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I'm having trouble with my Toffee recipe (which is as follows);

1 # butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

bring to boil, then turn down heat to medium-high until starts to thicken, then turn on low heat until mixture reaches 295 degrees F., then  pour in pan to cool.


Half of the time, the toffee turns out well.  The other half, the toffee turns dark and tends to separate, and the toffee turns cake-like. 

I've tried a suggested "fix", which was to take off the heat and add 1/2 cup of hot water in the final minutes and stir well, but it didn't help (well, it stopped the mixture from separating, and the mixture didn't turn cake-like, but it didn't set up.

I don't have the background knowledge or experience to know why sometimes the toffee turns out great, and sometimes it fails.  My best guess is maybe humidity changes are making a difference, but I don't know.  I've tried different pans, different stoves, adding a little bit of corn syrup, etc.

Any suggestions?


Matt Erickson

(360) 601-7235




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Reduce the water to 1/4 C. Cook in a tall rather than flat pan.  I heat the water and butter to a boil, then stir in the sugar.  Cook on med to med high, stirring constantly.  If it is going to separate, it will do it at about 250.  Adding water and continuing to cook will solve the problem.  You need to cook to at least 310.  Good luck.


Thank you extremely much!  I will try it (and I'll take the "luck") :-)


I forgot one very important part.  Weight your sugar, don't measure it. You want a pound.

 Ok (equal parts butter and sugar).  Thank you very much.


Make sure that when you start boiling the sugar that all of it is completly in solution.  Wash down the sides with a brush and water, but make sure it's all dissolved.  The reason it seems to separate at about 250 - 255F is that that's the point that the saturation and boiling curves intersect.  If you still have crystals there, especially not using any doctor solids, the sugar will continue to crystalize out to the saturation point of the curve, giving you the fudge like texture.  Adding water can help redissolve but the additional time held hot will increase your inversion level, with enough resulting in a stickier, darker piece with increased bitterness from the new compounds formed.  Also once above the above temperatures, since the syrup is supersaturated, minimal shear will help prevent crystallization.  I typically don't stirr at all, using reduced heat to prevent burning. 

Thanks Mark.  I've always wondered why it did that.  I never have a problem in the large batches in a copper kettle over an open flame, but have had a problem using an induction burner.

Do I need to always cook to "at least 310 degrees", or only if I add water if things begin to separate?

The batches tried yesterday still tended to have that terrible "fudge like texture", unless they burned, being darker and stickier.  Since you're saying adding water can increase the chance of burning due to longer cook times, is there anything else I should try first?

What do you mean "doctor solids"? 

Are you saying that above 255 degrees (if the syrup is properly "supersaturated") and if at a low enough temperature, I needn't stir the mixture at all? 

As I seem to continue to have problems, I could only come up with 3 possible things which I didn't know how much they did or didn't affect things.

1.  I use unsalted butter--does this make much difference (realizing that salt lowers the boiling temperature of water)?

2.  I am placing the toffee into a sheet metal pan to cool on top of the wooden table (I don't have room for our marble slab at present)--I didn't know if perhaps not cooling quickly enough created additional problems?

3.  Humidity seems to affect the outcome--I didn't know the significance of this, nor any adequate work-arounds.

Ruth stated that she brought the water and butter to a boil and then began to stir in the sugar.  If that is the case, can the sugar be "completely dissolved in the solution" before boiling?

I know I'm having quite the fits with toffee and your help (as also Ruth's) is greatly appreciated.



The temperature you cook to will determine flavor and color.  Once over 300F you are down under 3% moisture. 

Doctor solids are anything dissolved in the water that isn't sucrose.  This typically includes glucose syrups, invert syrup, salts, proteins, etc.  They affect cook temperatures, browning rate, inversion, but are primarily used to control sucrose crystallization, and give final desired texture and shelf life. 

The added water affects more caramelization, not burning.

Rate of cooling primarily affects caramelization.

Humidity is a big factor.  Once the toffee cools, it will begin to absorb moisture from the air.  Needs to be below 45%RH, but below 35%RH is ideal.  The sugar is in its amorphous, or glass, form rather than crystal, or solid. 

Boiling the sugar and butter first is common practice.  Add the sugar while stirring, and once all in, the sugar should be all in solution about the temperature it begins a full rolling boil, somewhere near 225-230F depending on the amount of water you use.  A rule of thumb is the water should be a third the weight of the sucrose.  Once boiling wash any crystals off the side of the pot, and you can remove from heat to check clarity on the side of a metal spatula, just note the difference between crystals and bubbles, you can feel the crystals.  You may need to wash down the sides a few times through the cook.

Reducing the heat as you near the finish helps prevent burning. 


Thank you so much for taking your time to be so thorough in your answer.  I will try and digest everthing you said and modify my technique accordingly.



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