Making candy at home takes some time, practice and patience, but it's not impossible. You'll need a heavy-bottomed saucepan or two for melting your sugar, and a good candy thermometer to ensure accurate temperatures. Some chocolates, hard candies and especially toffees must be poured onto a cold surface, such as a marble slab, so you can work them. If you have a granite countertop, you can work on that, but you should take a few precautions.
Making toffee is largely a matter of temperature control. Sugar changes at the molecular level as you heat it, and you can manipulate it to become hard and brittle, soft and chewy, or even spin it into fine, gossamer threads, depending how you handle it. In toffee-making the sugar is usually heated until it caramelizes, then enriched with cream, butter and flavorings. At this point, it's poured out onto a cool marble slab, where it quickly becomes cool enough to handle. While it's still warm, you pull, stretch and fold the toffee repeatedly to create a soft, chewy texture.
The cool stone slab acts as a heat sink, quickly absorbing much of the heat from the hot sugar mixture. This has a couple of important effects. First, it immediately stops the cooking process. That means the sugar's structure won't change any further as the candy sits, halting the crystallization at a pliable stage. It also cools the sugar to the point it can be handled with a gloved hand, making it possible to pull and stretch the toffee. That pulling and stretching changes the toffee from its original dense, tooth-sticking texture to one that's lighter and easier to eat.
Testing Your Counter
Granite varies widely in density, and all but the densest varieties are usually treated with a sealant either at the factory, or by the installers. The sealants are food safe, and reside below the surface of the stone, so they won't affect your candy. The larger question is whether the candy will ruin your expensive countertop. Pick a finished spot on the underside of your countertop, and spread it with a small amount of butter. Leave the butter in place for 20 minutes or so, then wipe it off. If it leaves a stain, you shouldn't pour directly onto your countertop.
Using Your Countertop
Toffee recipes specify either a cool or a chilled slab, depending on the specific toffee. Room temperature is usually cool enough, but if your recipe specifies a chilled slab, you can cool a section of counter with a bag of ice or frozen gel packs. Clean the work area scrupulously, then oil or butter it lightly. Pour your toffee over the prepared area, using a heatproof spatula to gather it together as needed. After a few minutes, start lifting the edges with your spatula and folding them to the middle. When it cools enough to handle comfortably with a gloved hand, you're ready to pull the toffee.
A Separate Slab
Although marble is the stone most commonly used for a separate candy-making slab, granite is also a practical option. It's harder and denser than marble and less prone to chipping, so it's harder to damage as you put it away and take it out again. If you've just had your granite counters installed, ask the installer to cut you a slab of the same granite from the supply of scraps. If an exact match isn't available, select a color that complements your existing counters and the rest of your decor. That way you have the option of leaving your slab out when it's not in use, and turning it into a decorative element.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
- Kitchens.com: Sealing Granite
- Countertop Specialty: Food Safe Sealing Granite Countertops
- Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images