Coffee Toffee

Let's talk favorite things, shall we? Since I'm the one asking the rhetorical questions here, I'll go first. Cue the Julie are a few of my favorite things:

  • Fresh notebooks
  • Offset spatulas
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Back-to-back episodes of Storage Wars
  • Little C singing to the Annie soundtrack, loudly
  • A drawer full of clean dish towels
  • Lillet and soda
  • Espresso powder for baking
  • Pecans by the handful
  • Sugar and butter bubbling on the stove
Now, I may not have Oprah-level Favorite Things, but that's all right by me. Because I've found a way to combine the last few items of my personal favorite things list and my mind is of sort of blown by the whole thing. So take that, Oprah!
Then again, I guess making Coffee Toffee is what I would call an Oprah-level ("Life-chaaaangiiing!!! Life. Changing. Lifechanging.") moment. Dang. Oprah wins every time, doesn't she?
Well...psshh-shaa. Whatever. I bet Oprah doesn't even make her own candy.

But maybe Oprah would make her own Coffee Toffee is she knew how dead simple it was. It takes little more than butter, sugar, pecans and espresso powder to make the magic happen. I don't see how this could not go well, do you?

This recipe is a riff on my Gifting Toffee, the confection that I turn out of my kitchen roughly 100 times during the holiday season. People go bananas for that stuff, I'm telling you. It's akin to currency for some. But here I've decided to forgo the chocolate. Now, before you gasp and get all concerned, you'll be happy to know that the healthy dose of chunky pecans and je ne sais quoi that comes courtesy of espresso powder more than make up for the lack of chocolate. Plus, leaving the toffee naked really lets the irresistible flavors of browned butter and caramelized sugar shine. With a nice smattering of salt in the mix for balance, oooh-weeee. Let's just say if you give little bags of this stuff away, people will crown you the Oprah of Candy. Or something equally as epic.

Coffee Toffee

If your pecans are on the large side (I will refrain from a dirty joke here), then break them in half so they'll distribute more evenly throughout the candy. I like Diamond kosher salt for its clean flavor, and sometimes even use fleur de sel if I'm feeling fancy. For Morton kosher salt or table salt, use half the amount.

Makes about 2 pounds

1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (see note)
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup raw pecans halves

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat, or line it completely with aluminum foil and spray it with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, begin melting the butter over medium-high heat with the salt. Once the butter is about three-quarters melted, add the sugar all at once, followed by the corn syrup, and begin stirring immediately. Continue stirring, gently in a figure-eight motion, until the butter is completely melted and the sugar has begun to dissolve, about 5 minutes--the mixture will turn from looking like a separated mess into something much more smooth and homogenous. It will also just begin to bubble at this point and take on a lovely blond shade. Turn the heat down to medium-low and stir the candy occasionally. Think low and slow--the bubbling will be sort of groovy and dreamy-looking, not a full, rapid boil.

Once you notice a change in the color of the candy--about 10-15 minutes later--clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. Continue stirring occasionally. You are looking for the candy to take on a beautiful, creamy toffee color and hit a temperature of 290 degrees (soft crack stage). When it has climbed to about 285 degrees, pull the pan from the heat (the temperature will continue to rise on its own). Quickly mix in the vanilla and the espresso powder, stirring until the powder is well-blended. Stir in the pecans.

Quickly pour the toffee onto the prepared baking sheet, and use an offset spatula to smooth it as evenly as possible (it will not fill the entire pan). Set the pan on a wire rack and cool completely. When the toffee is cool, break it into charmingly irregular pieces and store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

CandyShauna Sever