Friday, December 10, 2010

Espresso Toffee

I make Almond Toffee every Christmas for friends and family. This year, I wanted to make it for one of my friends who can't have nuts, so I was puzzling over what I could add that would give it a satisfactory crunch. I work for Tony's Coffees and Teas and it dawned on me that crushed espresso beans might do the trick. Indeed, it's delicious! It's also stronger than regular toffee and will please those people who don't like candy super sweet.

In this batch, I used Espresso Noir beans. I think a dark roast balances best with the toffee's sweetness, though I imagine a medium roast would be delicious as well. I wouldn't use anything as dark as French, or you may run the risk of overpowering the toffee completely.

Espresso Toffee
Espresso Toffee
Makes about 50 small pieces

1/2 cup espresso beans, coarsely crushed
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar or vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons very hot water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 ounces 74% dark chocolate
(Theo's Madagascar is best)

Crush espresso bean with a mortar and pestle. You don't want any to be whole, but be careful not to grind to a powder or the toffee will become sandy. Chill in freezer about 1/2 hour before using. Grease a sided cookie sheet about 10.5" x 15.5" with butter.

Crushed Espresso Noir Beans
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, slowly melt the butter over very low heat (lowest setting or no higher than 2 on an electric stove). Do not allow it to discolor. Then add the sugar over low heat, stirring every few seconds until it is all dissolved and you see no separation between butter and sugar.

Once the butter and sugar have not bubbled but are completely incorporated, mix together the hot water and corn syrup, then pour it into the butter slowly, stirring just once or twice.

Keep cooking on moderately low heat. Do not stir, but gently cut through it occasionally. Cook until about 300 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer or until a small portion dropped into ice water is brittle and not quite tacky on the teeth. It will be brown and bubbly, fawn-colored. If it smokes, stop cooking immediately as it will burn very fast. When you think it's close to done, start tasting pieces from the ice water. This takes practice to find just the right color and consistency.

Once it's cooked, quickly remove from heat and fold in crushed espresso beans. Be gentle, do not stir, and mix as little as possible while still incorporating beans. The more you work it, the more likely it is to separate as it cools. Pour out into greased cookie sheet and allow to set at room temperature about 1/2 hour. Move to fridge and let it harden at least 2 hours before continuing.

When toffee is cold and hard, melt the chocolate over low heat. Spread in a thin layer over hard toffee. You may want to allow the toffee to rest at room temperature for 1/2 hour before doing the chocolate, so it warms up slightly and doesn't harden the chocolate too quickly. This depends on your method; if you work fast, you can put the chocolate on directly from the fridge. Refrigerate until very cold and hard, a minimum of 2 hours.

Break cold toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container in refrigerator. Serve cold or just at room temperature. If it gets too warm, the chocolate will begin to melt. It's just as tasty that way too!

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