Grandmam’s Toffee

This recipe comes from my grandmother, Audrey Vellence Hale Farley, and I absolutely adore the result. The story below was written by one of Grandmam’s great-grandchildren for a school project several years back. The “carefully protected” comment comes from my observation of a thread on Facebook when my cousin was making this during the holidays in 2008:

My Cousin:  is gonna crank out many batches of toffee today.

Me: Is it the Grandmam recipe? I plan to make some of that tomorrow night!

My Cousin: Warning, “Lite” corn syrup doesn’t make good candy. Stick with the original “Light.” Now what am I going to do with this bottle of the wrong stuff?

Cousin’s Friend: Why does SHE have your recipe??!!!! I’ve begged and pleaded!

My Cousin: Family secret recipe, and “SHE” is my cousin!

Cousin’s Friend: That’s OK, the phone call makes up for it…”jingle bells, jingle bells, toffee on the way”!

At my house we tend to make this in double batches, and usually two double batches total during the December holidays. We make enough to share for gifts, and there’s enough left over to keep our molars loose for about another week.


This recipe comes originally from my great-grandmother on my mom’s side. All my mom’s cousins grew up eating this during the holidays and the recipe is carefully protected.

  • 2 sticks of butter
  • 2 sticks vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate (melted)
  • 2 scant tablespoons of light corn syrup
  • 1 cup of un-blanched whole almonds

In a heavy pot, melt butter at low heat. Add sugar at middle of pan being careful not to touch the sides. Add corn syrup – cook to Hard Crack (290+ degrees per candy thermometer), stirring constantly, using a wooden spoon. Add ¾ cup of nuts, chopping the remaining ¼ cup of nuts to sprinkle on top.

Spread evenly on shallow (10.5 x 15.5 or larger) pan. Cool 20 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, melt chocolate bits in pan over boiling water. Spread this on the cooled candy.

Sprinkle chopped nuts evenly on top and let cool.

Break the toffee into pieces for serving (large and/or small).


Here are some additional tips from our trials and errors over the years. Would love to hear from the rest of the family about their experiences.

  1. Vegetable shortening? No added value here that I can discern. Maybe some benefit in baked goods, but for toffee — butter all the way!
  2. Use “light” corn syrup — as in, the opposite of dark, not “lite” reduced sugar.
  3. Nuts – we prefer no nuts within the toffee, just a light amount of chopped nuts on top.
  4. Use a metal spatula to stir and keep the bottom  of the pot scraped; preferably one with a nice long handle. If you are doing multiple batches, it’s good to have two on hand since cleanup is challenging.
  5. Don’t use a pot that is too deep for a candy thermometer! You want to be able to clip it to the side and for the end to reach the mix.
  6. Speaking of candy thermometers, if you are making multiple batches, good to have two on hand since cleanup is challenging.
  7. Darker mix breaks more easily once cooled; but more prone to burn. Lighter mix may not be as brittle, and more chewy…but not as likely to burn.
  8. Stick the pans in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to finish the cooling process before spreading the chocolate.
  9. Use a long spatula knife to spread the chocolate.
  10. Stick the pans in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes again after spreading the chocolate. Colder is better for the breaking process.
  11. Use a sharp knife to just stab the pan to get the first few big breaks; the take big pieces and press them against the edge of the baking sheet. However, your hands will start melting the chocolate and the toffee, so take breaks as needed to re-cool.
  12. Be sure to read the instructions, and have a plan for where all the various tasks will happen. Once that toffee mix has to come off the burner, you have to be ready to move quickly.
  13. Enlist the help of others and make it a party. We typically have three people involved and it can still be stressful.

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