Toffee is a type of candy that is made by cooking sugar and butter until it reaches a hard candy consistency. To achieve the desired texture and beautiful deep amber color, a candy thermometer is absolutely necessary to monitor the temperature accurately. Once the toffee mixture reaches the desired temperature, it is poured onto a surface to cool and harden. The exact recipe and additional ingredients can vary based on personal preference. You can find 27 Popular Toffee Varieties in this post here and a basic recipe for Rich Butter Toffee that my podcast guests have made and perfected over 40 years!
Traditional Toffee Requires Only 2 Main Ingredients
- Toffee requires white sugar and butter. Period. Everything else is extra!**
- White granulated sugar provides the sweetness and structure needed for the toffee.
- When choosing butter for toffee, choose salted butter, which helps prevent "splitting". Splitting happens when the toffee mixture separates, resulting in a greasy layer on top and a grainy layer underneath. More details below!
- **A few sources insist that English butter toffee uses brown sugar and toffee with white sugar and butter is called buttercrunch. But the vast majority disagree with this assessment.
What is the scientific purpose of butter in toffee?
The scientific purpose of butter in making toffee serves multiple functions in the cooking process:
- Flavor and Aroma: Butter contains milk solids that contribute to its unique flavor and aroma. When added to toffee, it imparts a rich, creamy, and slightly nutty taste that enhances the overall flavor profile.
- Texture and Creaminess: Butter is a fat, and its inclusion in toffee adds richness and creaminess to the final product. The fat content in butter contributes to the smooth and velvety texture of the toffee, making it more enjoyable to eat.
- Preventing Sugar Crystallization: The presence of butter helps to inhibit sugar crystallization during the cooking process. Sugar crystals can cause a grainy texture in the toffee. The fat in butter coats the sugar crystals, interfering with their ability to come together and form larger crystals, resulting in a smoother toffee texture.
- Heat Transfer and Temperature Control: Butter has a lower melting point compared to sugar, so when it is added to the toffee mixture, it helps to lower its overall temperature. This allows for better heat transfer and helps prevent the sugar from reaching excessively high temperatures, which can lead to burning or scorching.
Other Common (but not necessary) Ingredients
- A pinch of salt enhances the overall flavor profile of toffee by balancing the sweetness and adding a subtle savory note.
- A pinch of baking soda helps to create a lighter and more tender texture in toffee by promoting caramelization and aeration during the cooking process.
- A layer of chocolate, whether it's semi-sweet chocolate chips, dark chocolate, or Hershey bars, provides a luscious and indulgent coating that complements the buttery richness of the toffee, resulting in a delightful combination of flavors and textures.
- Toasted nuts add a delightful crunch and nutty aroma to toffee, elevating its texture and introducing a delicious contrast to the smooth and buttery sweetness of the candy.
Is brown sugar in toffee?
No. If you're using brown sugar, you're technically making butterscotch - or possibly a wet caramel. See below.
Is corn syrup in toffee?
Not necessarily, but both corn syrup and glucose syrup are in some recipes, including the Rich Buttery Toffee Recipe my podcast guests have perfected and shared with us! Both can make the process a little less problem prone.
How is Toffee Made?
Ok, let's get technical! Here's the baking science critical to understanding toffee:
9 Sugar Stages
- Thread [230°F to 235°F (110°C to 113°C)] Sugar molecules form delicate, thread-like structures when cooled, often used for making syrups and glazes.
- Soft Ball [235°F to 240°F (113°C to 116°C)]: Sugar molecules form a soft and pliable ball when dropped into cold water, commonly used for fudge and caramels.
- Firm Ball [245°F to 250°F (118°C to 121°C)]: Sugar molecules form a firmer ball that holds its shape but remains slightly pliable, ideal for making soft toffees and nougats.
- Hard Ball [250°F to 265°F (121°C to 129°C)]: Sugar molecules form a hard ball that holds its shape well, perfect for creating harder toffees and fruit jellies.
- Soft Crack [270°F to 290°F (132°C to 143°C)]: Sugar molecules reach a stage where they harden but are still somewhat pliable, resulting in softer toffees and chewy candies with a pale color. At the top of this stage, you'll get a pale chewy toffee.
- **Hard Crack [295°F to 310°F (149°C to 154°C)]: Sugar molecules harden to a crisp and brittle texture, giving candies a snap-apart characteristic and a golden brown hue.** This is where you want to be for toffee!!
