Why Is My Toffee Too Soft? (3 Common Causes)

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Toffee, often called English toffee to distinguish it from the softer American taffy, is a hard, crunchy candy. Ideally, toffee should be so hard that you can snap it into pieces.

If your toffee hasnt set but remained soft and squidgy, theres a problem. Why does toffee sometimes turn out too soft?

Toffee stays soft and doesnt harden if you havent cooked it to a high enough temperature, between 270 and 300F. Toffee will also be soft if you use a high proportion of butter or condensed milk. Humidity can also influence how hard your toffee will be.

Depending on your preference, the texture of toffee can range from soft, chewy caramel to shard-like brittle. Simple toffee recipes include sugar and water, but you can change this up with cream, butter, syrup, and condensed milk to vary the hardness level.

Lets look at what makes toffee soft and how to fix toffee thats too soft.

Why Is My Toffee Too Soft?

Why Is My Toffee Too Soft? (3 Common Causes)

Even if you prefer your toffee more toothsome and less crunchy, youll always want this type of candy to be firm. If your toffee turns out too soft, there are a couple of elements you need to look at.

1 – Soft Toffee Is Undercooked Toffee

The primary reason for toffee being too soft is that it is undercooked. Undercooking toffee doesnt mean cooking it for too short a time. Instead, undercooked toffee implies that the sugar didnt reach the required temperature or stage of cooking.

To set properly, your toffee mixture needs to reach the hard-crack stage, which means it will measure 300F (150C) on a candy thermometer. Look at this table to see 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 Test That Your Toffee Is Cooked

Usually, you undercook your toffee if you dont recognize when it is cooked. Fortunately, there are tests and tools to help you cook your toffee to the right temperature.

The “Brown Paper Bag” Test

One way of recognizing when your toffee has cooked enough is to use the so-called brown paper bag test. This test simply means cooking your toffee until it is the color of a brown paper bag.

When you start cooking your ingredients, they will be pale whether youre using a traditional recipe that only includes sugar and water or one that has butter, syrup, or treacle as ingredients.

Slowly, the mixture will turn frothy, and after about four minutes, it will start turning brown.

However, it would be best to keep cooking until the mixture has turned medium to golden-brown, the color of a brown paper bag. This might take up to 20 minutes.

The Cold Water Test

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

To perform this test, use a clean wooden spoon or warm metal spoon to drop a tiny quantity of your sugar mixture (less than a teaspoonful) into a container of very cold water.

Pinch the mixture together with your fingertips. The texture will tell you how hot the mix is and whether it has reached the correct temperature.

Hot sugar will react to cold water by hardening, so the higher the concentration of sugar, the harder the texture. If your mixture has a high sugar concentration, it means the other liquids have evaporated, which is what youre looking for.

Just take care not to let your toffee mixture burn or overcook while you are testing instead, remove it from the heat.

If your toffee hasnt reached the correct stage, cook it for a little longer 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.
Using a Candy Thermometer

One of the most accurate kitchen tools to check that your toffee mixture is properly cooked is a candy thermometer.

A candy thermometer is a unique kitchen tool that tells you when your mixture has reached the correct temperature, about 300F (150C).

Check the accuracy of your thermometer. Test it by plunging it into iced water it should read 32F (0C). Boiling water should measure 212F (100C). This temperature will differ slightly depending on how far above sea level you are. Check the correct temperature range for your elevation.

2 – Humid Weather Causes Soft Toffee

Humidity can influence the result of your candy-making activities. Check the weather report before making toffee, as moisture can make your toffee soft and limp.

On humid days, make sure that you cook your toffee to at least one degree higher than on dry days. Also, make sure that you lay it out to set in a cool, dry place.

If possible, avoid making toffee on warm and humid days.

3 – High Butter Content Causes Soft Toffee

Traditional hard toffee recipes contain only sugar and water, rather like the brittle you make using nuts. This kind of toffee is very sweet, with a crisp, breakable texture.

Brittle toffee gets its texture from the high sugar concentration the higher the sugar concentration, the harder a mixture will be upon cooling.

Most toffee recipes, especially for English toffees, contain butter, milk, cream, or condensed milk. This dairy content reduces the sugar concentration and creates a softer, more decadent toffee.

If you want a crunchier toffee, choose a recipe with less butter.

Final Thoughts

Why Is My Toffee Too Soft? (3 Common Causes)

Your toffee will turn out too soft if you undercook it, have too much butter in the recipe, or make toffee when it is humid. To avoid soft toffee, make sure you cook it until it is as brown as a paper bag, also known as hard crack stage, or 300F.


Why did my toffee turn out soft?

Why is my toffee soft? If your toffee doesn’t have a hard texture (where you can snap it in half) you did not cook it long enough. Again, the 5-minutes is just a guide. Cook it until it is the color of a brown bag.

How do you get toffee to harden?

Place toffee in the refrigerator until set, about 1 hour. Lift hardened toffee out of the baking dish with the parchment paper. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

How do you fix toffee that didn’t harden?

How to Save Toffee That Did Not Set Correctly
Place the toffee mixture into a large pot and add one and a half cups of water to the pot.
Stir the toffee over low heat until it dissolves.
Increase the heat, and bring the toffee mixture to a boil.

Why is my toffee chewy and not crunchy?

When there is too much moisture in toffee, it becomes chewy. 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.

What does overcooked toffee look like?

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.

What does baking soda do to toffee?

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.

Do you stir toffee constantly?

Stir only occasionally (not constantly) and avoid scraping down the sides of the pan. Stirring too quickly or too often can cause the toffee to separate. Moderate the heat as needed – turn it down if the toffee is boiling or cooking too fast so it doesn’t burn.

What to do with failed toffee?

If your toffee separates, there still is hope! Remove it from the heat and stir constantly until the mixture comes back together, and then gradually return it to the heat while continuing to stir. You can also add a tablespoon or two of very hot water and whisk it into the toffee to try to get it back together.

How long does it take for toffee to reach hard-crack stage?

Recipe for brittle toffee

Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and put the sugar thermometer in the pan. Bring to the boil, then continue boiling until you reach ‘soft crack’ stage on your thermometer (140C). This may take up to 30 minutes, so be patient.

Why isn t my toffee thickening?

1 – Use Heavy Cream Instead of Milk

Generally, toffee sauce recipes that utilize heavy cream instead of milk will be thicker. They’re easier to get to turn out thick. If you want a thick type of toffee sauce, it’d be simple to achieve this by using heavy cream. It isn’t as thin as milk and will produce better results.

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