It’s National English Toffee Day! After the hard work involved in making tempura last night, we were thankful that all we had to do to celebrate this holiday was unwrap a Heath Bar and take a bite.
Nobody really knows where toffee came from. Much like Carly Rae Jepsen, it just showed up one day without warning and stuck around. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a variation of taffy, a chewy candy made by stretching a mixture of boiled sugar, butter, and artificial flavors and coloring. Toffee contains similar ingredients (molasses may be substituted for the sugar, and sometimes raisins or nuts are added) but is heated to the “hard crack” stage, which means either 295 to 310°F or 3-5 for possession with intent to distribute, depending on your definition. English toffee, a buttery version often made with almonds, is especially popular in the U.S. and is, in fact, the #1 snack choice of housewives who are addicted to Downton Abbey. Despite the name, it has little in common with the toffee that is popular in the U.K. Wot the bloody ‘ell?
English toffee can be either hard or soft – debate rages over which is the most authentic preparation. (“Rages” might be a bit of a stretch considering the English are notoriously polite folk. Except during soccer matches. The conversation probably went more like, “I say, ol’ chap, me mum always made ‘er toffee soft, but I can see the appeal in hard toffee, too. Cheerio!”).
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do with English toffee. I suppose we could have tried making a batch from scratch, or using it to make cookies or brownies, but (SPOILER ALERT!) the next couple of days are going to involve cookies and brownies, so we didn’t want to overdo it.
Also, thank god for that gym membership.
In a burst of inspiration, I suggested we crumble up the Heath bars, coat a chicken breast with them, and saute that in a pan with a little butter and olive oil. This seemed like something a contestant on Chopped would do. One look from Tara put the kibosh on that creative (though admittedly out-there) idea. This is why I’m so happy to have a partner for this challenge: she’s the voice of reason.
Real quick before we close this out (and because just unwrapping and eating a Heath Bar is a cop out), I wanted to at least share something toffee related.
I’ve never been a toffee fan. I remember my mom occasionally stashing one in the freezer to snack on while us kids were in school. Several years ago a friend (Hi, Doreen!) borrowed one of my cookbooks looking to try out some new recipes. A few days later she came in with a cake that had toffee pieces on top. To this day, it’s one of my favorite cakes to make. I considered making it for today’s holiday, but we’ll be noshing on baked goods the next two nights and I can only take so many goodies to the office. Instead, here’s the recipe for you fine folks. It’s super easy and definitely a crowd pleaser.
Thigh Cake (aka Better Than Sex Cake)
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
8 oz jar caramel topping
8 oz tub whipped topping
2 english toffee bars
Mix and bake cake according to directions in 9×13 pan. After baking, and while still warm, poke holes in cake with fork. Pour canned milk and caramel topping over entire cake. Let cool. Spread whipped topping onto cake. Top with toffee pieces (I freeze them overnight, place in a zip top bag, wrap in a hand towel, and break up the bars with a meat tenderizer). Keep refrigerated.