- Light Brown [320°F to 350°F (160°C to 177°C)]: Sugar molecules continue to cook, turning the syrup into a light brown color, often used for making caramel sauces and fillings. If your toffee goes too deep into this stage, it can become bitter and brittle.
- Brown Liquid [350°F to 370°F (177°C to 188°C)]: The sugar molecules have further caramelized, resulting in a rich, deep brown liquid, typically used for creating caramel candies and coatings.
- Burnt [Above 370°F (188°C)]: Sugar molecules have reached a point of overcooking, leading to a burnt flavor and a dark, bitter, and unpleasant result.
Important Steps After the Toffee is Cooked
After the toffee is cooked, it is crucial to cool it properly to achieve a hard, break-apart texture.
- Transfer the cooked toffee onto a greased and lined baking sheet, spreading it evenly to create a thin layer.
- Allow the toffee to cool completely at room temperature.
- Once fully chilled, break the toffee into desired pieces using a sharp knife or by tapping it gently with a mallet, ensuring clean, satisfying breaks.
Caramel vs. Toffee vs. Butterscotch (What's the Difference?)
Although these are similar confections, each are made from different ingredients, are cooked to different temperatures, resulting in different textures and flavors
- Butterscotch is made from brown sugar and butter. It can be cooked to any of the sugar stages. Butterscotch can be a sauce, soft chips, chewy or hard candies.
- Toffee, as discussed, is made from butter and white sugar. It can also be cooked to any one of the sugar stages, but usually sits in the soft crack to light brown stages. Toffee sauce or syrup (like that used in Sticky Toffee Pudding) is cooked less; things like brittles are cooked longer.
- Caramel is a little more complicated because there are quite a few versions. Keep reading!
Types of Caramel:
Dry Caramel vs Wet Caramel vs. Shortcut Caramel-Flavored Things
- Dry caramel is made from ONE ingredient: sugar. Put dry sugar in a pan and carefully heat until it caramelizes.
- Wet caramel is made from the same ingredient with the addition of a little water. It's a little easier to make.
- Shortcut caramel is really just a sauce or candy that's more caramel-flavored than truly caramelized sugar. They use brown sugar, cream, and butter as shortcuts.
- For super detailed information and fool proof recipes for both method, read Making Caramel from Tough Cookie.
Is toffee just burnt caramel?
Nope! Toffee is made from white sugar and butter, which is a different pair of ingredients in either wet or dry caramels.
What's the difference between toffee and peanut brittle?
- Brittle is made by cooking sugar and water (caramel ingredients) together until the water evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. This process results in a hard and brittle candy.
- Toffee has a buttery flavor, brittle is pure sugar
- While both toffee and brittle may contain nuts, toffee often incorporates them by mixing them into the candy base, resulting in a more integrated texture. Brittle, however, usually has nuts added by spreading them over the caramelized sugar before it hardens, creating a distinct layer of nutty crunch.
What is the difference between English toffee and regular toffee?
- Origin and Terminology: English toffee is a term that primarily refers to toffee of English origin. The inclusion of "English" in the name is more of a descriptor, indicating its heritage. It doesn't necessarily denote a unique recipe or cooking method. Regular toffee, on the other hand, is a more general term used for toffee made in different regions and can encompass various recipes and styles.
- Ingredients and Flavors: The ingredients used in both English toffee and regular toffee are the same: sugar, butter, and flavorings. However, specific recipes and regional preferences may introduce slight variations in ingredient ratios or additional elements like nuts or chocolate.
- It's worth noting that the distinction between English toffee and regular toffee can vary depending on regional preferences, cultural influences, and individual recipes.
- Use salted butter
- Use a lower temperature (medium heat) for longer time > higher temperature for less time
- Right about 295 is the dividing line between chewy toffee that may stick in your teeth a bit and snappier toffee. I prefer the latter.
- A good candy thermometer is *essential*
- For all the tips and a detailed recipe, consult my podcast guests's Rich Butter Toffee Recipe
Safety Tips When Making Toffee
- Protective Gear: Wear heat-resistant oven mitts or gloves to protect your hands and forearms when handling hot pots, pans, or utensils during the toffee-making process. This will minimize the risk of burns and ensure safe handling of hot ingredients.
- Never, ever stick your fingers into the candy to taste.
- Similarly, do NOT lick the spoon you use to taste until it is adequately cooled.
- Banish kids and clumsy adults from the kitchen.
- Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions: When working with super high temperatures, it's crucial to maintain focus and minimize distractions in the kitchen. Distractions can lead to accidents or the toffee mixture exceeding its desired temperature, potentially resulting in burning or scorching.
