I have ordered a candy thermometer -- next time I make milk toffee, I'm going to be able to report back with exact temperatures. But I took it to soft ball stage, which I think is not sufficient -- I think it needs to go all the way to hard ball stage. Roshani tells me that there are YouTube videos of milk toffee making if you want to watch before attempting, though they're in Tamil, so they may be of limited utility to you. I may watch before trying again, though. (There's a recipe in my cookbook, but there are also lots of other recipes online.)
Luckily, I was able to save the toffees, with a bit of help. Traditionally, you'd cut them into diamond or square shapes, but that was pretty much impossible -- much too sticky. Kevin suggested wrapping them up like little caramels -- that basically worked, but was labor intensive. It'd be nice for a gift, though.
Roshani suggested rolling them in shredded unsweetened coconut, similar to another traditional Sri Lankan sweet. I wasn't sure whether shredded or fine coconut would work better, so I tried both. They did work, although they had a tendency to melt (to a praline-like appearance) -- it helped to refrigerate as you were going, working in small batches. To maintain the ball shape, I'm pretty sure you'd need to refrigerate until just before serving.
Fine coconut gave a neater appearance and more even coverage, but Kevin and I agreed that shredded tasted better -- more coconut flavor, which actually went really well with the milk toffee, cashew, and coconut. Kavya volunteered that they were really delicious after eating one, so I think we have a winner. Though I admit, I think I still like traditional milk toffee a bit better, personally. There's just something about the way it melts in your mouth...
Make the pieces small if you try it; it's pretty intensely sweet. Oh, and it may be risky to stack them in the fridge if you want them to retain the ball shape.
I admit, I am now tempted to make another batch with bacon in it. (I will not do that anytime soon, though, as I also have plans for vattallappam, mango pudding, and/or homemade marshmallows. That will be sufficient, even for the thirty people coming for dinner Saturday night.)