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toffee (i know this is not chocolate, i figure somone has some experience)

hello, its joe from blissful brownies again with another question. this time im making english toffee, and having problems with my butter separating from the toffee about halfway through the cooking process. i have no idea why this is happening. toffee is somthing i have never done. i know this is not a chocolate question, but i figure someone has had toffee experience.

 

P.S. thankyou all for your tips on my chocolate enrobing issues last week.

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How in the world can you tell if it's separating while cooking? Halfway through cooking, it should be a molten, bubbly mess that's impossible to determine if it's an emulsion or not 8-) describe your recipe, and your production in as much detail as possible, and describe when and how you determine it's separated pls...
thank you for your reply. its easy to tell its separated because the butter is on top of everything else and im not able to get it combined again. i am on contract not to give out recipes but i will do my best. first i melt butter, then add sugar and salt and water. cook at med, med-low stirring frequently until 305 degrees. take off heat and stir in vanilla. pour onto parchment paper, let cool. now,.. i have been trying to make big batches and i dont think that would make a difference but i dunno. thx.
so.. i think because ive been melting butter before i add all the ingredients this is causing this reaction.?? does it make sense to add cold butter and the water and the dry ingredients all togather at the begining?
Welcome to toffee Hell:-) Toffee starts to separate at around 250 degrees. I have tried different butters, room temp or frozen, different sugar (beet or cane). The only conclusion I have come to is no conclusion at all! We have better luck in the big round-bottomed copper kettle doing 12# butter batches, than smaller batches on the regular burner. I think the copper inverts some of the sugar, or the size of the batch evens out any inconsistencies in the temps or ingredients. I like to start the batch slow, bring to a boil and gradually turn up the heat. If it starts to separate, pour in some hot water and stir like crazy. i haven't lost a batch in years, but you have to keep a close eye on it. A friend of mine who is in the toffee business always uses non-stick pots. He said that really helps on the separating. I always take it up to 290 (5000 feet). My husband stirs the big batches and he likes to get the butter and water almost to a boil before adding the sugar. I don't like to reduce the amount of water before adding the sugar. It just really doesn't seem to matter. Sorry I don't have more answers.
A few things are going to be important to you. It's awfully hard to troubleshoot w/o details, although i appreciate the need for confidentiality. Rate of heating is important (ie you could be heating too quickly). Rate of mechanical energy input is important (ie, you may need more/less stirring). A little bit of acid may help you (citric or acetic - some lemon juice or vinegar). Altitude is important for your final cooking temperature... depending on where you're at, 305 sounds high, but you indicate you're seeing the problem well before that, so i'm inclined to think that's not it. Something many people never think about - or really have much control over - is what else comes with their raw materials. Sugar, for example, can very widely in it's incidental contaminants - depending on where you get it from, some of your incidentals may not be so incidental. how it's harvested can hugely impact this - cane sugar that's mechanically harvested w/o burning the field will be quite different than beet sugar from minnesota. these incidentals can wreak havoc in your system.

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