When my kid was about two months old, I became obsessed with coffee. I'm sure it was just a coincidence that the coffee kick began just as the number of hours I slept each night decreased, which also coincided with my getting weepy with joy over the transcendent experience of wrapping my fingers around my first coffee each day, even if I was looked at like a weirdo at the coffee shop.
Still, I tried to limit my coffee intake; I always thought it was a slippery slope from enjoying a single small drip coffee each morning to becoming one of those people who need nothing short of a 1-litre coffee tanker to make it in to work each day, and I was afraid to let my tidy coffee habit go. So, like any healthy adult, I sublimated my urges into baked goods, and soon coffee showed up everywhere. There was an espresso-soaked birthday cake, and mocha brownies, and chocolate-chip cookies made with chocolate-covered espresso beans. And, inspired by a pint of Ben & Jerry's Coffee Health Bar Crunch ice cream, wherein toasted butter and brown sugar mingled dreamily with crunchy powdered espresso, there was this toffee.
This is a grown-up toffee; it's almost bitter as it is sweet, from both instant espresso powder and molasses, and it makes a great gift for coffee junkies (and new parents - eh, same thing). If a sweet could ever taste like a cup of coffee, this would be it.
- 225g butter
- 95g light brown sugar
- 100g granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp molasses
- 1/4 tsp table salt (or 1/4 tsp flaky sea salt)
- 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder
- 170g dark chocolate chips or dark chocolate (minimum 70 per cent cocoa solids), chopped
- 70g chopped hazelnuts (toasted, skinned, and cooled), or another nut of your choice
1. Line a small baking sheet (mine is 23 x 32cm, to fit in my puny oven) with parchment paper or a silicon mat, and set aside.
2. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan with a sugar thermometer attached, melt butter, both sugars, molasses, salt, and espresso together over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with a whisk, until the temperature approaches 121c; then stir constantly until it reaches 149c.
3. Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet - spread evenly with an angled spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the toffee, let them sit for a minute until soft, then spread the chocolate evenly over the candy base.
4. 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.
5. Break the toffee into pieces, and store in an airtight container. If your kitchen runs warm, you might prefer to keep it in the fridge so the chocolate doesn't get sticky.