Thursday, April 14, 2011

Making sponge toffee and homemade Crunchie bars

When I was growing up in Canada, one of my favourite chocolate bars was the Cadbury Crunchie bar, which is not readily available in Boston. I found some a couple of weeks ago at a candy store in Back Bay but they were $3 each! [Update: you can get a case of 24 Crunchie bars on for less than $30 (and free shipping) now.] As a poor student, it is not possible to enjoy Crunchie on a regular basis. So, I decided to look online to see how easy it was to make sponge toffee at home. It's actually quite easy.
Taylor Classic Candy and Deep-Fry Analog ThermometerCadbury Crunchie Bars (Case of 24)The first time I tried making sponge toffee, it didn't turn out right because I didn't use a candy thermometer and didn't heat the sugar up to the appropriate temperature (300F). So, if you want to try this, go to a kitchen supply store and spend the $11 or $12 for a candy thermometer! Kitchenwitch, in Jamaica Plain, carries them and BMS Paper Company usually has them too. Kitchenwitch also has a $4 thermometer but it's just a glass thermometer and I'm a bit of a klutz. That's why I went with the $11 model, which encases the thermometer in a stainless steel frame. It would take some effort to break that. Macy's and other stores with kitchen sections have candy thermometers too. If you don't want to leave your house, Amazon has a great selection. (Click on the pictures on this page to go directly to the product on

There are several recipes online, in video form (e.g. on Youtube) and print form (e.g. Cooking Channel website). The basic recipe is 1 cup sugar (brown or white), 1 cup corn syrup (or other form of liquified sugar, such as molasses, Lyle's golden syrup or honey), and 1 Tbsp baking soda. However, it can easily be altered to make different flavors, such as ginger molasses, maple, or vanilla.
Lyle's Golden Syrup 454g
In addition to the ingredients, you will need a saucepan, a candy thermometer, and a parchment paper-lined or greased pan to put the toffee. Some recipes call for vinegar but it's not necessary. The baking soda will bubble up without it. Make sure your saucepan is large enough to accommodate the extra volume when the toffee bubbles up. Also, use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture. A whisk doesn't work well because the toffee gets stuck in between the wires. I also noticed that some recipes tell you to grease the parchment paper. This is not necessary because the whole point of using parchment paper is that it is naturally non-stick!

For those of you who are curious about the science behind sponge toffee, here's an article for your enjoyment:

Cheap but uber-awesome candy!
Even if you use honey and turbinado sugar, it should cost you less than $5 to make a pan of sponge toffee, which you can then dip into chocolate to make a bunch of homemade misshapen Crunchie bars (see pictures below). If you're really on a budget, use corn syrup (around $3-4 a bottle with enough for more than 2 batches) with some water and white sugar. For the price of a Crunchie bar, you can make a whole pan of sponge toffee. For chocolate dipping, get a bag of chocolate chips from Trader Joe's (around $3) and you're all set. A bag of chocolate chips should be enough to make at least 8 or 9 bars, making the cost of each bar about $1. The other advantage of making your own chocolate bars is that you can dip the sponge toffee in dark chocolate, which counter-balances the sweetness of the sponge toffee better than the milk chocolate in the store-bought bars. If you're too lazy to dip each piece in chocolate, pour the melted chocolate over the toffee before breaking it into pieces. This is probably one of the least expensive candies to make and it's a great gift to give at Christmas or any time.

Here is a video of me making this recipe:

In this video, I might have stirred the toffee a little too much. Stir until the baking soda is mixed in but not much more than that.

Sponge toffee from another batch - with honey and less stirring after the baking soda was added.
Sponge toffee pieces - ready to be dipped in chocolate (or stored in an airtight container)
Sponge toffee, freshly dipped in melted semi-sweet chocolate chips
Chocolate-dipped sponge toffee ready to store (or devour)!
For more variations on this recipe, please see my other posts on sponge toffee:

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