Scottish Toffee

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I began making this toffee around the holidays in the early 1980’s. When I flew home to visit my folks in Pennsylvania, I introduced them to my toffee and they loved it. My mother was an apt pupil, soon turning out batches for friends and family back East.

When my parents moved to San Diego in 1988, we all looked forward to our first “California Christmas” together. I remember the three of us making toffee in their new kitchen and my mother saying, “I feel like we are a family again!” As it turned out, there would only be three such Christmases. We lost my Dad to cancer in 1991 and memories of that first holiday without him are filled with sadness.

Here we are, though, enjoying Christmas Eve of our first California Christmas. When my mother died three years ago, I thought I would put my toffee recipe away for good. Β Grief changes over time and this year I’m cooking my way through my toffee gift-list. In honor of Mama’s Scottish roots in the MacPherson family, I renamed my toffee.

Yields one cookie sheet’s worth

  • one cup salted butter (2 sticks)
  • one cup brown sugar, generously packed
  • one teaspoon best quality vanilla
  • one pinch kosher salt
  • 18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (one and a half packages) such as Ghirardelli
  • one cup finely chopped almonds
  • good quality sea salt (optional)

1. Put half the nuts and half the chocolate chips onto a cookie sheet.

2. Cook butter and brown sugar over medium-high heat in medium-sized pot, using a candy thermometer, to “hard crack” stage, 300 degrees F. Stir constantly. This will take about 15 minutes. Using a copper pot allows you to cook at a higher temperature without burning the caramel.

3. Remove pot from heat and quickly add salt and vanilla.

4. Carefully pour caramel mixture over the mix of nuts and chocolate. Sprinkle remaining chocolate over hot mixture. When melted, smooth out with back of large spoon.

5. Sprinkle remaining nuts and gently press into the toffee. If you like salted caramels, you may want to sprinkle some good quality sea salt on top of the candy.

6. Freeze one hour before breaking into pieces for storage – or snacking!

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27 Responses to Scottish Toffee

  1. Elizabeth@ MyCommunalTable December 9, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

    Look at all the families you have now added these lovely memories to with your toffee and how it will continue to their children because you have shared today. My family is included in this. Blessings!

    • lizthechef December 9, 2010 at 5:37 pm #

      You are so kind – thanks and Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. Mare December 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    I am sooo glad you posted this recipe! My mother made a version of this and it was always my favorite. (I think hers was named after a different country).

  3. TasteFood December 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    This sounds soooo good. I will definitely be including the sea salt.

    • lizthechef December 9, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

      Yes, the sea salt was an added touch this year – thanks, Lynda!

  4. Toni December 10, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    I ate some last night while watching Home Alone, what a treat.

    • lizthechef December 10, 2010 at 2:21 am #

      You deserve it!! Eat some more πŸ™‚ best, Liz

  5. Kelly December 10, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Good gracious, that looks wonderful– exactly what toffee should look like. I’m going to have to give this one a go. Thank you for sharing the recipe!

    • lizthechef December 10, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

      I hope you enjoy it – I have totally given up baking cookies, as folks go nuts for this!

  6. Jayne December 10, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    This looks so good! Love your family picture too!

    • lizthechef December 10, 2010 at 8:47 pm #

      Thanks Jayne – Happy Christmas! X0 Liz

  7. Winnie December 15, 2010 at 4:03 am #

    This toffee looks perfect. I have been making a few different toffee recipes to give as teacher gifts over the last few yrs…think I’ll go with your’s this year!

    • lizthechef December 15, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

      I hope you are pleased with the results – some folks like it with the sea salt and others don’t. Thanks, Winnie!

  8. caterina borg December 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Hi liz! Your sentiments are truly lovely with regards to your family and the reasons why you started blogging…mine are much the same…I shall be following your blog!

    • lizthechef December 27, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

      How kind of you – I look forward to following your blog too. Mine is only 3 months old but has given me a lot of satisfaction, recalling family memories, especially in the kitchen. Thanks again!

  9. Fuji Mama May 4, 2011 at 1:41 am #

    Boy, do you ever have good taste!!! YUM! πŸ™‚ I think you already know that I have a weakness for toffee like this . . .

    • lizthechef May 4, 2011 at 3:43 am #

      This is my holiday stress in a lengthy list…Now I get to add your name too πŸ˜‰

  10. The Wimpy Vegetarian December 20, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Just got back from Atlanta last night and am catching up this morning. I’m going to HAVE to make this!! I’ll have to omit the almonds unfortunately – any suggestions for a nut-free substitution?

    • lizthechef December 20, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      I have missed you on line – happy holidays and skip the nuts!

  11. Oui, Chef December 21, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    Oohhh…this looks a lot like what my mom calls “butter crunch” which is her favorite candy of all-time. I MUST make this for her and see what she thinks. Thanks, Liz and I hope you and your family have a terrific holiday season! – S

    • lizthechef December 21, 2011 at 11:29 am #

      Hope your Mom enjoys it – Happy Holidays to you and your family –

  12. Rustic Garden Bistro December 27, 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Hi Liz –

    I think family recipes are the best, and I applaud you for pulling this out again after your mom’s passing.

    You mention this recipe fills a full cookie sheet – do you mean one full sheet pan? I have French ovens that are small; so I can only do a 1/4 sheet pan at a time. Just wanted to make sure so I don’t make too much. πŸ™‚


    P.S. Now I have another reason to go buy myself a copper pot!

    • lizthechef December 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

      The actual batch of toffee only is about 9 inches by 12 inches so you wouldn’t need to use a whole sheet pan…

      • Jan Winn December 30, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

        Mmmm….. Once again, your toffee is the best! Thanks for sharing the recipe — next year I may request a hands on lesson!

        • Liz December 30, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

          My dearest friend – yeah, swap toffee for cookie lessons πŸ™‚

  13. Lisa @ Whisk & Cleaver December 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Liz I just finished the batch you made for me for Christmas and I can honestly say it’s the BEST toffee I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten lots!! Thank you so much for making this for me, I want to give the recipe a shot myself and see if I can make candy all on my own. xoox

    • Liz December 8, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      Lisa, thanks – more where that came from…

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