What Is Toffee? | What Toffee Is Not!

It's been over 20 years since Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster and most powerful wizard in the world expressed a fondness for toffee in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the first book in the phenomenally popular Harry Potter Series. This means it's been two decades since two generations of readers read the word toffee and while they thought they knew what the candy was, they actually had no idea. Many thought it was the same thing as taffy. They were just as wrong as those who pictured caramel. Although caramel was closer to the truth since it is a close relative of toffee. But then, so is butterscotch.

Let's take a look at the family tree.

  • Caramel is made by heating white sugar to 340 degrees Fahrenheit until the sugar molecules break down and form new compounds with a rich deep flavor and a golden brown color.
  • Toffee undergoes a similar process and heated to the same temperature, but toffee uses molasses or brown sugar. Another difference is Toffee contains butter. Caramel does not.
  • Butterscotch, like toffee, is made with molasses or brown sugar and butter but it is only heated to 270 degrees.

Toffee Consistency

Toffee is the most brittle of the three, whether it's almond toffee, English toffee, or Colorado toffee like we make at Vern's Toffee. This is because it's been heated to what is known as the hard crack stage of candy making, At this point, the sugar syrup forms brittle strands that crack when bent. The same is true of caramel, although caramel can be chewed once it softens in the mouth.

Butterscotch is softer and chewable because it is only heated to the soft crack stage, a point at which the sugar concentration of the boiled syrup remains at 95% and the sugar molecules remain intact with threads that bend rather than break.

Toffee vs. Caramel vs. Butterscotch

Obviously, the three have different flavors. Toffee retains its caramelized sugar taste unless flavors like chocolate or vanilla have been added. Caramel of course remains caramel tasting whereas butterscotch, rather than tasting of caramelized sugar, has a flavor suggesting browned butter and brown sugar.

American Toffee vs. English Toffee

American toffee makers often add almonds or walnuts. English toffee makers would never even think of adding nuts to theirs. After all, Professor Dumbledore would never approve.