A decadent combination of caramelized sugar and butter, it’s no surprise toffee is beloved across the globe. The sweet treat rose to prominence in England—the first entry of “toffee” in the Oxford English Dictionary appeared in 1825, though historians speculate it was in use much earlier—and other northern European countries with well-established butter industries.
Indeed, English toffee still evokes a certain style, though what that style is depends on where you’re from. Americans, for example, often think of English toffee as containing chocolate and nuts, but most traditional English toffee recipes call for only butter and sugar—no mix-ins. To the British, the addition of chocolate and/or nuts is known as “buttercrunch.”
So why the name mismatch? Speculation suggests that American candymakers branded buttercrunch “English toffee” due to its easily recognizable name. Regardless of whether you’re enjoying buttercrunch or toffee, it’s important to look for a rich brown color—which signals the sugar caramelized correctly—before you head to the cheese aisle.
When two cherished candies come together, the results are doubly sweet. Milk chocolate is the most common mate for toffee—match its creaminess with a firm sheep’s milk cheese like Ossau Iraty; The wheel’s notes of fruit and brown butter echo the sweetness of the milk chocolate. For dark chocolate lovers, consider something bolder like the Dunbarton Blue. This cellar-cured cheddar shot through with blue veining stands up well to cacao, while its sharp bite echoes the bar’s bitterness.
Hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, and pecans are no strangers to cheese pairings, and they frequently appear in toffee, too. Regardless of whether you’re making toffee or buying it from the store, ensure that the nuts are fresh for a satisfying crunch. To match the sweet-nutty notes of hazelnut toffee, reach for an aged gouda (which is nearly candy in itself). Or, to up the crunch factor with any nut toffee, consider Hoch Ybrig. After aging for a year, this cheese develops crunchy protein crystals as well as slightly savory, brown butter notes.
L’Amuse Signature Gouda + hazelnut toffee
Rolf Beeler Hoch Ybrig + nut toffee
From baked brie to cheddar in apple pie, it’s no secret: Americans love adding sweet sauces to cheese. So why should it be any different for toffee spread? A drizzle-able concoction of sugar, butter, and heavy cream, toffee spread is easy to make at home and is rife for cheese pairings. Keep it simple and pour it over a dense rectangle of cream cheese, or take a cue from everyone’s favorite holiday app and use it to top a wheel of brie.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese + toffee spread
Marin French Cheese Petite Crème + toffee spread