Melting Butter at High Altitude (8000ft)

Asked January 6, 2019, 12:47 PM EST

Melting butter (2 sticks) for traditional English Toffee at Christmas was a challenge. It immediately clarified (separated) and would not mix smoothly into the 2 cups sugar added. Is the altitude an issue in melting butter??

La Plata County Colorado

2 Responses

Hi Mary,
Thank you for the question. I would first recommend trying the same strategies to avoid separation at sea level. Slowly heat the butter. Make sure the butter doesn't experience an abrupt temperature shift, either too cold or too hot. Monitor the temperature with a candy thermometer. Because you are at 8,000, the temperature won't get as high as at sea level. You are looking for a finished temperature of between 255-275.
Toffee and caramel can also separate if the recipe calls for constant stirring and the candy isn’t stirred often enough. Additionally, separation is more likely to occur when using thinner (cheaper) saucepans, as they don’t conduct heat efficiently and lead to “hot spots” that can cause the butter to separate. Finally, humidity can cause the butter to separate, so if your kitchen is very warm and humid, it’s not a good time to be making candy.
If your candy separates during the cooking process, there is a chance you can save it. Sometimes separated toffee or caramel can be saved by removing the saucepan from the heat and stirring constantly and smoothly until it comes back together, then gradually returning it to the heat, stirring constantly. You can also try adding a spoonful or two of very hot water to the toffee to help it come together. Start with one tablespoon and stir the candy to help it come together. Add additional spoonfuls if necessary, but do not add more than 1/4 cup of water total. If you have already poured your candy out to cool by the time it separates, the candy is unfortunately too far gone to save. However, you can probably wipe off the excess oil and crush the toffee to use in baked goods or as an ice cream topping.

Thank you so much for your response. I found it very helpful. Mary