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What is the shelf life of toffee and how should it be stored

I am starting to think about adding toffee to our product line. I learned that Enstroms Toffee is actually considered a dairy product and requires refrigeration. I am wondering how others store toffee. I plan on sealing the bags of toffee, but I know that most retailers that we work with will not have available fridge or freezer space. I've certainly seen other brands of toffee displayed and sold at room temperature. How can one determine if toffee is safe to store at room temperature? if it is able to be at room temperature, does anyone know the shelf life of it? It is my plan to make slabs of chocolate covered toffee and then break it up versus fully enrobed pieces (which I imagine would have an even longer shelf life). Thanks for your input!

Daniel

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Well, all toffee contains milk products, so by definition it contains dairy.  The real question(s) are ones of water activity (is there sufficient free water in your formulation to support microbiological growth - typically toffee formulations are very low Aw - you'd need to answer that question for your formulation and process), and one of moisture absorption (toffee will absorb moisture from the air, changing it's texture) - It's typically not a food safety concern, more of a quality one.  Mark from here is much more well versed in toffee than i and may chime in.

Thanks Sebastian for your reply! Your input is always very insightful. In the case of Enstrom Toffee, there is apparently so much butter in their recipe that they require their sealed boxes to be stored in refrigeration or a freezer.  The issue being that the fats in the butter will go rancid if not refrigerated. I am wondering how much butter is too much and at what point does one pass the point at which toffee can be stored at room temperature when sealed. 

Not sure i've got a technical answer for you mate... i've consumed more toffee than your average bear, and i don't think i've ever had a rancid one.  I'm sure it can happen, i've just never seen it.   I've seen lots and lots of toffee rolled in almonds that tasted terrible, but that was the problem of the nuts, not the toffee...

Take some of theirs and do an informal shelf life study yourself by sitting it on the counter and tasting it every week for 6 months?

I'm boggled by this. I spent a good 4 months working on toffee--much of that trial and tribulation can be found here. In the past year I've probably made a few tons of toffee and most of that was by hand. Now we have a firekettle (which is a new learning curve & beast but that's another tale..)

I like to think of toffee like making a roux. You can't have excess butter or it won't bind to the sugar. So I'm really curious what kind of product they are making to have greater butter than average. I mean it's a butter + sugar product, plain and simple. Your ratio will dictate a few things but toffee is toffee is toffee until you start adding alternate sugars (like honey) or end of product additions.

Anyhow my toffee has about a 6 month shelf life before the elements start to seep in and the quality is not what I like. Luckily no where we stock lasts that long due to consumer habits but that's the longevity we give it before we would pull it.

Like it was mentioned toffee is hydroscopic by nature. It wants to absorb water, it LOVES to absorb moisture. In the summers here in the Carolinas where the average humidity is 90% we have to change the entire method of making it, and then speedily get it enrobed so that we can prevent the air from getting to it. If we left a sheetpan of toffee out over night it would have a liquid layer by the morning. Crazy. Even then packaging has some microlevel of porosity and that will eventually be the downfall of the product.

I like to think that at the heat level its cooked the proteins are broken down and the fats are converted to something more like ghee so you've got really no chance of rancidity then there's enough sugar that it's a shelf stable product since your available water is nill unless the environment adds it back. So I'd love to know how Enstrom's has done something so unique that it has this required refrigeration. It just doesn't make sense to me.

For us it's a fire and forget process. I wouldn't worry much about it. Run your own shelf tests and you should find it's something you can reliably not worry about.

If you ever need a toffee tester...  8-)  they say it's impossible for someone to just have one potato chip. I disagree. it's impossible to have just one piece of toffee - that stuff kills me, but oh how i love it!

generally speaking heat is an enemy of fat stability.  Ghee is functionally not very different than anhydrous milk fat.  it could be that enstrom's actually hasn't boiled off their moisture contained in the butter they're using, and the resulting toffee is higher in moisture than it should be - which, combined with heat, results in bad things (tm) happening to fats.  of course, it could also be that if you don't refrigerate their product as they say you need to, it could be just fine.  there's lots of urban legend and misconceptions out there as to what is necessary, or anecdotal evidence that has shaped current policy  - as i tell my daughter all the time - just because someone SAYS you have to do something doesn't mean it's actually TRUE ... 

Thanks a lot Andy!

I actually just got done reading your thread from a few years ago. It sounds like you really went through a lot to make toffee work for your business. I read in your thread that you were looking to simply break up slabs of chocolate covered toffee versus enrobing each piece separately. Is that what worked out for you and provides you a 6 month shelf life? I know that a fully enrobed piece will last longer, but it is more expensive from a labor perspective. I also like the look of a broken up piece with the toffee exposed better. Thanks again for sharing your experience.

Daniel,
My business is making Toffee. I have been doing it for about 10 years. Almost without fail, all Toffee is made by the same recipe other than sometimes people add corn syrup (I don't). Enstroms makes so much Toffee, they HAVE to keep it frozen in order to fill orders quickly (I was told by someone who knew). They tell you to put in refrigerator to help it last longer, but I seriously doubt they add more butter. It just wouldn't work right if they added too much more. As for shelf life (like other said), humidity will be the downfall even in sealed bags. I promise 4 months at room temp, but I know for a fact it will last longer if it is in a mylar bag or similar bag that is air tight. Poly bags are NOT air tight and will degrade faster. I've never had anyone say my Toffee ever got rancid, but it will start turning to sugar. Yes, enrobing extends the life considerably.

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