Candy Making: Nutty Butter Crunch

A butter crunch (also known as a butter crisp) is a crunchy confection that you cook to at least 290 degrees F. This candy is similar to toffee (a crispy confection that contains a lot of butter and sugar), but it contains slightly less butter. If you decrease the butter content of a crunch even lower, you produce a butter crisp — but really, these names are purely a designation.

Getting down to crunch time

To make this butter-crunch recipe, you combine butter, sugar, nuts (almonds or pecans), and corn syrup as the main ingredients and cook them to at least 290 degrees F. When cooking up a batch, make sure you use a thermometer to determine the precise temperature of the candy.

When cooking candies like crunches to such high temperatures, errors occur quickly. Temperatures rise, even after you've removed the pot from the heat source, because the heat from the pot and the internal heat of the batch can cause a slight rise in temperature. Anticipate your target temperature, and you can avoid scorching your crunches, which are none too tasty.

After you cook and cool the crunches, you coat them with chocolate. You can use tempered chocolate as the coating for the following recipe but, because you cover the chocolate completely with nuts, not tempering your chocolate doesn't affect the presentation or taste of your candy. Tempering your chocolate isn't essential for this recipe. Besides, not tempering your chocolate saves time.

When you finish your crunches, place them in a plastic container. If you plan to keep your crunches for a couple of weeks, place the finished product in an airtight plastic container and store at room temperature. This product does contain butter, so you don't want it sitting around on the counter for a long time.

If you want to store your crunches for an extended period of time, freeze them. To prepare them for freezing, place the pieces in a freezer bag using wax paper to separate the layers. Then place the first freezer bag in a second freezer bag, and put the bag of crunches in the freezer. You can freeze them for up to six months. To thaw your crunches, remove them from the freezer, and allow the candy to thaw overnight at room temperature before you remove them from the freezer bags. This method of thawing protects the candy from condensation, which can damage your candy.

Cooking up some crunch

Candy makers have different methods for cooking toffees and toffeelike candies, such as crunches. Some cooks add toasted nuts at the end while others add raw nuts during the cooking, believing that cooking the nuts along with the rest of the batch adds more nut flavor. You can make this recipe with raw chopped almonds or raw medium pecan pieces, and you get the same results.

Coarsely chop the nuts that you use to cook in the crunch with a large knife, and finely chop the nuts that you use to cover the crunch at the end.

Nutty Butter Crunch

Preparation time: 2 hours, including cooling time

Yield: 30 to 35 large pieces

1 cup (2 sticks) butter plus enough butter for coating the baking pan heavily

2 cups raw almonds or pecans

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 tablespoons water

12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped, for coating

1. Heavily butter a 9 x 13-inch aluminum baking pan and set aside.

2. Chop 1 cup of nuts into medium pieces using a large knife; set them aside for use in cooking the crunch. Using a food processor, finely chop 1 cup of almonds for topping the finished crunch; put them aside.

3. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine 1 cup of butter, the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until the batch comes to a boil (about 11 minutes).

4. When the batch comes to a boil, attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, being sure not to let it touch the bottom of the pan.

5. When the temperature reaches 250 degrees, stir in 1 cup of chopped nuts and continue stirring. When the temperature reaches 300 degrees, remove from heat, pour into a baking pan, and spread quickly and evenly with a rubber spatula.

6. Allow the batch to cool for about an hour at room temperature (it should be cool to the touch); then remove it from the pan by hand and place it on wax paper.

7. In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate on high until it reaches about 100 degrees (about 2 minutes). Stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir. On the third stop, check the temperature with a chocolate thermometer to see how close to 100 degrees the chocolate is. Don't heat the chocolate past 115 degrees because you don't want to scorch it.

8. Pour about half the chocolate on one side of the crunch, and use an offset spatula to spread it to create a thin chocolate layer. Then heavily sprinkle about half the finely chopped nuts on top immediately. Cover the candy completely and place wax paper on top of it.

9. Carefully turn the crunch over, trying not to spill loose nuts, and repeat the chocolate/nut coating on that side.

10. Place the candy in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes until the chocolate sets. Remove the candy from the refrigerator and break it by hand into large pieces.

Per serving: Calories 183 (From Fat 112); Fat 13g (Saturated 5g); Cholesterol 15mg; Sodium 12mg; Carbohydrate 18g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 3g.

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