Why Is My Toffee Chewy?

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Making toffee or buttercrunch is a traditional holiday activity and makes a lovely gift. But if your toffee is getting stuck in everyones teeth, theres something wrong. What makes toffee chewy?

Toffee gets chewy when there is too much moisture in it. Undercooking toffee can leave it moist and chewy, while recipes that include a lot of dairy also make chewy toffee. Humidity can influence toffee-making and cause stored toffees to soften and get sticky.

Most American recipes for toffee are for buttercrunch or hard toffee, with the texture of nut brittle. Getting your toffee to set hard means heating it to the right temperature to cook out moisture. It would help if you stored your toffee correctly to stay crisp.

Why Is My Toffee Chewy?

Why Is My Toffee Chewy?

Chewy toffee is caused by moisture in your toffee mixture, whether during the cooking and setting process or when the cooked toffee is stored.

Lets look at why toffee gets chewy and how to avoid it.

Undercooked Toffee Is Chewy

Your toffee will turn out soft, sticky, and chewy if you havent cooked it enough. Enough cooking doesnt mean you havent cooked the toffee for long enough you havent cooked it hot enough to evaporate most of the moisture.

The result of undercooking toffee is that your sugar mixture is not sufficiently concentrated as it failed to reach the required temperature or stage of cooking.

To make your toffee hard and crunchy, your sugar mixture needs to reach the hard-crack stage, when a candy thermometer measures 300F (150C).

This table shows the different stages when making candy:

Type of candy Temperature Stage In Cold Water Test
Fondant, fudge 237-240⁰F Soft ball
Caramel candy 240-248⁰F Firm ball
Nougat 260-266⁰F Hard ball
Taffy 270-289⁰F Soft crack
Toffee 300-310⁰F Hard crack

How to Avoid Undercooking Your Toffee

People undercook their toffee if they dont know how it should look when ready. Cooks use two tools or methods to check when their toffee is done.

Using a Candy Thermometer

A candy thermometer that measures how hot a sugar mixture is is one of the most accurate kitchen tools to check that your toffee mixture is cooked correctly.

Your candy thermometer will tell you when your toffee has reached the correct temperature, about 300F (150C).

However, if your candy thermometer is not working accurately, it can misread the temperature and result in chewy toffee. Test your candy thermometer by dipping it into iced water, where it should read 32F (0C), or boiling water, which should measure 212F (100C).

The freezing and boiling points will differ slightly depending on your elevation. Check the correct temperature range for your locations height above sea level, as it can vary by a couple of degrees.

Using the Cold Water Test

Another way of testing whether your toffee is cooked is to use the cold water test: according to this test, the toffee needs to reach the hard crack stage.

To use the cold water test, set out a wooden spoon and a container of very cold (not iced) water. Take your toffee off the heat so that it doesnt overcook while youre testing.

Drop a teaspoonful of your toffee mixture into the water.

Using your fingertips, pinch or roll the mixture. The texture of the sugar mixture will tell you what stage of cooking it has reached and whether it is ready.

The cold water test uses the reaction of hot sugar to cold water as a test: a hot sugar mixture hardens in cold water. The higher the concentration of sugar, the harder and more brittle the texture.

If your toffee has reached the hard-crack stage, the mixture should form brittle threads that snap easily out of the water.

The hard-crack stage tells you that your mixture has a high sugar concentration and that the other liquids have evaporated, which is what you need when making toffee.

If your toffee hasnt reached the hard-crack stage, cook it for a little longer to remove more moisture and test again.

Here is an explanation of the cold water test results:

Type of candy Stage Texture
Fondant, fudge Soft ball A soft, limp, sticky ball forms, easily flattened in your fingers.
Caramel candy Firm ball A ball that holds its shape will form.
Nougat Hard ball A hard yet pliable ball forms.
Taffy Soft or light crack The mixture forms firm, slightly brittle threads or strands that you can stretch or bend.
Toffee Hard crack The mixture forms stiff, brittle threads that snap easily.

Buttery Toffee Is Chewy

Hard toffee like peanut brittle or buttercrunch is sweet and crisp, breaking into shards.

This kind of toffee is so hard because it has a high concentration of sugar. The higher the sugar concentration, the crunchier the cooled toffee will be.

