Toffee brittle is a confection consisting of a hardened sheet of one or more types of sugar and butter mixed together, heated, and cooled. The hard, brittle texture is achieved by heating the ingredients to a certain temperature. Additional ingredients may be added for a richer treat, and the confection can be enjoyed a variety of ways. Several types of toffee brittle exist, and its popularity is said to date back to the early 1800s.
A mixture of molasses, sugar, or treacle syrup with butter serves as the base for toffee brittle. Ingredients are heated to a "hard crack stage" at about 295° to 310° Fahrenheit (146° to 154° Celsius). At this point, the solution will toughen significantly, cracking or forming breaks if chilled instantly. The mixture is removed from heat, poured onto a baking sheet, and allowed to cool and harden. The finished product is broken up into large chunks or can be scored into bars before hardening.
Additional ingredients may be added for decadent confections with a toffee brittle base. Chocolate is the most common topping, varying in strength and flavor. Semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate is the most common type used, melted and mixed with butter to keep it creamy, and then spread over the cooling brittle, sometimes topped with sea salt for a savory touch. Brittle may also have nuts stirred in before cooling. It is often eaten on its own, but can be added to ice cream, cakes, or pies. Various candies feature a toffee layer or center as well.
Signature variations of toffee brittle also exist. English toffee contains a large amount of butter and typically has almonds mixed into it. Cinder toffee brittle has baking soda and vinegar mixed in for a particularly crunchy, light candy. Butterscotch is a type of toffee using large amounts of butter and brown sugar, though more common in syrup than brittle form. Pieces of butterscotch may also be added before melting the ingredients to capture its signature flavor.
Like butterscotch and taffy, toffee is likely to have gained popularity during the 19th century, when sugar and treacle, its liquid byproduct, became affordable. The earliest known commercial toffee was sold by Samuel S. Parkinson in 1817. The term was previously spelled "toughy" and "tuffy," perhaps a reference to the treat's sticky texture.