Growing up around so many wonderful cooks, I always looked forward to the holidays because it was their time to show off their culinary prowess.
The women in my family filled several tables with delectable morsels of food, but one holiday favorite never make it to one of those tables. It was always devoured before it was time to eat dinner.
Come to think of it, a tin can of my Uncle Bill's Bourbon Toffee had a difficult time making it through the front door of the house.
Toffee, in its most basic state, is just sugar cooked to a high temperature and left to cool and harden. Its simplicity, and my uncle's mastery of the recipe, always aggravated his wife, my Aunt Glenna.
"It has to be simple to make," she'd annoyingly complain while eating a piece, or two or three, of the candy. "Or he wouldn't be able to do it."
This might be a simple recipe, but please, please be careful when working with hot sugar.
I recommend you buy a candy thermometer for this recipe if you don't have one. Sugar burns are the absolute worst type of cooking burn to suffer. Be extremely careful while working with this type of recipe because if you get hot sugar on your skin, it is almost impossible to quickly rub or rinse off. It just stays there, burning deeper into your skin tissue after it comes into contact with your skin. (I know because I have two scars on my left hand due to hot sugar accidents!)
Also remember that this may not be the type of recipe for young children to do in the kitchen.
Now that safety warnings have been issued, let's get started.
Place in a medium saucepan two cups of brown sugar and measure four tablespoons of bourbon into the pan. In a measuring cup add four tablespoons of white vinegar, and then fill with water to one cup before adding to the sugar mixture.
Place the mixture on a stovetop burner (medium heat) and continue stirring until it dissolves and comes to a gentle rolling boil, then cover and continue to boil for exactly three minutes. Uncover and boil the sugar mixture until the temperature reaches 285 degrees on a candy thermometer, or what is called the soft crack stage.
Take the mixture off the stove and pour into a prepared pizza pan, lined with aluminum foil that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
Let the mixture cool slightly, and then you can score it into squares with a knife before letting it cool completely and fully harden. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
If you want to top the toffee with chocolate and chopped nuts, pour a bag of chocolate chips on top of the warm mixture. Wait a few minutes, and then spread the heated chocolate with a knife to cover the toffee. Top with your choice of chopped nuts. When cool and fully hardened, break into pieces and store in an airtight container..
I personally like to break toffee into various shaped pieces, about two inches each. That way if you just want a nibble, you can.
NOTE: Don't throw away the crumbs! Put them in a decorated baggie for your favorite coffee drinker to "flavor" their morning cup of brew!