This Butter Crunch candy is super easy, perfect for Christmas cookie tins, great for a holiday cookie exchange, and always one of the big hits of my holiday table! I make this every year for Christmas, so I decided to update the traditional pecan pictures in December 2015. The peanut pictures are from the original post.
When John and I first moved in together, he made it clear to me that the holidays were not the holidays without his mom’s special holiday Butter Crunch. He backed this assertion up by making it himself, a fact which is only shocking in light of the fact that he never bakes or makes sweets, he only cooks alone when I am absent, and he only occasionally helps me (which is not to say that he would not help more, but I am usually cooking when he is at work). And he has never made it since! However, and I can hear him protesting in my head as I type, a lot of this is because I am a control freak in the kitchen. The kitchen is very clearly my domain–John asserts that he used to cook all the time until I drove him out of the kitchen, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally.
But anyway, I digress. The butter crunch. I felt bad when I first tried the candy because after such build up I honestly did not care for it. Let me be clear–this is not because it is bad candy, but rather because the candy is not to my taste–it is very sweet, it is toffee based, and it is made with pecans. Three strikes right there.
But then this year I started playing with caramel, something I had never liked much either. And I started seeing the ways in which I can mold it more to my taste. And in the meantime, I had started Family Recipes with The Life and Loves of Grumpy’s Honeybunch, and it was clear that John’s family’s Christmas butter crunch belonged in that event. And my kids certainly deserved to try it as well.
So here is John’s maternal grandmother’s Butter Crunch recipe–presented 2 ways. Her way and mine.
This is what John’s mother told me about the butter crunch: “This recipe was originally printed in a cookbook called Candy Recipes & Other Confections by May B. Van Arsdale and Ruth Parrish Casa Emellos, which was first published in 1941. The authors were teachers in the department of Household Arts at Teachers College, Columbia University, NY. John’s grandmother, who attended the Teachers College in the 1920’s, owned the book and made many wonderful candies from it. But Butter Crunch was always her ‘secret recipe’ and always a family favorite.”
This is my submission to Family Recipes for the month of December. This month we have a new host (yay!), Lynda of Lynda’s Recipe Box. December should be a wonderful month for traditional family recipes, so head on over to Lynda’s Recipe Box in early January to see what family recipes people are making this month.
- The base of the candy:
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 hefty pinch of salt
- 1 T light corn syrup*
- First Optional Topping
- 6 oz semi sweet chocolate, chopped (John's family used chocolate chips; I used plain chocolate)
- Approx. 1 cup chopped pecans (I used a tad more)
- Second Optional Topping
- 6 oz good quality milk chocolate, chopped
- Approx. 1 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts (I used a tad more)
- Several pinches (to taste) of good quality, coarse sea salt
- Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with foil (not strictly necessary, but I prefer to line my cookie sheets). Make sure your cookie sheet has a rim. Spray the foil with nonstick spray and then wipe with a paper towel, so that the layer of grease is not thick. The recipe calls for buttering the sheet, but I had problems with the butter melting and pooling; this seemed to work better for me.
- In a 2-3 quart heavy stainless steel or copper sauce pan melt 2 sticks of butter at a very low temperature. When the butter is melted, add the sugar and salt, stirring all the while. As the butter and sugar blend, gradually increase the heat to medium, stirring most of the time with a wooden spoon. When the mixture is blended, add the light corn syrup. Continue to cook with the candy thermometer in the pan until the mixture reaches 300 degrees. Stir it often, especially at the end, so that it does not burn.
- Working quickly, pour the mixture out onto the prepared cookie sheet. It will spread out and cover the pan in a fairly thin layer (mine covered about ⅔ of the pan and was thicker than John remembered--I have no idea why). Wait a few moments, maybe 1-2 minutes, then sprinkle the chocolate over the top of the toffee, spreading it out as it melts. Then sprinkle your topping of choice over the chocolate, pressing quickly and lightly to encourage the nuts and salt (if using) to stick. Chill until hard and cold. Break into edible pieces and store in cookie tin or other container. Store in the refrigerator or in a cool spot in the house (mine has been fine on the dining room table, but the original recipe did call for chilling).
- *Note from John's mom: "The [light corn] syrup was not in the original recipe. Years after my mother was making this candy, we learned that by adding the syrup, we were able to ensure that the mixture of butter and sugar would become more stable. This lessened the chance that the two ingredients would separate and we would have to start it all over from scratch."
And for the collage lovers….