Christmas baking is in full swing in my kitchen! I don’t know about you but holiday baking is kind of my favorite so it’s easy for me to get a little out of hand. Tell me I’m not the only one out there that has a list of treats I have to make before the season is over. It’s admittedly a little crazy. But it hasn’t all just been for me… so that makes me feel a little bit better. I’ve been baking up a storm for my church, to give as gifts to family, and to fill orders I’ve gotten. And with Christmas just days away it’s about to get a little crazier (& I love it).
This Espresso Walnut Toffee…ah, where do I start? I swear to you this is hands down the very best toffee you will ever eat in your life. No, I’m not being over dramatic… it really is that good! This is one thing I’ve been making a lot of this season. I had been searching for years for a really good toffee recipe. For some reason every recipe I had tried came out “chip your tooth” hard and barely edible.
But last year for Christmas I was given blogger/author, Molly Wizenberg’s book “A Homemade Life”. For starters, if you love to cook & bake, if you’re a foodie… you will fall in love with this book! It will make you want to race in the kitchen and cook and bake your heart out. It’s really part memoir part recipe book. “Food literature”, if you will. Molly shares beautiful stories of her life and how cooking and baking became such a huge part of it. And at the end of each chapter she shares a recipe or two.
This toffee is a recipe that her mom made every Christmas when she was growing up. She said that her mom would give out tins full of goodies every Christmas and how this toffee was always raved about. After making it, it’s easy to see why. I made it for the first time on New Years Eve last year and was amazed at how delicious and beautiful it turned out.
I also made it for my churches Christmas dinner last week and got rave reviews on it. Thank you Molly for sharing this recipe with us! It has become a Christmas staple in my home and something I will be making for years to come.
Espresso Walnut Toffee -
(Recipe from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg)
Toasted walnuts fill this toffee that is infused with the warm flavors of espresso, cinnamon, and notes of caramel. It’s topped with decadent swirls of bittersweet chocolate and white chocolate and finished off with finely chopped toasted walnuts.
Candy making can be very intimidating (I hate anything I have to use a candy thermometer for), but really I found this recipe to be pretty easy. But you could always use this method to tell when it’s at soft crack stage if you don’t want to use (or don’t have) a candy thermometer.
I have to say though that the worst part of this whole process was melting the freakin’ white chocolate. Which became the bane of my existence. The recipe says to layer rows of chocolate and white chocolate on the still hot toffee and let it melt for a minute before swirling. Well the chocolate melted but the white chocolate never did. So I decided to melt it, drizzle it on, and then swirl it.
Well I tried the double boiler method, I tried the microwave…nope. All I was left with was a scorched lumpy mess. Has white chocolate (which is really just a fraud seeing as how it isn’t even chocolate at all) always been this hard to melt?! Though after doing a little research I finally figured how to do it. The way that worked best for me was melting a little bit at a time with a small amount of vegetable oil in the microwave for 10 second increments. Yes, it takes a while but it’s worth it. Click here for more on melting white chocolate.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this toffee has the most perfect texture! A nice crunch, especially with the walnuts, but is not going to chip your tooth lol. Because you know, it’s always good to have all your teeth still intact after eating candy.
I could really eat this all year round but it’s definitely even more special during the holidays. Whether you’re going to give it as a gift or keep it for yourself, I hope you give this lovely toffee a try this holiday season! :)
2 cups walnuts
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp. unsulfured molasses
4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, very finely chopped
4 1/2 ounces white chocolate, very finely chopped
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter
Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Put the walnuts on a baking sheet, arranging them in a single layer, and bake until they are fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. Do not allow them to burn. Set them aside to cool, about 10 minutes, then coarsely chop them. Transfer 1 1/2 cups to a small bowl. Then finely chop the remaining 1/2 cup, and put it in a separate bowl.
Prepare your ingredients and equipment. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the water and molasses. Put the chopped chocolate into their own separate bowls. Grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray or butter.
In a heavy, 2 to 3 quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add sugars, espresso powder, cinnamon, salt, water, and molasses and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the mixture registers 290 F (and no less), stirring frequently at first, and then slowly and constantly scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula, about 20 minutes.
When the mixture is up to temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Immediately stir in 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet; do not scrape the saucepan. Tilt and gently shake the baking sheet so that the toffee spreads to a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle the chocolates by the generous tablespoonful's onto the hot toffee, alternating rows of bittersweet and white. Allow them to melt for 1 minute. Using the back of the spoon, spread the melted chocolates, taking care not to mix them. Then drag the tip of a small knife or the tines if a fork across the chocolates, swirling them to create a marbled look. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.
Slide the pan into the refrigerator, and chill until the toffee is firm, about 1 hour. Break it into pieces of whatever size your like.
NOTE: Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, toffee will keep for up to 2 weeks. Serve it cold or at room temp. Yields about 2 pounds.