Time for toffee

Published 4:31 pm Friday, September 29, 2017

Let me introduce you to a new column, Two Sisters Cook. I’m Linda List and you might know me from my Landrum Wanderings column. My sister is Lucy Hoyt, and she loves to cook. Well, we both love to cook, but our cooking styles vary and we think the contrast is what will make our column interesting and informative. (Look for it the first weekend of the month.) I look for the easy way, shortcuts are my style, but the outcome must be tasty. Lucy is a more old-fashioned cook; spending long hours in the kitchen is her specialty and the results are, of course, delicious.

Back in the early 1960s, we were young housewives and mothers. Living many miles away from one another, letters kept us in touch with each other’s daily lives. Often these letters contained new found and favorite recipes. Now in our later years of life, we both live in Landrum, sharing recipes and cooking styles first hand. We hope you will enjoy our experiences in the kitchen.

Linda: Cooking together really began in 1975. There was a time when I took refuge for a few months with Lucy in her home in Medfield, Massachusetts, just one of those unexpected upheavals that often happens in life. We had young children. Cooking nutritious meals, baking cookies, and often experimenting with recipes filled our days.

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Lucy: My friend Joanne gave me a recipe for Pecan Toffee. I thought it would be fun to experiment with it. I’d never really made candy before and this looked challenging, but Linda said she would help.

Linda: I thought the recipe looked daunting. My contribution consisted of watching and reading directions. The toffee was a success first time around. The buttery center coated with the chocolate and pecans was delectable. We decided to share it with the world! It was fall and the surrounding New England towns each held fall festivals on their town commons. I had an entrepreneurial spirit and proposed selling our new creation each weekend at the festivals.

Lucy: Driving to festivals and carting things back and forth wasn’t for me. So I said she could be the salesperson and I would be the cook. Linda sewed little cloth bags to fill, using scraps of material from sewing our children’s clothes, cutting the edges with pinking shears and tying up with ribbon. It was an era when days were filled with things like cooking and sewing. Each week I would spend afternoons mixing up toffee.

Linda: Saturdays would find me packing up our colorful bags of toffee and heading off to whatever town was hosting a fall festival. When the festivalgoers would sample the toffee, they had to buy. It was delicious.

Lucy: Ever since that busy fall, I have made toffee every year, giving it as a gift to friends and relatives. I start this time of year and freeze it as I make it. Then I have enough when December approaches.

Linda: I’ve never attempted to make toffee. I would just wait for her to send me some. I did own a candy factory at one time in my life. Knowing how much people love toffee it became one of our specialties. For several Christmases we supplied tins of this confection to Williams-Sonoma. It was sold in their stores and catalog. We elaborated a little on the recipe. Some pieces were coated with white chocolate and macadamia nuts, some with dark chocolate and almonds, and, like Lucy, some with pecans. It was always a bestseller. So my early venture of selling toffee at New England’s fall festivals became part of my future career.

Lucy: For many years, I managed volunteers in the Tampa Airport at the Traveler’s Aid booth. Every Christmas, I presented each volunteer with a bag of toffee. I even had to weigh each bag to be sure each volunteer received the same amount or there would be attempts to switch bags. They often told me they hid it from their husbands because they refused to share this treat. It just made me laugh at the stories they would tell.

English Pecan Toffee

1 lb butter

2 Tbs white Karo syrup 

1 6 oz package milk chocolate chips

1 6 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 cups sugar

6 Tbs Water

About 3 cups chopped pecans (Use nut grinder, food processor or blender to chop)

Use two 9 x 13 pans. Butter pans or cover with parchment paper. Cover cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper (See Martha Stewart’s tip below for using parchment paper).

Melt butter in 3 quart sauce pan. When butter starts to bubble, add sugar, Karo syrup, and water. It will continue to bubble and color will darken. Stir occasionally. Using a candy thermometer cook until 280 degrees. Add 1 cup of the chopped nuts and cook three minutes longer stirring constantly. Pour into prepared pans, dividing mixture between the two pans.

While toffee is setting up, melt chocolate chips in double boiler. If you no longer have a double boiler or don’t even know what one is, follow microwave directions on the chocolate chip bag. When toffee has hardened, wipe off with paper towel to absorb some of the butter. This helps the chocolate adhere to the toffee.

Remove toffee from the pan and set on prepared cookie sheet. Spread with half the melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts. Place in refrigerator for about one hour. When chocolate is hard, remove from fridge and turn over. Spread chocolate on this side of toffee and sprinkle again with nuts. Place back in refrigerator for about 20 minutes until chocolate hardens. Remove from fridge and break into pieces. Store in refrigerator or freezer in Ziploc bag. Enjoy!

Martha Stewart tip: If using parchment paper in a pan, it can be difficult to get it to  easily cover bottom and sides. Scrunch paper up—like you’re going to toss it out. This will make it pliable and you can fit it easily in the pan. To hold parchment in place, use metal clips and clip to side of pan.