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Why’s my English Toffee sticky?


CSY
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I made this on a "butter:sugar=1:1" base.

I didn't use the candy thermometer, as I don't seem to manage too well to cook and read at the same time. Instead, I did the cold water test(use tab water, not icy cold water though). As soon as the drop-in-the-water gives a "snap", pull the saucepan off the heat and poured onto the buttered/oiled cookie sheet.(I have a new digital probe thermometer, haven't test its accuracy yet.)

Slice the candy when cooled off a bit, to give an easy break later.When candy completely cooled, it seemed quite nice, only leaves a oily stain on your fingers when picking up, but they don't stick to each other. When you bite into them, it's also an OK snap, don't stick to your teeth when you chew.

Then, I wrap the candy in aluminum foil and put in airtight container. I want to see for how long they can keep before I go forward with a bigger batch. (For that reason, I made the candy "naked", without the chocolate and nut layer, so it's easier to identify any future changes to the candy.)

Now it's day 3, I checked the candy: sticky. :wacko:

-the pieces lost their glossy shiny shell(same like when you leave a store bought candy out in the open, not very appetite-arousing to look-at)

-sticky to the touch and begins to glue with each other

-when you bite, not that much of a "snap" any more and they stick to your teeth(considering they're already foil-wrapped)

My original plan was to make the candy(with the choc and almond), pack in tins and send out, now seems this can't be done with this sticky problem. Why's that happening? Is it because I didn't use the candy thermometer and didn't cook it long enough? Or do professional candy people have some special things done to their English Toffee?

Candy gurus out there, can you tell me how to fix this?

Btw, my toffee tastes nothing like those Almond Roca in the pin canister, more on the buttery side. Shall I cut down on the butter used as well?

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Question for you - How quickly did you boil the candy initially? Long slow boils cause more sugar inversion, inverted sugar is hygroscopic (attracts water) and will make your candy sticky.

The loss of shine and change in texture makes me wonder if the sugar has crystallized, when you break the candy what does the texture look like? (Hard question I know)

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Kerry Beal's eGCI class on toffee might help answer some of your questions.

Thanks for the link! I’ve been reading on Kerry’s version and noticed that she uses cocoa powder to dust the toffee’s oily surface. This is one step not mentioned in any other recipe, maybe that could have made the difference? Yet, candies like Enstrom’s, they aren’t fully enrobed and have butter-naked sides that are open to the air. I still couldn’t figure this out.

Also, last night, I made yet a new batch, this time using more icy water for the test. The candy is HARD and CHEWY. I mean, those are two totally different quality(hard crack and soft crack stages from what I read)and aren’t suppose to happen in the same piece of candy, no?

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Question for you - How quickly did you boil the candy initially?  Long slow boils cause more sugar inversion, inverted sugar is hygroscopic (attracts water) and will make your candy sticky.

The loss of shine and change in texture makes me wonder if the sugar has crystallized, when you break the candy what does the texture look like?  (Hard question I know)

Kerry,

For fear of separation, I boiled the candy over extremely low heat on the gas stove, using a regular saucepan, not a heavy-bottom one. Stir like a mad man all the way through(Some say stir, some say don’t. So one time I tried not-stir, and the toffee was heated unevenly: one spot got caramelized before the rest of the pot is done. I stick to the “mad stir” method after this one incident. I figure by adding corn syrup, won’t matter stir or not, as recrystallization won’t happen if I add corn syrup once the cane sugar came to a boil. Am I right on that one?)

Can I say your second question is really really difficult…I wish I had the camera right next to me! So, I grab a piece of candy, and break it open to check out the inside, this is the best I could describe it: a little bit moist. I think I could see some very tiny “sweats” on it(don’t know if it’s oil or water). I then wipe it with a kitchen towel to see if this could “soak up” the “moist” and give the toffee a “dry” look. Nope, same olde English toffee.

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Sounds like a couple of things to try - first use your thermometer. There is a huge range of results you might get when you test your crack stages in water depending on water temperature, experince with the technique etc, so you will probably benefit from the consistancy of the thermometer initially. The same ingedients will have very different structures depending on the temp to which they are cooked.

Do you have a heavy pot or access to one? That will allow you to cook a bit faster which will minimize the inversion. And you won't have to obsess as much with the stirring.

