This recipe was shared with my grandmother by a neighbor who swore her to secrecy. Dad took over making it when Grammie went on to glory, and he in turn shared it with me when I grew up. But now that Grammie’s 100th birthday has passed and Anna Mae Frazier is probably long gone, we are letting the secret out and sharing the recipe.
Frazier & Anderson’s Famous Butter Crunch
Recipe makes about 2 pounds of candy; it can be halved, but why would you?
Notes: The butter & margarine are in metric because I made this for years in China, where they came in 250g packages. For all-US measurements, use a cup each of butter and margarine (2 sticks, 225g), use the smaller water measurement, and leave out 1/4 cup of sugar.
It is best made on a dry day. Rain outside can make the candy inside less than crisp.
250g butter, salted (or add ½ tsp salt)
2 1/4 cups white sugar (*this might also be good with brown sugar, but I haven’t tested it)
2-3 Tbsp drinking water
2 Tbsp corn syrup (*this helps the final consistency, but in a pinch you can leave it out)
1 1/2 to 2 cups finely-chopped walnuts or other unsalted nuts
4 x 80g bars of a chocolate that you like, 2 of them pre-chopped at least as small as chocolate chips
1 almond, if possible
A small dish of drinking water with an ice cube in it (I just use the 1/4 cup after I measure the sugar with it)
2 large cookie sheets, or another washable heat-tolerant item with a large flat surface, such as a 9×13 baking pan. Whatever it is, turn it upside down so the rim won’t get in the way when you’re spreading and flipping things
Heavy-bottomed pot at least twice as big as the volume of the ingredients (they’ll boil up high)
A wooden spoon – I’ve found the candy seems to stick less to wood than metal
Offset spatula, or regular spatula, for spreading chocolate
Optional: Candy thermometer
Prepare the cookie sheets by covering them with buttered parchment paper or tin foil, or an un-buttered silicone baking sheet. As a last resort you can just butter the cookie sheet itself, but trust me, something removable and flexible makes life much simpler later. Scatter about 1/2 cup of the chopped nuts over each sheet.
If you want to use a candy thermometer, position it on the pot so it doesn’t quite touch the bottom. Begin to melt the butter and margarine over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot at least twice as large as the ingredients. As the oils begin to liquefy, add the sugar, water, and corn syrup. As they melt together, stir often – or just sit down by the stove and stir pretty much constantly – but don’t stir quickly or with lots of splashing. The goal is to scrape the bottom & sides regularly, and if something gets sloshed on the side, to wipe it back down into the liquid. * General candy-making advice: Don’t let anything else drop into it once it’s started cooking, not even more sugar.
Continue cooking on medium or medium-low heat. You will see the mixture foam up to double its volume as the water – both from the melted butter and the water that you added – begins to boil. If you’re the sort to use a candy thermometer, you’ll feel impatient as the temperature plateaus around the boiling point of water, but that’s how it goes for this stage. Keep the heat steady and not too high as the water cooks off. If you’re daring, you can turn it up to hurry things, but this MAY cause complications later on, either from the oil possibly separating out from the candy or the candy burning once the water is gone if you’re not watching it like a hawk.
Gradually the volume will sink back to where it began, and then the temperature will begin to rise and the candy to darken. This is the time to be constantly, gently stirring, and watching it vigilantly. If you turned the heat up before, turn it down to medium-low now. The mixture will begin to seem curdled and lumpy, which is normal. However, if you see a lot of oil separating out, you may want to add more hot drinking water and go through the previous part of the process again – it will waste time, but your alternative is a greasy mess when you pour it out and candy with texture that’s not right, possibly even a whole batch of wasted ingredients. (A little separated oil won’t kill the texture, but take your pick on what to risk if you see it separating – the candy or your time!)
The goal now is 290F, with a color that matches the outside of an almond. Check it visually by holding the almond over the pot; check it with your teeth by dropping a small bit into the ice water, giving it a few seconds to cool, then fishing it out and eating it. It should be crispy. Some sources also say you’ll begin to smell a hint of burning sugar when it is perfectly done. If you do, immediately remove it from the heat; once you get a strong whiff of burning sugar, you’ve probably gone too far and burned the candy! If your kitchen faucet takes a long time to warm up, turn it on to super-hot now while you do the next step so it will be ready.
As soon as you take the candy off the heat, carefully pour it over the nuts on the prepared cookie sheets. Don’t just pour in the middle but drizzle it around as quickly as you can – it gets hard fast. Once you’ve scraped out the pot with your stirring spoon, get your faucet running as hot as possible, and let it fill the pot while you go back to the candy and spread it as needed with the spoon – you want it to be relatively even, but don’t try to make it super thin or it will pull and leave holes. Let the spoon soak in the water-filled pot for a few minutes while you keep working, and it will be clean as a whistle with just a few swipes of your soapy sponge later!
Yes, I said “keep working.” Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over the still-piping-hot candy and let it soften for a minute or two. Using an offset spatula (or regular spatula), spread the softened chocolate smoothly over the candy, then sprinkle on a little more than half of the remaining chopped nuts. *Here is where using only buttered cookie sheets costs you – as it cools, you need to use a spatula to keep loosening the candy from the cookie sheet. If you can get it to harden slightly-not-flat, it will be easier to turn over later; if you leave it alone as it hardens, it will suction to the cookie sheet and shatter as you try to get it up. Still yummy, but it’s hard to spread the second coat of chocolate to the edges of each piece.
If you have a cold, dry room (eg your porch), leave the cookie sheets there, being careful not to burn yourself as you carry them. If not, you can use the fridge if the candy will fit, or just leave it at room temperature for much longer while you wait for both toffee and chocolate to harden. Once it’s hard, carefully turn over the slab – don’t worry if it cracks a bit – and remove the parchment paper/foil/baking mat. Melt the remaining chocolate in a small pot or the microwave, being careful not to burn it, and then repeat the earlier step: spread chocolate over candy, sprinkle on nuts quickly before the cold candy hardens the chocolate, and then give it all a few minutes somewhere cool and dry to finish hardening.
Break up the hardened candy and store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Mix the nuts that fall off during the breaking process into your morning oatmeal, or over ice cream if you actually need more sugar in your life. After a while the candy will start to soften, but if you take good care of it it should last a couple weeks – assuming you don’t eat it all first!