Coffee Toffee from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

by on November 12, 2012

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.


Coffee Toffee

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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts, and then set aside to cool and harden.
  4. After it is cooled, break apart toffee into chunks and store in an airtight container.
Recipe Source:

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Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blog is the New Black November 12, 2012 at 2:55 am

What an awesome idea!!


2 j3nn November 12, 2012 at 3:20 am

This could satisfy so many cravings in one, not to mention a nice little caffeine perk.


3 Averie @ Averie Cooks November 12, 2012 at 4:28 am

I so want to try this! I love toffee, and coffee, and like you, the coffee I make at home I’m particular about, but you may have me beat because your machine looks way fancier than mine :) But I do love my java and this recipe sounds so perfect! Gorgeous images, too! (as usual!)


4 Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) November 12, 2012 at 5:12 am

This is genius! My husband looooves toffee – I have to make this for him! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the cookbook and see what other genius recipes SK has!


5 Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar November 12, 2012 at 5:43 am

This sounds so good! I’m in total love.


6 JulieD November 12, 2012 at 8:07 am

This is beautiful, Todd! And her book is just amazing. I got it in the mail the other day, I can’t wait to cook or bake from it. I love that the coffee snob is the one who got me totally into coffee this year. :)


7 jaime @ sweet road November 12, 2012 at 8:19 am

Ok, you got me with the chocolate and the hazelnuts… I didn’t even need to know about the molasses and the espresso!


8 LiztheChef November 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

OK, there is going to be a toffee contest in my kitchen, my recipe against Deb’s – should be fun…


9 deeba November 12, 2012 at 8:30 am

Anything coffee is right up my street, and anthing coffee from Deb has to be a winner! This is FAB!!


10 Christi Nielsen November 12, 2012 at 9:04 am

If you’re going to make it, make it the best! I share your coffee snobbery. My snobbery tends to spill over into all food. And art, for that matter. ;-) Can’t wait to try this one!


11 Christi Nielsen November 12, 2012 at 9:07 am

You might want to check your link at the top of the recipe text. I don’t think you meant to send us there. :)


12 White on Rice Couple November 12, 2012 at 10:16 am

Thanks for looking out for us! Looks like we forgot the http: and it was tacking on our address first. All should be fixed now!


13 Megan | EatsDaily November 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

Funny post! I am sometimes a coffee “snob” as well.
This recipe looks delicious. But if some of us don’t own an espresso machine, how should we go about getting espresso? I actually stopped into Starbucks once because I was making a dessert that called for 1 espresso shot but is there an easier way?? :)


14 White on Rice Couple November 12, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Our backup “espresso machine” are the stovetop espresso makers. You can pick up a smaller one for about $20. Works great for camping too.


15 Alicia November 12, 2012 at 7:23 pm

That looks soooooo good! I got Deb’s book the other day and made the mustard milanese for dinner tonight.


16 dervla November 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

eeek i have to try this! I’m a tea drinker myself (hope that’s acceptable, Todd!) but love the coffee flavor in baked goods. I made Smitten’s pumpkin gingersnap tart for our company bakeoff on friday and won first prize!! I highly recommend that recipe too.


17 White on Rice Couple November 13, 2012 at 9:21 am

Tea is more than acceptable (not that you need my approval). It is such a beautiful beverage. If I hadn’t already fallen for the siren’s call of coffee, tea would probably be our comfort of choice. Looks like I’m going to have to make the pumpkin gingersnap tart next!


18 Loretta | A Finn In The Kitchen November 13, 2012 at 7:22 am

This is just another sign that I need to get this book! I don’t even drink coffee, but I love using it as an ingredient. What an incredible recipe!


19 Shut Up and Cook November 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Every Christmas my Mom and I make Old English Toffee together and it is absolutely one of my favorite traditions. It is a bit tricky, but always worth it in the end. Excited to give this rendition a try!


20 Kiran @ November 14, 2012 at 9:42 am

I’m a true espresso gal. No artificiality for my cup of caffeine ;)

Love the coffee toffee and I can’t wait to get my hands on Deb’s beautiful book!


21 Sharmila November 14, 2012 at 9:50 am

I am perhaps, the only food lover in the country who doesn’t have this book yet. Thanks for sharing this recipe and reminding me that I need to get a copy of it. I love the flavour of coffee in food and am smitten (what else could i be?) with this recipe.
The photos and this post are both gorgeous!


22 Vespa Woolf November 15, 2012 at 4:02 am

I love candy making and I love espresso even more, so I’ll definitely try this. BTW, that’s one sexy espresso maker! I enjoyed this blog entry very much.


23 Caroline November 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

This looks amazing! All of my favorite flavors in one! Looking forward to making it!


24 Alana November 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

This looks like a tremendous adaptation (I turn my nose up at instant coffee too). I was actually searching for a coffee-based treat to make for a friend today so I’m giving these a go right now, will let you know how it goes!


25 Nora November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Yes! Got my copy on Friday, been drooling through it all weekend. Love your blog!


26 Janice December 3, 2012 at 1:34 am

This looks fantastic. I might make some to share as Christmas gifts around the office. I was wondering if I can skip the molasses or swap them for something else, perhaps?
Thanks for yet another beautiful post.


27 White on Rice Couple December 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Since it was Deb’s recipe not our own, we haven’t tested out that many different variations of it and we don’t have enough toffee experience to give a solid answer. Hopefully someone will chime in.
Good luck.


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