This candy can still crystallize in spite of the glucose, what makes it's texture is the way it cystallizes. It does change over the days after you cook it. I actually did some experiments that we talked about somewhere, where I added some fine sugar after cooking to encourage crystals of a nice small size.

With the 'tiny sweats' you can wipe off, do they evaporate and feel crystalline, or remain greasy after a couple of hours?

The cocoa powder works great for getting the chocolate to stick. I've never seen the advice anywhere either, just something I figured out - hey I'm in inventor!!!

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Sounds like a couple of things to try - first use your thermometer.  There is a huge range of results you might get when you test your crack stages in water depending on water temperature, experince with the technique etc, so you will probably benefit from the consistancy of the thermometer initially.  The same ingedients will have very different structures depending on the temp to which they are cooked. 

Do you have a heavy pot or access to one?  That will allow you to cook a bit faster which will minimize the inversion.  And you won't have to obsess as much with the stirring.

This candy can still crystallize in spite of the glucose, what makes it's texture is the way it cystallizes.  It does change over the days after you cook it.  I actually did some experiments that we talked about somewhere, where I added some fine sugar after cooking to encourage crystals of a nice small size. 

With the 'tiny sweats' you can wipe off, do they evaporate and feel crystalline, or remain greasy after a couple of hours?

The cocoa powder works great for getting the chocolate to stick.  I've never seen the advice anywhere either, just something I figured out - hey I'm in inventor!!!

Kerry,

I will be using digital thermometer then! I did read once that they could be more than 10 degrees off when temp>212F, guess that’s part of the reason why I didn’t use it before. I have two of these, the old one is actually brand new, just that I noted a 12F discrepancy when the water temp actually hit 212F, which got me to buy a new one immediately after. Are mercury ones much better and stable?

Do you mean with a heavy-bottom saucepan, I should turn the heat up to medium-high instead of extremely low? I’ll try to control myself not to stir as much when the mixture comes to a boil.

Shame I couldn’t really tell(for now) what grainy or recrystallization is like, I’m now eG-ting your thread mentioned. Recrystallization seems like a plague that everyone try to avoid. Yet when you don’t know about it, you don’t worry about it, even your pot is yelling right this moment “I’m crystallizing! I’m crystallizing!” That’s the benefit of being candy-illiterate.

About the “tiny sweats”, I need to break up some new pieces and see if they would be “dried” or “greasy” in a few hours. My memory says “greasy” though…but I could be wrong, so I will test and find out. And I’m thinking maybe the cocoa powder would be a fix-it-all…Ahhh, it’s not right for me to think like that…

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... using a regular saucepan, not a heavy-bottom one...

Please let me say something about saucepans.

When you're boiling sugar, for me, the ideal is something with copper in the base. I believe it works like this: copper conducts heat best, then aluminium, then cast iron. What that means is that you can get even heat right over the base of the saucepan with only ~2mm thickness of copper. To get the same with aluminium, you need ~6mm thickness (in the sizes we're talking about in cookware).

When you switch off the heat, the base continues to release the heat it is holding. (The sides of the pot do, too: particularly with cast iron pots ('All Clad' too)). Typically in saucepans copper will cool (pass on the heat) quickest, then aluminium, then iron. With sugar, ideally you want to be able to stop quickly - so, you want copper.

This doesn't mean you need mega-expensive all-copper kit. Stainless steel with a copper-disk bottom (of sufficient thickness: 1.8mm or 2mm ?) will be fine. In inexpensive stuff, Cuisinart's stainless copper-bottomed stuff, for example, is perfectly practical.

Any thinner base will result in 'hot spots' as you experienced: fine for boiling water, not so good for sugar. Yes, you can compensate by stirring but agitation affects crystallisation, and who wants to be tied to the saucepan anyway ?

Edited by Blether (log)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I couldn't have said it better myself.

That being said I use an allclad 8 quart for some things and an old lagostina professional for others. It's a clad pot as well, thick enough to prevent burning, allow me to use a higher heat and avoid having to stir all the time.

I have a new 4 1/2 quart meyer induction compatible pot that I picked up at Tuesday Morning while I was in Hershey. It has what appears to be an aluminum disk on the bottom, covered in stainless so it can be used on an induction element. I'm interested to see if it is large enough to make a batch of something like chewy caramel with out boiling over. I want a pot that has a smaller surface area than the 8 quart allclad.

So get that heavier pot and try turning up the heat to medium and see how it goes.

