Every year around this time I find myself going through the exact same thing. I go to store after store looking for the Heath toffee baking pieces (the ones without the chocolate), only to be disappointed at every stop. I used to be able to get them easily; they were in the baking aisle of every grocery store, right there with the rest of the assorted baking pieces almost always next to the selection of nuts. Then, about 3 or 4 years ago they quietly disappeared.
How could this be? I asked at several grocery stores and I was informed that the Heath baking pieces were just not popular enough to keep them in stock and I should try a specialty store. Well, I tried several to no avail. Last year I actually bought full size Heath bars, melted the chocolate off them and crushed them myself. I’ve looked online, and sure, I can find those wonderfully convenient baking pieces but the shipping costs are staggering.
This year I decided to finally give up on the idea of convenience (really, is it still convenient if you have to go to a dozen stores to not find what you’re looking for?), I decided I would try my hand at making my own toffee baking pieces. It turns out that it is quick, easy, and well worth the (minimal) effort.
All we need to make this recipe is a baking sheet, large saucepan, wooden spoon, candy thermometer and one or two measuring cups (I managed to do it in one, but if you prefer to keep your dry and wet ingredients in separate measuring cups then you’ll need two). I loved this, not only was the recipe easy to make but the cleanup was a snap too!
First, we’ll prepare our baking sheet by lining it with foil and spraying it with non stick spray.
Next, let’s get all the ingredients into the pan. I would recommend chopping the butter into about 16 pieces or so, it will melt faster and make it easier for the ingredients to combine. Put the pan over medium to medium high heat, insert your candy thermometer and bring the mixture to a boil.
It is going to look very foamy and will come pretty far up the sides of the pan. This is why we are using a large pan, in a smaller pan the furious bubbling of the mixture would send it all over the stove – trust me, that is not fun to clean up.
Using a small pastry brush we are going to periodically brush down the sides of the pan with water. This will prevent a ring of crystallized sugar from forming around the pan just above the mixture.
We’re looking for a final temperature of 300°F (hard crack stage). As it approaches that temperature we’ll see both a texture and color change. The mixture is going to be thicker and will fall off the spoon instead of running off it. It is also going to be turning amber in color. We need to watch it carefully at this point, we don’t want to burn it so stir often!
When it reaches 300°F the toffee is going to be a rich amber color. Immediately remove it from the heat…
and pour it into the prepared pan. We’re going to need to use a spoon or spatula (I prefer a silicon spatula for this) to spread the candy evenly into the pan. We’ll leave this to set up at room temperature, but shortly before it does…
We are going to score the surface of the toffee with a greased knife. This isn’t strictly necessary if you are just planning to turn the toffee into baking pieces, but it does make it easier to handle and gives you the option of keeping some of it to eat.
When the toffee is completely cooled it will be easy to break it along the scored lines. I found that some of the pieces didn’t break as easily or cleanly as other. I used those for my baking pieces. The rest I either left plain or coated with dark chocolate (nuts would be good too, but I was saving what I had on hand for Thanksgiving).
To make our baking pieces, take all of our not so pretty pieces of toffee and place them in a heavy duty storage bag. Then just start smashing them with a meat tenderizer, rolling pan, whatever is handy to crush them into more or less uniformly sized pieces. This is also a great stress reliever!
And there you have it, in roughly half an hour you can have your very own pan of toffee cooling on the counter to do with as you will. And you never had to leave your house to do it – how’s that for convenient?