Famous Family Toffee


During WWII my Granddad James McCann served as a soldier overseas. He had a huge family with many siblings back home in Wisconsin, and his sweet sisters would gather together and send him care packages filled with homemade candy. I remember hearing stories about how popular this made him with the other soldiers who I’m sure all missed the comfort of something sweet made from the heart.

Since then, making candy around the holidays was a yearly tradition. It got passed down to my Mom’s cousin Rosemary, who taught my Mom the tricks to perfect toffee, caramels and turtles. The last few years they have gotten together along with my Aunt Shari to make big batches of candy for everyone to take and give as gifts or serve to guests for holiday get-togethers. Since I was actually home for Thanksgiving this year, I made sure that the candy-making could happen when I was around to document it and learn it. Being a sentimental sap, nothing gets me quite like family traditions. Pair it with buttery, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth toffee and you may have my favorite thing ever.


This toffee is simple but amazingly delicious. It consists of heating butter and brown sugar until it gets to just the right temperature, pouring it onto a cookie sheet, spreading chocolate on both sides (after one side hardens of course,) and sprinkling it with ground almonds. Now that I know the basics of this simple recipe, I’m already scheming up alterations. (sea salt?) Just as is though, I must say it’s perfect. I can’t think of a better treat to whip up around the holidays. And if you do- just remember the little bit of family history that comes along with it!

PS- Wedding Venue- check! Wedding Date-check! AND- I think I already found my dress too. Am I efficient or what?

Famous Family Toffee


  • 1 lb butter
  • 2 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 lb. Melting chocolate., The official recipe says to use "Ambrosia's real dipping chocolate." I think any sort of chocolate candy melts would be fine.
  • Ground blanched almonds, about 1/2-3/4 cup.


  1. In large saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar, mix using a wooden spoon until mixture reaches just over 275 on a candy thermometer. (Must be a hair over 275- if it's under that- the toffee will stick to your teeth.)
  2. Stir occasionally (not too much), watch carefully, use an ACCURATE thermometer, treat the thermometer carefully. When it gets to 275, let it stay there for about a minute, then pour into cookie sheet. (The traditional way is to use a stainless steel one, I think that any rimmed one would be fine, and in the future, I will line the pan with parchment or foil to make it easier.)
  3. Pour sugar mixture into cookie sheet and shake to spread it. After it has cooled slightly blot with a paper towel to pick up any excess oil.
  4. Meanwhile melt the half the chocolate in a glass measuring cup. The method my Grandma had written in the recipe suggested 2 minutes at medium heat, 1 minute at medium and then 30 seconds at medium stirring the chocoalte well in between each time.
  5. Spread chocolate over hardened sugar. Spread it with a spatula and sprinkle with ground almonds. Cool outside (or in the fridge) until chocolate is firm, flip and add same to reverse. Break into pieces. Enjoy!!
Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 1 grams
Amount Per Serving: Unsaturated Fat: 0g

Did you make this recipe?

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  1. This looks wonderful! My mom makes toffee and although I am not great with a candy thermometer, you make me want to try again!

  2. Awww… I love the story behind these family toffees! :) What a great family tradition. Very nice recipe and perfect for the Christmas season!! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. What a cool tradition! I love that it has been passed down through your family for such a long time. This looks like such a yummy winter treat!

  4. This looks wicked good. Such an amazing story behind it too. I must try this out. I love toffee but have never made it.

  5. I am making this for my shop’s Open House on Dec. 8th! It looks divine and toffee is my favorite thing! But the fact that is has a great family history and story behind it!!! Well…that makes it all the more perfect for an Antique Shop’s Christmas Open House if you ask me!!!! http://www.mulberryheightsantiques.com
    much love,
    Carolyn Bradford

  6. I cannot wait to try out this recipe. My gyerandmother used to make toffee every year till she passed away. Unfortunately no one got her recipe. Glad you could share your traditions.

