The 3rd Cookbook Club meeting reviewed Deb Perelman’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” and I made the Coffee Toffee from the cookbook. We had 12 members present which is a really great representation of recipes from the book as it resulted in 12 different dishes being sampled. As usual, our club was ruthless in its review – which I love. I was really keen to hear what everyone thought about the book overall as I have fairly mixed emotions about it. It’s witty and funny in its writing, but sometimes the recipes can fall flat or are lacklustre. Our group was split on a final call of between 5 or 6 out of 10 overall. This overall rating means we’re happy we tried and would seek a recipe or 2 from SmittenKitchen.com in the future, but are not running out to purchase the cookbook.
On the whole, the cookbook contains a few standout dishes, like the cookbook club’s favourite Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette and my personal favourite Mustard Milanese with an Arugula Fennel Salad. A number of members felt that it is was difficult to really get into the cookbook, that there wasn’t a recipe screaming from the pages for them to make. This is pretty telling since we have a couple of members who will make upwards of 5 recipes from the book before our meetings. I find that I turn to this cookbook when I have a specific ingredient that I want to use in a quick and easy way, as well as for some dependable freezer meals.
A few comments from members included that the recipes were easy, but long and that there were assumptions that the reader should already know how to do something (as if there was a missing link in a recipe). I find this last comment surprising as the cookbook starts by explaining how it’s recipes from a home cook who had to learn it all (in a tiny kitchen). Our club has a variety of cooking experience (none to cooks all the freaking time like me) and Smitten Kitchen should have been perfect for everyone – a cookbook that contains recipe after recipe that “exceeds expectations”. Instead we didn’t dislike any of the recipes, but not very many of them grabbed our hearts and made us want to make them again.
I found that some tools were missing from the cookbook, such as the candy thermometer that was required for the Coffee Toffee. To be honest, mine was broken so I mostly guessed on the temperature by the colour of the toffee as I was cooking it which is only something I’d suggest doing if you’re comfortable cooking sugars and caramels. The toffee mixture needs to get extremely hot (300° F) so that the toffee sets hard. It it doesn’t reach that temperature you’ll end up with a chewy caramel instead or worse, a caramel that’s so runny you can’t even cut it (totally happened to me before). The Coffee Toffee is solid option for a grown-up’s version of toffee, laced with strong espresso and topped with a thin layer of chocolate … just enough to satisfy the chocolate cravings we all have (we do, right?).
Yields approximately 1.5 lbs toffee
Chewy and chocolatey toffee treat with hints of espresso. Toffee all grown up!
5 minPrep Time
15 minCook Time
20 minTotal Time
- 16 tbsp (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (95 grams) brown sugar, levelled, but not packed
- 1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
- 1 1/2 tsp molasses
- 1/4 heaping tsp flaky sea salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)
- 1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder (decaf espresso works too)
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or 6 oz./170 grams semisweet chocolate, chopped)
- 1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
- