I seem to be on a bit of a coffee kick these days — Exhibit A being Alex’s Espresso Chiffon birthday cake with Fudge Frosting and Exhibit B being Thanksgiving’s ridiculous Cappucino Fudge Cheesecake. I’m sure that’s it just coincidence that the coffee kick began just as the number of hours I slept each night decreased, which also coincided with me getting weepy with joy when I wrapped my fingers around my first coffee of the day each
morning afternoon. Amazing how you can drink something your whole life but it then all of the sudden one day it becomes a transcendent experience, you know?
Nevertheless my fascination with the intersection of coffee and toffee goes back much longer than that, at least as far as the Espresso Chocolate Shortbread Cookies I made two years ago, and realized that the only thing that could make it more delicious would be to use a chocolate that had toffee bits in it. When Alex brought home Ben and Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch this week, I was again reminded of this amazing thing that happens when the buttery, tangy caramelized flavor of toffee contrasts the bitter edginess of espresso, and decided at once to combine the two in one espresso-soaked candy.
Three batches later I can confidently declare that I remain as unskilled in the candy-making department as ever but that if I can pull this off, surely anyone with a candy thermometer can. Er, should you choose to read it, which I failed to do in the first batch, which was burnt — details. But even burnt, I loved the bitter coffee flavor, so unexpected when you’re eating something that is essentially cooked sugar. Batch two was a success that I failed to photograph and by batch three, I am surely an expert so trust me when I say that it is good, very very good. Like first cup of coffee in the morning good, salty buttery caramel good, homemade candy gifted in cellophane bags good… or you know, cotton onesie sleeve good, you know, whatever floats your boat.
Yes, with the molasses again. After discovering how it brings out all coffee’s awesomeness in baked goods, I had to add it to this one too. Of course, if you don’t trust me that it only adds a subtle bitter tinge or are molasses-averse there are alternatives but we really liked it. And also the espresso — if a piece of candy could ever taste like a cup of coffee, this would be it.
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses (can swap corn syrup or honey)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (toasted, skinned and cooled) or another nut of your choice
Line a small baking sheet (mine are 9×13, to fit in my puny oven) with parchment paper or a silicon mat and set aside.
In medium heavy saucepan (I used a 3-quart) with a candy thermometer attached, melt butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, salt and espresso together over together. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk (one that reaches into the corners is especially helpful here) until the temperature approaches 250¯F, at which point you should stir constantly until it reaches 300¯F.
Pour immediately into the prepared baking sheet — you can spread it more evenly with a offset or silicon spatula but don’t worry if you have neither. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee and let them sit for a minute until soft, then spread the chocolate evenly over the candy base. Sprinkle the chocolate with chopped hazelnuts and then, if you’re as impatient as we are, you can slide the sheet onto a cooling rack in the freezer until the toffee is set.
Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. If you’re kitchen runs warm, you might prefer to keep it in the fridge so the chocolate doesn’t get soft.