What's the difference between a brittle and a toffee, you ask? The short answer is not much. They look similar, they taste similar, and they can even have a similar texture. But, the slight differences are easy to point out. Brittles are typically composed mostly of sugar, while toffees contain a fair amount of butter and in some cases milk. This makes toffees fuller and richer in taste, while brittles are more purely sweet and sugary. Brittles are also much thinner than most toffees. Here we cover what sets these popular candies apart in taste, texture and cooking technique.
All About Brittle
You may have been introduced to brittle with peanut brittle, one of the most popular confections around the world. Peanut brittle isn't mentioned in print until the 1890's and it's debatable whether it was made by mistake by an American woman during that era, or if it was passed on from Europe much earlier. Here in the US, peanut brittle was a popular fundraising tool in schools before chocolate candy bars took over, and go as far back as the 1830's in American family kitchens.
In addition, to peanut brittle, there is also walnut brittle, pecan, cashew almonds and other nuts that make a pleasant brittle candy. Many brittle recipes, require you to pull and stretch the still-warm candy to make it extremely thin. The pulling gives it an extra-brittle quality (hence the name), producing a candy that almost seems to shatter when you bite into it. In terms of taste, salt is sometimes added to brittle, but it's a sugary candy.
All About Toffee
In the US, English toffees are popular. They are generally softer than traditional toffees as they contain more butter than usual. But, not all toffees are soft and chewy, some can be as hard as brittle. Those shiny candy apples you know and love, that's a form of toffee coating. Taste-wise toffee is sweet, but it has a depth to it that goes well with chocolate. To compare it too brittle, toffee uses more butter and a little more baking soda in general. You'll also notice brown sugar being used in toffee, while brittle usually sticks to granulated sugar. Milk is sometimes added to toffee, making it chewier than usual and fudge-like.
Comparing Toffee vs. Brittle Recipes
If you compare their recipes, the stark difference between toffees and brittles is their butter and/or milk content. Ingredients in toffees are also cooked together, while brittles' ingredients are not. The sugar and water of a brittle are first cooked in the oven usually at 300F to a hard crack stage. Then nuts and corn syrup in some recipes are added and the brittle is cooled. It's broken into pieces after cooled. On the other hand, toffee starts with a combined sugar/butter/nut mix cooked together and is cooked in a saucepan, reaching a slightly lower temperature hardball state, and then the toffee is poured out in circles to be baked in the oven. It usually not broken after being cooked.