Thursday, January 8, 2015 is National English Toffee Day and there is no better way to celebrate this holiday than by eating some delicious toffee. If you have never had toffee, it’s a type of sweet candy similar to butterscotch and caramel but not the same. Like its cousins, toffee is usually made with sugar and liquid that is cooked into a syrup. Caramel is usually made with milk while toffee is made with water and butterscotch is usually made with brown sugar and heated less than toffee. Toffee, however, goes beyond caramel and butterscotch in that the sugar is heated until it’s hard enough to crack. Toffee also usually contains a lot of butter and gets mixed with nuts or raisins.

Making toffee is easier than you think. All you have to do is stir, smear, wait and eat. The real question is: can a candy that’s normally made from lots of sugar and butter possibly be vegan and healthy? The answer is a resounding yes! Well, it can definitely be vegan and it can be considerably healthier than traditional toffee if you make smart choices where the sugar and/or butter is concerned.

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To celebrate National Toffee Day, here is a quick primer on how to make healthy and vegan toffee:

1. The Ingredients

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It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to make toffee. Basically, you will need butter, sugar, water, vanilla and salt. Depending on the type of toffee you want to make, you could also need chocolate, nuts, seeds or raisins. The healthier part comes from how you choose your ingredients. For the butter, you can use vegan butter or if you prefer, you could use almond butter. For the sugar, you can use white sugar or you can use coconut sugar, agave nectar, vegan honey, brown rice syrup or coconut nectar. Check out The Healthiest Alternatives to White Sugar and The 5 Best Alternatives to Honey. If you are making chocolate toffee, choose a healthy dark chocolate. Use any types of nuts, seeds or fruits you like.

2. The Equipment

There isn’t a lot of special equipment needed to make toffee. You will need baking sheets, parchment paper or non-stick baking mats, a saucepan, a plastic or silicone spatula, measuring cups and a candy thermometer. Note: you could do this without the candy thermometer but you would have to watch the sugar as it melts very carefully!

3. The Process

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The process of making toffee is easy. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper or the non-stick mats. Attach a candy thermometer to the inside of the saucepan. Add the vegan butter, sugar, water, and salt to the saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat, while stirring constantly. The mixture will start to darken in color and when it reaches a dark amber color, the temperature will reach 300 degrees. You will be able to smell the cooked sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the vanilla.

Pour the mixture onto the baking sheets and smooth with a spatula. Spread it evenly and as thick as you want your toffee. If you are adding chocolate, sprinkle morsels or chips over the hot toffee. It will melt and when it does, spread it evenly with the spatula to create a thin layer of chocolate over the toffee. Sprinkle any chopped nuts, coconut shreds or raisins over the top. Use a clean sheet of parchment paper to gently press the nuts, fruit or coconut into the chocolate. Transfer the baking sheets to the fridge and let the toffee harden for a few hours. When it’s hardened, lift the toffee off the baking sheet by the parchment paper and break it into pieces. Toffee can be kept for up to 2 weeks in an air-tight container in the fridge or longer in the freezer.

Recipes

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The number of ways you can make toffee is only limited by your imagination. Here are a few recipes to get you started:

Plain Toffee

Combine 2 cups vegan butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 Tbs. water, and a pinch of salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir until the mixture is a dark amber color and the temperature is 300 degrees. Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and smooth with a spatula. Put in the fridge for a few hours until hardened. Then break into pieces and eat.

Chocolate Almond Toffee

Combine 2 cups vegan butter, 2 cups sugar, 2 Tbs. water, and a pinch of salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir until the mixture is a dark amber color and the temperature is 300 degrees. Remove from the heat and add 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle 2 cups vegan chocolate chips over the hot toffee and let melt. Then spread the chocolate over the toffee with a spatula in a thin layer. Sprinkle 1 cup sliced almonds over the melted chocolate layer and press them into the chocolate with a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer to the fridge for several hours. Once hardened, break and eat.

Almond Butter “Honey” Toffee

This recipe is a bit of a cheat since we aren’t actually mixing butter and sugar but it is a healthier fake-out. Pour 1 ½ cups vegan honey or agave nectar into a saucepan and cook over low heat until it reaches a simmer. Stir constantly for at least 10 minutes. Add in 2 cups almond butter and a pinch of salt (if there is none in the almond butter) and continue to stir until the mixture gets thick, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and add in 1 tsp. vanilla extract. Pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and smooth with a spatula into an even layer. Sprinkle with shredded coconut and/or chopped almonds. Press them into the toffee with a clean piece of parchment paper. Transfer to the fridge and let harden for a few hours. Once hardened, break and eat.

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More Toffee Recipes

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Now that you know how easy it is to make your own toffee, here are some more recipes you will want to try: Chocolate Pecan Toffee, Chocolate Caramel Pecan Toffee, and Matzo Toffee. For a different spin on this sticky treat, try this One-Pot Pecan Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Here’s wishing you a happy, sticky, sweet National Toffee Day!

Lead Image Source: Chocolate Pecan Toffee