History and Origins of Toffee
- The origins of toffee's creation are not completely agreed upon by food historians. Here's what we do know -
- Toffee became popular in the early 19th century and was enjoyed by people in England and other European countries.
- The word "toffee" was first mentioned in The Oxford English Dictionary in 1825.
- This coincides with this rise of an abundance of cheap sugar as a result of British colonialism in countries rich in sugar cane.
Popular Flavors of Toffee
- Try chocolate-covered toffee! Spread melted chocolate on top for yummy flavors.
- Add vanilla extract to your toffee for a tasty twist.
- Enjoy nutty flavors like pecans or almonds in your toffee for extra crunch.
- Celebrate special occasions with different toffee flavors.
- Get creative and make your own toffee with different ingredients.
- Find 27 Best Toffee Recipees
Is toffee gluten-free?
Yes, no wheat products whatsoever.
Is toffee dairy-free?
Nope, not vegan because it contains butter.
- Store homemade toffee by layering it between sheets of parchment paper to prevent sticking and maintain its shape and texture.
- Place the layered toffee in an airtight container to protect it from moisture and humidity, which can cause the toffee to become sticky or lose its crispness.
- Keep the container of stored toffee in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources, to ensure its freshness and longevity.
- Freeze up to 6 months!
Chocolate Covered Rich Buttery Toffee Recipe
27 Toffee Recipes
Chewy and chocolatey toffee treat with hints of espresso. An English Toffee recipe all grown up!
ThisSaltine Cracker Toffee was my grandma's recipe. It's addicting and one of my favorite treats!
A beautiful espresso laden toffee, adapted from Deb Perlman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. You'll need a candy thermometer to know when to stop cooking the toffee.
Buttery sweet Churro Toffee is a Disneyland favorite. But even if you've never been there, you'll still fall in love with this rich, flavorful candy treat.
This easy almond & lemon saltine cracker toffee is the perfect dessert for spring picnics and summer BBQs! Sweet and salty treat everyone will love!
Crispy, buttery, and studded with pecans, this easy to make Pecan Butter Rum Toffee is a great edible gift for friends and family!
This maple toffee has a hint of sweet maple flavor and is chockfull of pecans. It makes a bunch of toffee - enough to share and keep some for yourself!
This rich sweet homemade bourbon toffee is a yummy crunchy treat with toasted pecans and chocolate bliss in every crave-worthy bite.
Get your sweet tooth ready for this outrageous Butterscotch Almond Toffee! Creamy, buttery, crunchy, melt in your mouth awesomeness!
Maple candy toffee made with 5 ingredients plus your favorite toppings! With real butter, maple syrup, and dark chocolate this gluten free candy is so easy to make, and is a great holiday food gift.
You are going to love this homemade toffee!
Ready for Passover? I've got you covered with this quick and delicious treat - Fruit & Nut Chocolate Toffee Matzah Crunch AND on Wedneday April 20th I will be taking over @thefeedfeed 's snapchat to show you the step by step recipe LIVE!
Delicious toffee covered in white chocolate and crushed peppermint. White Chocolate Peppermint Toffee is all of your favorite holiday treats rolled into one!
This Saltine Cracker Toffee offers a coconut-forward twist to your average Saltine Toffee recipe with coconut extract and unsweetened coconut flakes.
Do you know how to make the perfect toffee from scratch? We share all the secrets to achieve the best texture, taste, and color.
This salted toffee is the perfect treat for peanut butter chocolate lovers. Made with 5 ingredients, it's super easy and so addicting!
Decadent homemade toffee covered in chocolate, almonds and shredded coconut
Delicious White Chocolate Toffee made easy with saltine crackers and stove top toffee, topped with white chocolate, cashews and dried fruit.
My English Toffee recipe is a quintessential holiday candy delicious and crunchy! It's also the perfect thing to have on-hand for a beautiful and simple gift!
The best toffee recipe EVER! Sweet milk chocolate, crunchy pecans, and rich, buttery toffee - what's not to love? This Better Than Anything Toffee is easy to make and makes the perfect treat OR gift year-round!
This rich and buttery homemade toffeetakesonly thirty minutes to make and is super easy, too! Perfect for parties, holiday gifts, and snacking!
Its a new twist on a candy classic! Made with only five ingredients.
Make sure to also check out some other great toffee recipes such as Traditional English Toffee from Spruce Eats, Lemon Meringue Toffee from Caitriona Redmond, Easy Sea Salt Toffee from What Megan's Making, and English White Chocolate Pecan from Imperial Sugar.