Americans began boiling water, sugar and milk in deep kettles in order to make hard candies -- toffee and caramel -- as early as 1650. Centuries later, however, many people still tend to confuse the two confectioneries. While toffee and caramel are similar in their sweet taste and golden-brown colouring, they have a number of differences.
According to culinary website Chow, toffee is made from sugar and butter, while caramel is made from sugar and cream or milk, with butter occasionally included in the mix. The liquid provided by the cream or milk is key to providing the caramel's gooey texture.
Toffee is cooked to a hardened texture at temperatures of 146 to 154 degrees Celsius, while caramel is boiled to a firm-ball state at 120 degrees Celsius.
By cooking the two candies differently, you are creating two different types of sugar crystals. Chow explains that when cooking toffee, you are creating short-grained crystals, which causes the candy to become brittle and break easily; whereas caramel's cooking technique creates long-grained crystals, which enable it to bend.
Taste and Texture
While toffee is a hard and crunchy candy, caramel is gooey and soft. Both candies generally share similar sweet tastes, but toffee has more flavour due to its higher cooking temperatures.