NEWPORT BEACH — Betsy Thagard held the golden ticket at the 2011 Orange County Fair Culinary Arts Competition with her toffee recipe comprised of four ingredients: butter, sugar, chocolate and nuts.
The sweet and crunchy golden squares, the staple of Thagard's growing B. Toffee company, took home first prize in the category for toffees and brittles.
Since the launch of the B. Toffee in 2009, the confection has been flying off store shelves at local businesses, such as Promelis Westcliff Market, A Market and Kéan Coffee.
"I love to cook and I wanted to do something that was different," said Thagard.
So the Newport Beach resident took her toffee, which for years was only shared as gifts to family and friends, out of the kitchen and into the marketplace.
"It's really thrilling," said Bob Thagard, Thagard's husband of 25 years. "She's given it away as gifts for years and years before B. Toffee. People always said she should sell it."
But "toffee can be difficult to make," Thagard said. "You have to use only the finest ingredients. I don't believe in cheapening the recipe by using, for example, low-quality butter."
Thagard only cooks with Guittard and Callebaut gourmet chocolates for her toffee, which she says has a "decadent flavor" and "does not stick to your teeth like some other toffees."
A helping of B. Toffee in its Signature Canister runs for $4.99 for 3 ounces and $14.99 for 9 ounces, and other 4-ounce personalized packaging options in a variety of themes are $7.99.
In January, B. Toffee will be featured among the 1,300 exhibitors in San Francisco for the Winter Fancy Food Show, a program organized by the National Assn. for the Specialty Food Trade.
For now, the dark and milk chocolate toffee is sold at http://www.btoffee.com and though more than 30 vendors. However, Thagard said she is cooking up more ideas for growing her company, including a new website design that launches next month.
"I do firmly believe in my product," Thagard said. "I'm so excited to take the next step and continue to get it out there."
What: gourmet toffee; personal and corporate gifts