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MaMa's "Ella's Recipe" Toffee


My mother, Mildred Brown Shaw of Sumter, S. C., became famous within the family for a really good toffee candy originated by Ella Raymond Calvert Bouknight. You will need a candy thermometer! In the Southern USA, this is a winter-time recipe when humidity is LOW! I never made this with Momma before she died. Thanks to my brother-in-law who has made the toffee with his wife (my sister), George Berg, for the 12 7/16 emailed comment below, which preceeds the PROCESS section.

  • mixer: a strong, thick wooden spoon.
  • candy/deep-fry thermometer: AHEAD of time, test your thermometer in boiling water to be sure that it boils at 212 degrees F.

  • heavy cook pot: (for containing the following "sweet mix" for cooking)
  • cooling surface: butter-grease cold marble slab (or some countertop or surface that will conduct a lot of heat away quickly).
  • alternate cooling surface = baking container (other recipes mention this rather than the cold marble slab): grease, butter, or Pam spray a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll pan.
  • the sugar component of the "sweet mix":
    1. sweetener: 1 cup of normally granulated white table sugar.
    2. taste enhancer: one-half teaspoonful salt.   
    3. liquid component: 1 cup of water.

  • fatty component: 3 sticks of UNsalted Land O' Lakes butter...softened/melted.
  • staple ingredient: roasted, broken/chopped pecan pieces...3 generous cups (or use roasted...even salted...peanuts if no pecans) & it is 2 of the cups crushed and 1 cup larger broken pieces.

  • Chocolate surface topping: in double boiler or microwave, melt 12 ounces of Hershey Milk Chocolate.

George Berg's advisory comment: "The butter goes into the heavy pot along with the sugar, water and salt. I believe this is what the hand written recipe refers to as the “sugar mixture” or "sweet mix". (I recommend using unsalted butter. It may have been a coincidence, but the only poor batch we got was with salted butter.) I never cover the heavy pot. I boil the mixture at a moderate pace while stirring frequently and monitoring the candy thermometer. It takes quite a while for the temperature to rise to 280 degrees F. Until the water is boiled out, the mixture stays near the boiling point of water. As the water boils off, the mixture starts to thicken; and then the temperature begins to rise more rapidly. After the nuts are added, the mixture becomes very thick. Stir constantly while bringing the temperature up to 300. [WARNING:] Needless to say, such a hot molten liquid is dangerous and will quickly cause 2nd degree burns if splattered on skin (voice of experience). Long sleeves, gloves, and shoes are in order."

PROCESS: Being very careful to prevent burning, the goal is to get to the hard crack stage of the cooked component stage... 300 to 310 degrees F (149 to 154 °C). (1) ready the greased pan or the marble slab. (2) Mix sugar, salt, and water (the "sugar mix") in a larger heavy pot, cover (?see George's comment, above), and rapidly stove-top heat to boiling but not a rolling boil and get to 280 degrees F. (3) Moving quickly while keeping mixture bubbling at that temperature, stir in the butter & (4) mix in the 2 cups crushed nuts & take the mixture rapidly to "hard crack" stage (300 degrees). (5) Remove quickly from heat and (6) spread the mix into the pan or onto the slab by pouring and spreading into a thin sheet with spoon or instrument . (7) Spread melted chocolate over surface and (8) sprinkle half of that cup of broken nuts and press them in some with spoon. (9) Turn the toffee sheet over and (10) repeat the chocolate topping and nuts on that side. Cool least 8 hours...and then crack into pieces, striking with a wooden spoon or such and store in low humidity place. A good, general (alternate recipe) web reference with many comments, HERE & at Wikipedia.

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[posted 8 Dec. 2016]