(I have two food items in one photo. I could put both recipes together, but I think it makes more sense to just post the photo twice.)
Milk Toffee / Pal Tofi
(30 minutes + cooling time, serves dozens)
This is a classic Sri Lankan dessert, but this particular recipe was originally my aunt’s. It’s one of my favorites, very sweet, with a great crystalline texture than melts in your mouth (a little reminiscent of maple candy in that regard). I’ve re-made it several times now, with a candy thermometer, trying to pin down exact measurements. The dessert is remarkably similar to New Orleans pralines (cashews instead of roasted pecans, and cut into pieces, rather than dropped on wax paper), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Portuguese brought the dessert to both regions.
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 lb sugar
1/2 can water
1/2 lb to 3/4 lb chopped cashews (it’s fine if they’re roasted / salted)
2 TBL vanilla
1 stick butter
1. Put sugar, water and condensed milk together on medium-high in big nonstick pot, stirring briefly to combine. (It doesn’t have to be nonstick, but it will be easier to clean afterwards.) Watch carefully, without stirring. While mixture is cooking, grease a 9 x 12 glass baking dish or cake pan with butter; also prepare an oiled spatula for later.
2. When the mixture starts boiling over (around 225 on a candy thermometer), lower heat to medium. Cook for about 10 minutes (no need to stir at this point). When it starts to thicken (watery thickness), add cashews and stir. When it thickens a bit more, add vanilla and stir (it will fizz up a bit at this). Stir slowly and constantly from this point forward.
3. When it starts sticking to the pan / pulling away from the sides (soft-ball stage, 235 degrees), add 1 stick of butter and mix it in. As soon as the butter melts, take pot off stove and pour immediately into buttered pan, using an oiled spatula to get it all out. It should smooth out on its own. (Be careful pouring, as candy syrup will burn you badly!)
4. It will still be too soft to cut. Let cool for at least 30 minutes, then try cutting it with an oiled knife. If it doesn’t stick to your knife, you can cut it into pieces; small squares are traditional. Enjoy!