  7. Oh wow, what a beautiful tradition! :) The toffee does look utterly perfect and like I want to eat an entire sheet’s worth!
    Thank you so much for sharing your family recipe :)

  8. Looks great! Just sent to a friend who is in search of a toffee recipe. Perfect timing!

  9. Perfect timing! I have a huge bag of mac nuts I want to use up and thought that toffee with mac nuts would be awesome.

  10. This looks so delicious!! Never made homemade toffee before, or candy for that matter, but I need to try this recipe, I mean it’s pretty much a legacy!

  11. That is gorgeous. Thank you very much for sharing your family tradition…especially one so tasty and steeped in history.

  12. Wow ground almonds sound great! I actually thought it was sea salt from teh pictures. I love family traditions that involve food.

  13. You really are making progress with the wedding – way to go!
    Toffee is one of my all time favorites, this looks perfect!
    I posted about your pumpkin pie cupcakes today :)

  14. Oh I had to post this in my blog, thank you ..proper linkys done.
    I love toffee..sigh..I have to put my head down now on my desk before I drool.
    Waving from Houston.

  15. Sounds delicious. I love family traditions, especially around the holidays.

  16. Lovely job Audra – on the story telling, photos, and mostly on the yummy toffee that I can’t stop eating. (Why didn’t you take more of this home???)

  17. this looks exactly like my grandmother’s toffee except she used white sugar and told me to cook it until it was the color of peanut butter, her topping was ground walnuts on the chocolate. I think you’ve inspired me to make her Toffee, thanks!!

  18. Thank you for sharing this family treat! We always had huge blocks of ambrosia chocolate in the kitchen around the holidays. Most of it never made it into candies, but it was my mother and grandmother confection chocolate of choice. Maybe it’s a Milwaukee thing.

  19. Hi Audra,
    I just made the toffee with my kids, and when we tested a corner for doneness by pressing down on it with a chef’s knife, the piece that broke off separated by layers, leaving us with a piece of the butter/sugar section, and two pieces of chocolate. I used a thermometer, got it to the right temp, and cooled the creation in the fridge for 20 minutes after adding each layer of chocolate. We didn’t put the butter/sugar mixture in the fridge before applying chocolate. What did we do to cause its breaking apart by layers when we cut it? (3 amazingly yummy layers, btw). Thanks for this recipe…one of my friends makes it every Christmas, and we all count the days until she passes out the little containers of it…but she won’t share the recipe, calling it a family secret! :) I’ve been trying to find it for years!

  20. Hello!
    Here is the first thing that comes to mind: Did you blot the butter/sugar mixture with a paper towel before adding the chocolate? That step helps absorb any excess butter that may cause the surface to be slightly oily and repel the chocolate.

    I’ll also ask my Mom/Aunts who have been making this for years. They may have more insight :)

  21. I did blot it, but the paper towels I have are not the most absorbent, and they may have left some butter on the surface…I’m not sure. Let me know if your mom and aunt have any input, because I love the recipe and would like to do it perfectly! Can’t wait to try it with sea salt.
    I’ll check back to see if you find out more from your mom and aunts – thanks!

  22. Hi,
    I definitely want to try this recipe, just wondering are the temperatures you give in celsius or fahrenheit?
    Thanks, Jessica

  23. Holy cow, Audra! I just made this tonight. It is absolutely amazing! A huge thank you to you and your family for sharing.

  24. Hi Audra – each time I’ve made this toffee it ends up a bit soft. I don’t want to over cook the toffee and my thermometer reads 275. Should I assume that my thermometer is not quite accurate and cook it a bit longer? It still tastes delicious, it just has the consistency of a chewy caramel. Thanks!

    1. Hey Allison! Have you ever calibrated your thermometer? Boil some water and check the temperature. Since water will always boil at 212F- you can see if yours if off. It sounds like it does need to be cooked a little longer for the right consistency! :)

  25. Great story!
    I put chocolate chips on the hot candy, spread them out as they melted, and then sprinkled the almonds on right away.
    I do have to say though I tried to cut the recipe in half and it tastes burnt. Hmmm, as I always cook my English toffee to 300° even though I only cooked this to 275°. Hmmm…
    Gonna try again tomorrow with the full recipe!

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