January 20: National Cheese Lover's Day. National Coffee Break Day. And...National Buttercrunch Day!
Well, I'm going to stick with the latter, and enjoy it with the one right before it. Or maybe I could garnish cheesecake with buttercrunch and enjoy it with coffee and have a food holiday trifecta?
Nah, I think I will stick with the buttercrunch since I've never made it before.
Have you ever made buttercrunch? Do you know what it is? Are you annoyed that I keep on saying the name?
To the uninitiated, buttercrunch (I LOVE THE NAME and will not stop saying it btw) is a confection featuring a hard caramel candy coated on the top and bottom with chocolate and nuts. Sometimes the nuts will be almonds, sometimes pecans, whatever. You get the general idea, though: this is good stuff. I associate it with confectionery stores that sell chocolate bark and truffles by the pound - not necessarily the precious chocolate shops of the modern age, but the types of places like my family favorite, Jean Louise Chocolates in Spring Lake!
But most recipes for it call for corn syrup. I don't really like to use corn syrup, not because I am morally opposed to it but because I don't make enough recipes that call for it to warrant having it around, and as I was looking through recipes, I didn't want to make an extra trip to the store. So, I wondered, what would happen if I made it without corn syrup?
So, I substituted honey instead of corn syrup. What would happen?
I wasn't sure if omitting the corn syrup would make the candy grittier in texture, or if it wouldn't set up properly, but I wanted to find out.
Here's the recipe, along with photos of the process. For a printable recipe, click here.
Homemade buttercrunch without corn syrup
- 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 cups pecans, finely cut, toasted
- 2 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate, finely cut
Fit a candy thermometer on the side of a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Place the butter in a large saucepan. Heat on low until melted. Add the sugar, salt, water, and honey. (this is normally when you'd be using the corn syrup, usually; I added the honey).
Raise the heat to medium. It will come to a boil. Once it does, keep a close eye on the temperature. Keep the mixture bubbling until it reaches 290 degrees F. Since this will take a little while (like 10-15 minutes), you can perform the next steps concurrently. (I performed these steps concurrently with plenty of time). At this point, it was still hard to tell if there would be any difference.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave.
Lightly grease a half-sheet bake pan or the inside of a casserole pan. Line with a strip of parchment paper to use as a handle later. Scatter half of the nuts on top, and then gently spread half of the chocolate on top, trying to keep the mixture from tearing up the nuts.
By now, your candy mixture is probably nearing 290 degrees F, so let's go back to it.
Once the mixture reaches between 290 and 295 degrees F, remove from heat and immediately pour on top of the nut/chocolate mixture. try to pour in such a way that the candy mixture evenly coats the chocolate in a single coat. It will begin to "set" quickly. That is OK.
Gently spread the remaining chocolate on top. Gently! Scatter the rest of the nuts on top. You can gently press the nuts holding a sheet of parchment paper to adhere them to the chocolate.
Let the mixture set. Once the chocolate appears to be getting firm, but not waiting until it gets hard, use a spatula to loosen the candy from the pan. Once loosened, let the mixture set in the pan. Once set, cut into shards to serve. This is a little messy because I should have waited longer to cut, but gosh-darn, it was delicious.
The finished candy had a texture that was perhaps slightly less smooth than some buttercrunch candies I have tried, but perfectly firmed, and the flavor was spot on. The honey offered a nice mellowness to the sweetness. I would absolutely make buttercrunch this way again!
UPDATE: Here's a picture of the butter crunch after it had set and I broke it into chunks! Yum City, population ME.