If youre using a recipe from the UK not the English toffee in the US you may find that it uses a lot more butter, milk, cream, or condensed milk. The high proportion of dairy means that the toffee mixture is far more moist, resulting in a lower sugar concentration.

This toffee style is more like a caramel candy and only cooked to the firm ball or soft crack stage.

How to Avoid Buttery Toffee

When youre setting out to make brittle, crisp toffee, make sure you use a recipe for buttercrunch or nut brittle, with a high proportion of sugar to liquid.

Use a US recipe rather than a UK one, as UK toffees are often intentionally softer and chewier.

Poorly Stored Toffee Is Chewy

When youve cooked your toffee to the hard-crack stage, and youve been rewarded with a tin of thick, crunchy toffee, its disappointing to come back a couple of days later only to find that it has softened and become chewy.

The chewy toffee culprit here is humidity instead of moisture from inside the toffee, this is moisture from outside.

How to Store Your Toffee

To stop your toffee from sticking together and becoming chewy, do the following:

  • Coat the toffee in a thin layer of cocoa powder (if covered in chocolate) or cornstarch (if plain). The powder will absorb excess humidity from the air and protect your toffee.
  • Layer your toffee between sheets of wax paper.
  • Store toffee in an airtight glass or tin container. Glass is less vapor permeable than plastic.
  • Store homemade toffee at room temperature for one to two weeks at the most, less if you have used a lot of butter. In warm weather, the butter can cause toffee to go rancid.
  • You can store toffee in the fridge for longer shelf life.

Final Thoughts

If your toffee turns out sticky and chewy rather than hard and crispy, check whether you have undercooked it or used a recipe that uses a lot of butter and cream. Stored toffee will also turn chewy if moisture gets in, so always store toffee airtight or in the fridge.


What happens if you overcook toffee?

The toffee continues to change color and becomes darker as the temperature rises. If toffee cooks to too high a temperature and the toffee is dark in color, unfortunately, there is no way to save this batch of toffee. Ways to prevent this from happening include: If you use a Candy Thermometer test it for accuracy.

Is toffee hard or chewy?

The toffee continues to change color and becomes darker as the temperature rises. If toffee cooks to too high a temperature and the toffee is dark in color, unfortunately, there is no way to save this batch of toffee. Ways to prevent this from happening include: If you use a Candy Thermometer test it for accuracy.

How do you harden soft toffee?

If you do not boil the toffee mixture on a high enough heat setting, it will not set. The recommended temperature for boiling toffee is around 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The secret to perfectly set toffee is how long you boil it and the temperature you heat it to.

How do you fix sticky toffee?

If you do not boil the toffee mixture on a high enough heat setting, it will not set. Toffee should be boiled at a temperature of roughly 300 degrees Fahrenheit. The key to properly set toffee is the length of time it is boiled and the temperature it is heated to.

Why is my toffee chewy and not crunchy?

When there is too much moisture in toffee, it becomes chewy. Undercooking toffee may leave it wet and chewy, and recipes with a lot of dairy can also result in chewy toffee. Humidity may affect toffee production and cause stored toffees to soften and become sticky.

Should you stir toffee while cooking?

Unlike other homemade candy and many caramel recipes that require constant stirring, toffee is different. It only needs to be stirred occasionally, otherwise it has a tendency to crystallize (turn sugary and grainy) or separate.

What texture should toffee be?

While butterscotch is cooked to a soft-crack stage, toffee is produced by allowing that same butter and brown sugar mixture to reach the hard-crack stage. Butterscotch tends to be chewy and pliable; toffee is brittle and more breakable.

How do you know when toffee is done?

Here’s how you know when the toffee is ready. Keep one of the almonds near the pan. It’s your color cue. When the toffee is the color of the almond skin, it’s done!

Why is my hard candy chewy?

water mixture.corn syrupWhy is my hard candy soft and sticky? The simple answer is that there is too much moisture in your candy. One or more factors could be contributing to this problem. In hard candy making, it is important to cook all the water out of the sugar

What does adding baking soda to toffee do?

For better crunch, add baking soda

The base soda is reacting with the acid sugar, plus heat, to make tons of tiny bubbles. Those bubbles remain trapped in the syrup as it cools in the pan, yielding toffee whose consistency is lightly crunchy rather than hard: think light-textured American-style biscotti vs.

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