Welcome to my tales of cookery school, food and travel

The first 30+ posts of this blog describe my experiences as I complete a nine month cooking course - the City and Guilds Diploma in Food Preparation and Culinary Art. I did this after I moved out of full time employment and it was purely selfish - I love food, cooking, eating and drinking. Subsequent posts are about, food, travel and adventures.

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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Cooking up hard crack

Disclaimer: this crack cooking is about hard candy,  but that in itself is about as addictive as the other crack, though in this case entirely legal.  Although maybe it shouldn't be, given just how damned addictive this is.

We make this at work and serve it with one of the desserts. If the  container is left anywhere in sight, the contents seem to rapidly deplete.

this may look innocent, but herein lies the path to addiction
It is amazing how simple innocent ingredients such as butter, a little molasses, brown and white sugar - all of which have the power to addict - can make you totally delirious  through the artful addition of another evil trio - salt, chocolate, and coffee - and the application of of a little chemistry.  

Breaking Bad has nothing on this.

Time to confess.  I have never made candy before.  Or tried crack for that matter.

My first time using a sugar thermometer
Oh sure, intellectually I knew about the important temperature stages when boiling sugar: 
thread 110° - 112°C; 
soft-ball 112° - 115°C; 
firm-ball 118° - 120°C; 
hard-ball 121°- 130°C; 
soft-crack 132°-143°C; 
hard crack 146°-154°C; 
but practically, I am untested. 

It is testament to the properties of this sweet that I am venturing into uncharted territory that looks slightly scary.  Boiling sugar to exact temperatures is a little more Mrs. Benson's 4th form science class than I feel comfortable with.

Anyway, I gird my loins, gather the necessary equipment and sally forth. 

The recipe comes from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen blog, which is really good by the way, except for having to metricise the quantities if Deb hasn't done it already.  However it is such a good blog Deb has a page with conversion tables.  For your convenience I have made the conversions in the recipe below.  By the way, I know many of you non Americans struggle with recipes that specify "a stick of butter".  Engrave this on your heart: a stick of butter is equal to 8 Tablespoons, or 1/2 cup, or 113 grams.

Coffee Toffee
225 grams butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses 
1/4 teaspoon salt (or more if you like salty caramel - I used a good tsp of flaky sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder - what the heck? well, Americans and their "coffee". I made a double shot and used that.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, or 170 grams semisweet chocolate, chopped - I used Whittaker's Dark Ghana, my cooking choc of choice
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts (toasted, skinned and cooled) or another nut of your choice - lazy as I am, I couldn't be bothered skinning hazelnuts, one of my least favourite kitchen jobs. Why do some of the little suckers hang so fast to their skins?  I toasted and chopped walnuts.



Line a small baking sheet with baking paper or a silicon mat. In medium heavy saucepan with a candy thermometer attached, melt butter, brown sugar, white sugar, molasses, salt and espresso together. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk until the temperature approaches 125°C, then stir constantly until it reaches 150°C (that's your hard crack).

Pour immediately onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it as evenly as you can using a spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot toffee and let them sit until soft, then spread the chocolate evenly over the base. Sprinkle the chocolate with chopped nuts and then, if you’re as impatient as a crack whore needing a fix fast, cool in the freezer until the toffee is set. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container. You might want to keep it in the fridge.  You definitely want to keep it way from anyone else who may want to share it. 

oh yeah baby
I will admit, it does stick in your teeth but it does dissolve away in a couple of minutes and it's a small price to pay for the pleasure. For those of you faithful readers who remember him, I wonder if Jiggly guy had discovered this, he may have finished the course.  After all, one man's crack is another man's hard candy.