Toffee? English Toffee? Buttercrunch Toffee? Butter Toffee? Toffee Butter Crunch?
What’s the deal? Is it the same thing? If not, how are they different? Why such a variety of nomenclature for this rather simple confection?
If you’re confused, don’t worry – I am too and I’ve been making and selling the stuff for over a decade.
Let’s start with what it is no matter what you call it: butter and sugar. That’s it. Those are the main ingredients. Maybe there’s some salt. Or maybe some makers use rice syrup. Or corn syrup. But the essential idea is the same, butter and sugar.
Then, it’s all about texture, and this happens when butter and sugar are cooked until peak maillard reaction is achieved and/or until the confectioner decides with their own nose when it’s done. (I stopped using a thermometer as my only measurement for ‘done’ years and years ago, when I realized that there are very many factors that affect the end texture. Now I only use my infrared thermometer as a guideline. I find candy thermometers way too cumbersome.)
Those are the building blocks. Typically, vanilla extract is used for flavoring, but tbh, when sugar and butter is that hot (over 300 degrees Fahrenheit or 148 Celsius) I’ve found that any liquid added at this phase helps stop the cooking process rather than flavors it. Unless the liquid added is something very, very strong like fish sauce which I have used in one of my all-time favorite Xoco Crunches, The Kanom Bueang Riff Off. And even then, one only gets a faint umami aroma rather than FISH SAUCE.
Texture-wise, I am going to make the assertion that it should be crunchy and snappy. Ideally, it should not stick to the teeth. It should be a nice clean crunch that generates a feeling of joy, not oh-my-god I hope I haven’t broken my crown and do I need a paint scraper to get this layer of sugar off my molars.
Now, down to the naming. The general consensus seems to be that traditional “English Toffee” (actually an American invention according to www.thenibble.com) is only butter and sugar with no inclusions, i.e. nuts. Or chocolate. Furthermore, English toffee is made with brown sugar (or treacle or molasses some say) but not white sugar and no inclusion or chocolate whatsoever. Buttercrunch is made with white sugar and has a nut inclusion (typically almonds, a la See’s Candies, Almond Roca’s for example) and a coating of chocolate.
However, over time it seems that the terms “Toffee,” “English Toffee and “Buttercrunch” are used interchangeably. At Xoconat, I consider our Xoco Crunch to be buttercrunch, as according to the description above – because I use cane sugar, nut and other inclusions, as well as chocolate. Sometimes I say “buttercrunch toffee” because more Thais have heard of toffee than buttercrunch, although I do hope I’ve done a little bit to change this. To me “buttercrunch toffee” is redundant. As is “butter toffee” since toffee is made only with butter anyway.
So, the takeaway? To each their own, I suppose, but – for the consumer’s sake – it would be nice if us makers agreed on what we considered “English Toffee” and “Buttercrunch”. As for other possibly confusing names: ‘brittles’ are neither toffee or buttercrunch since they are not made with butter, only sugar, therefore do not fall into this particular category of confectionery. And ‘bark’ is none of these things – it is simply a slab of free form chocolate with some type of inclusion.
So glad I got that off my chest. If you read this far, thanks! And enjoy your weekend.