Candy making is a challenging cooking task. I can say this with certainty because I’ve seen my mom – probably the best cook that I know – mess up a pan of caramel. I’ve done it plenty of times: I’ve overcooked things and had them come out burned, I’ve undercooked them and have them come out weird and stringy, and I’ve made other, more confouding mistakes (I remember one batch of caramel that was way too salty).
But since I’ve started following Deb’s advice, I am happy to say that I’ve had 100% toffee success. Tonight, after a meal of pork tacos with our friend Kaitlin, we decided to whip up a batch. (Also, we started watching The Killing, which is a totally great show. Can’t reccomend it enough).
The one catch with candy making is that you do need a thermometer. There are cooks that can eyeball things by dropping balls of syrup into ice water, but this is such a pain in the buttt. Really, it’s super easy to mess up. A candy thermometer is about $8 and you can get them at any grocery store. I use a $20 probe thermometer which works fine also.
Deb’s recipe has coffee and molasses in addition to the chocolate and sea salt topping. Normally this would be overkill, but it all works together really well. If you want to make things simpler (and less messy to eat) you can skip the chocolate. Don’t skip the salt, though. You do NOT need sea salt or fleur de sel – any kosher salt works great.
Mocha Toffee with Sea Salt
from Smitten Kitchen
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar [if you only have white sugar, use 1 cup white sugar and up the molasses to 1 tablespoon. It will still be delicious]
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses (can swap corn syrup or honey)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, or 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Combine the butter, sugar, molasses, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan so you can keep an eye on the temperature.
Meanwhile, take a smallish baking dish (ours is about 7 x 10; anything around there is fine) and line it with foil. Spread a bit of butter all around to keep things from sticking.
Stir the sugar mixture every once in a while, until the temperature reaches 250° F, then stir constantly until it reaches 300° F (this will take about 8-10 minutes to get to 250, then it goes to 300 quickly, so keep an eye on the mercury! [note: Sarah tells me that they don’t use mercury in thermometers anymore])
Pour the mixture into the pan, smoothing gently with a rubber spatula or spoon. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over and let sit 5 minutes to melt, then spread the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle with chopped nuts and another 1/4 teaspoon – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
At this point you can either refrigerate for a few hours or throw it into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Either way, wait until it is completely firmed up. Break into big pieces and serve! Store in a zipper bag or airtight container in the fridge, so the chocolate doesn’t get too melty.