe with great success.

It ships well. It packages beautifully in little containers, like my favorite little Chinese take-out cartons, tied up with raffia. At that point, it’s irresistible.

Once you make the toffee, hurry up and put it in sealed containers and get it out of the house. The sooner you give it away the less inclined you’ll be to eat it.

Gift boxes

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Doni’s English Toffee

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate or even white chocolate)
1 cup chopped nuts

In a large pot, stirring continuously, cook butter and brown sugar over medium until candy thermometer reaches 290 degrees.

Remove from heat and spread onto a heavy, buttered cookie sheet (Or a slab of cold marble).

Sprinkle chocolate pieces on top of the hot toffee. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes, to allow chocolate to melt.

Spread melted chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle nuts on top. Let sit in a cool place to harden.

Use a heavy knife to cut into pieces. Makes about 1 pound.


Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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