As far as a thermometer - I tend to use the pyrex digital, they are fairly reliable at the lower chocolate tempering temperature and when the calibration goes off a bit, then I use them for candy. A non digital glass candy thermometer would work just fine, but it has a tendency to get in the way when you stir and therefore you sometimes get a bit of burnt stuff behind it.

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I didn't have time to read through everyone's responses, so I'm not sure if this has been mentioned or not. Your toffee is getting sticky because it isn't coated in chocolate to protect it from the moisture in the air. If you want to make uncoated toffee pieces and store them, then you need to put it in an air-tight container with some dessicant.

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  • 1 month later...
... using a regular saucepan, not a heavy-bottom one...

Please let me say something about saucepans.

When you're boiling sugar, for me, the ideal is something with copper in the base. I believe it works like this: copper conducts heat best, then aluminium, then cast iron. What that means is that you can get even heat right over the base of the saucepan with only ~2mm thickness of copper. To get the same with aluminium, you need ~6mm thickness (in the sizes we're talking about in cookware).

When you switch off the heat, the base continues to release the heat it is holding. (The sides of the pot do, too: particularly with cast iron pots ('All Clad' too)). Typically in saucepans copper will cool (pass on the heat) quickest, then aluminium, then iron. With sugar, ideally you want to be able to stop quickly - so, you want copper.

This doesn't mean you need mega-expensive all-copper kit. Stainless steel with a copper-disk bottom (of sufficient thickness: 1.8mm or 2mm ?) will be fine. In inexpensive stuff, Cuisinart's stainless copper-bottomed stuff, for example, is perfectly practical.

Any thinner base will result in 'hot spots' as you experienced: fine for boiling water, not so good for sugar. Yes, you can compensate by stirring but agitation affects crystallisation, and who wants to be tied to the saucepan anyway ?

Thanks Blether for the guidance. I will now remember this: a copper pot is essential for candy making.

I intend to get an IH stove because of the heat issue. It's not fun to stand for a long time in front of a gas stove when you're cooking candy. Yet sales person said you can only use iron-based cooking with the IH stoves, and she particularly mentioned that copper/anything non-iron-based won't work.

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I couldn't have said it better myself. 

That being said I use an allclad 8 quart for some things and an old lagostina professional for others.  It's a clad pot as well, thick enough to prevent burning, allow me to use a higher heat and avoid having to stir all the time. 

I have a new 4 1/2 quart meyer induction compatible pot that I picked up at Tuesday Morning while I was in Hershey.  It has what appears to be an aluminum disk on the bottom, covered in stainless so it can be used on an induction element.  I'm interested to see if it is large enough to make a batch of something like chewy caramel with out boiling over.  I want a pot that has a smaller surface area than the 8 quart allclad.

So get that heavier pot and try turning up the heat to medium and see how it goes. 

As far as a thermometer - I tend to use the pyrex digital, they are fairly reliable at the lower chocolate tempering temperature and when the calibration goes off a bit, then I use them for candy.  A non digital glass candy thermometer would work just fine, but it has a tendency to get in the way when you stir and therefore you sometimes get a bit of burnt stuff behind it.

Kerry, I want to say thanks for a long time for all the kind suggestions you've been giving me yet got distracted...by other candy recipes that keep popping up during online research. Shame. I understand you have to be focused if you want to make good candy and one at a time really is the way to go.

I don't have very good control over this sticky issue yet, I therefore sometimes use cracker crumbs/almond dust to cover/absorb the moisture. But that shouldn't be the right attitude with proper candy-making.

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I didn't have time to read through everyone's responses, so I'm not sure if this has been mentioned or not.  Your toffee is getting sticky because it isn't coated in chocolate to protect it from the moisture in the air.  If you want to make uncoated toffee pieces and store them, then you need to put it in an air-tight container with some dessicant.

Hi Naes, I did store those in airtight containers before, after several days, pieces seem to melt a bit and begin to stick to each other. I have no idea how they will look like when they've been sent through postal: will they still seem yummy or will one simply look ruin the recipient's appetite? I read somewhere that you should keep toffee in plastic containers and never in metal ones or ziploc bags else they stick. I will get the dessicant however.

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I just picked up a couple of All-Clad copper core sauciers and they are wonderful for candies and custards. A halfway decent thermocouple should give you accurate readings at higher temperatures, too.

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