Diane would like to apologize in advance for anything I am about to say. She says I’m a coffee snob.
I don’t know whether to respond with a “Duh!” or a “Phbbttt!”- or however you spell sticking your tongue out. After all, she did first meet me in a coffee house almost 17 years ago.
Snob may not be the right word. I mean, I do love my coffee but I’m still polite about it in public. I’m not going to lambast someone for their personal choice in caffeinated beverage. When traveling I’ll drink what’s offered without a cringe or frown. Yes, even the cheap motel coffee.
However, when it comes to what I make for myself, I am … particular.
After all, this is a ritual which begins nearly everyday. It should be beautiful. Indifference to its quality is akin to not caring about the morning sunrise. Without seeing it, we probably wouldn’t even think twice about how it looked or made us feel. But if we stretch our toes out of bed and take in the morning sun, its beauty lightens the soul and changes the approach to the day.
So, for me, I make it important for I find comfort in it. Going out of my way to buy from the coffee roaster I like the best, and always seeking and experimenting with other potentially delicious beans from other coffee craftsmen. Last year we finally invested in the espresso machine I’ve been dreamy eyed over for the past decade, a manual press La Pavoni espresso machine.
Alluring, classic, simplistic yet difficult to master unless you pay attention to the details. And it makes a beautiful espresso. This is a machine created for loving ritual.
So as I was flipping through Deb (of Smitten Kitchen fame)’s new book, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and I came across her coffee toffee recipe I had to pause. Coffee in a delicious toffee, this had to be good. As she rhapsodized about her near addiction to the little black beverage and translated those urges into baked goods, I knew I had to make this recipe.
Deb’s new cookbook is full of great recipes and inspiring techniques on how to make it from scratch. It’s a satisfying book that will have you busy cooking throughout the year with seasonal recipes as well. And as always, Deb’s witty, funny and personal writing keeps you engaged with every recipe that she brilliantly pens.
After running through the ingredients for her coffee toffee, I notice she calls for instant espresso powder. Um, that is something I don’t allow in the house. We actually do have it at the studio since we had a client whose recipes called for the stuff, but at home… No.
I struggle, for I vowed to remain polite in public about coffee matters, so I shall say no more. But for me let’s just leave it at; I think this ingredient is morally wrong.
So I went to work on Deb’s recipe, changing out the @#%& for a true espresso shot, used our preferred dark chocolate to top it, and went with her first choice of topping the toffee with hazelnuts (she mentions you can use another nut of your choice but the initial call for hazelnuts seemed divinely perfect). The end result was, as Deb put it “…grown-up toffee; … If a piece of candy could ever taste like a cup of coffee, this would be it.” Absolutely marvelous.
A beautiful espresso laden toffee, adapted from Deb Perlman's The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. You'll need a candy thermometer to know when to stop cooking the toffee.
- 1 cup (227g) unsalted Butter
- 1/2 cup (110g) Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup (100g) Sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (11g) Molasses
- heavy pinch flaky Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
- 2 oz. (60ml) Espresso
- 1 cup (170g) Dark Chocolate Chips or chopped Dark Chocolate
- 1/3 cup (40g) chopped Hazelnuts
Line a small sheet pan or baking dish with parchment paper (toffee will be less than 9"x11" in size)
- Melt butter, sugars, molasses, salt and espresso in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook, whisking occasionally over medium-high heat, until temperature reaches about 250°F. Now still constantly until temperature reaches 300°F.
- Pour onto prepared sheet pan (be very careful, a toffee or caramel burn are the worst). Spread evenly to your preferred thickness. Allow to set for a minute, then sprinkle chocolate chips over toffee. Let them sit for a minute or two to soften, then spread chocolate evenly over toffee.
- Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts, and then set aside to cool and harden.
- After it is cooled, break apart toffee into chunks and store in an airtight container.