Cooking Basics

How is toffee different from caramel?

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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kptoffee store toffee and chocolate
Crunchy, buttery toffee goes best with smooth, creamy chocolate
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Find out how toffee is different from caramel in taste and texture

Dessert aficionados ask some of life’s deepest questions, often while crunching on decadent treats or drizzling thick, creamy caramel over a scoop of ice cream. How is toffee different from caramel anyway? 

You probably adore them both. Rich, buttery toffee for its satisfying, perfect crunch – whether paired with popcorn, chocolate or salted pretzels, everything tastes better dipped in it. Caramel can do no wrong either.

They look similar and taste sort of similar, but they’re quite different. Bakers know first-hand how one ingredient, added or subtracted, can completely change the taste and texture of a dessert. Then there’s cook time. The longer sugar cooks, the crunchier it gets.

What makes them different?

Butter, cook time and temperature are the main factors setting these two apart. In its simplest form, toffee is sugar and butter, while caramel is cream and granulated sugar, and sometimes makers add butter and vanilla, depending on flavor preference.





Toffee is crunchy because it’s heated at higher temperatures for a longer period of time. A pot of caramel stays smooth and creamy at a lower temperature for less time. It’s heated to the point where the sugar browns, but the sugar crystals stay long and bendable. 

Cream gives caramel its rich gooeyness and at this low temperature it retains most of the moisture. The lack of liquid combined with higher temperatures, crystallize the sugar in toffee, which is why it crunches and snaps so easily.

Often when comparing how toffee is different from caramel, butterscotch is used to further explain how cooking affects texture. Butterscotch and toffee share the same ingredients. The only difference is that the latter is cooked much longer, essentially until the sugar concentration reaches 99 percent.

DIY sugary solids

Some people can easily tell the differences, others thinks they are similar to the point of being the same. They’re not. Try making caramel at home, then toffee, and taste for yourself. It's a tough mission, but you can do it.

If you’ve never made candy before, temperatures matter. Ingredients primarily begin with sugar and water. Heated, the water cooks off and sugar melts to form a pure syrup. The longer syrup is cooker, the harder the syrup will be once it cools. This is why lollipops cook longer than fudge.

Why they’re so delicious

Logically, heating sugar and water until the water cooks off and sugar melts then burns sounds like it’d result in inedible, gross, burnt sugar. But something magical happens as sugar continues to cook. The chemical reactions result in new, delicious molecules (this is also why “caramelizing” veggies gives them a slightly sweet taste).

Once cooled, this heated, pure sugar is added to cream, vanilla and more sugar to produce the caramel candy we love. There are a number of other ways to make it as well. Cooking all of the ingredients at once and leaving out the extra sugar results in milk caramel, for instance.

The same magical chemical reactions happen when making toffee – it too is heated until the moisture cooks off. With toffee, you continue cooking until you reach what candy makers call the hard crack stage, adding a whole lot of butter in to boot.

So many ways to enjoy

We've covered the chemical answer to how is toffee different from caramel. Now let’s dig in to the good stuff – how to eat them. In your trips to the candy store, you may have noticed how often toffee and chocolate are paired. It’s a dreamy marriage of creamy/crunchy texture and bitter/sweet taste with butter adding a layer of rich decadence. 

Both toffee and caramel work wonders on popcorn and pretzels. Caramel is more commonly found in sauce form for sundaes or as a soft candy filling. Of course, both are always the right answer when you’re looking for a gift or making treats for a party. 

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