Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday Toffee-Off

I love toffee. It is so basic yet so difficult to do well. The ingredients are simple: water, sugar, lots of butter, maybe some vanilla or nuts, covered with a chocolate-nut mixture. I've made it myself, but like many toffees, my version had good flavor but poor texture; it was rock-hard. Other toffees stick unpleasantly to your teeth. Good toffee should be buttery and not overly sweet. It should be firm but should break easily as you bite into it. It should be crunchy, never chewy.

Having tasted many toffees, I decided it was time for a toffee-off between my top three:

  • Enstrom's, based in Colorado, has a national reputation as one of the best toffee makers in the nation. This was my first time trying Enstrom's toffees.

  • Littlejohns, at the Farmers Market, is an LA legend and was my reigning favorite going into the match. The toffee is perfectly textured, has a beautiful crunch.

  • See's is, of course, a perennial holiday favorite.

From left to right, Littlejohn's, Enstrom's and See's

And, after a tasting, here's how they ranked.

1. Littlejohns - near perfect texture, crunchy without any stick or hardness. You can bite through a piece without forcing it. The flavor is wondrous; it's very buttery with a strong burnt sugar element as well. This just confirms for me what I've long believed...Littlejohn's is some of the best toffee around, and perhaps the best.

2. Enstrom's - very good texture, whole almonds are mixed in the toffee. The toffee flavor is not quite as good...there is a nice burnt sugar element, but it's lacking some of the buttery deliciousness of Littlejohn's. In addition, much of the chocolate coating fell off the toffee, but that could have been a shipping issue so I didn't deduct points for that.

3. See's- See's, for all my nostalgia for it simply isn't up to the other two. The texture is a bit more grainy. There is much less toffee flavor in the See's; it has none of the butteriness of the other two.

Happy holidays and enjoy your toffee.


Unknown said...

I work with the online community team for Enstrom's Toffee and came across your blog post. While I'm a bit disappointed we came in second, I just wanted to thank you for trying our product! It's always great to get feedback from someone who has never had our toffee before. Also, you might check out some of our other confections (like Peppermint Cookie Bark) at

Happy New Year!

sku said...

Thanks for writing in Enstrom's. Peppermint Cookie Bark sounds wonderful. I'll definitely give it a try.

Diana said...

I didn't particularly care for toffee until trying Little John's -- definitely worth the trip to the Farmer's Market! As for See's version -- I think I'll stick to their dark chocolate almond nougats.

Anonymous said...

I think with See's you need to get the big piece of Victoria toffee, with the hammer. I like it beetter than the small pieces.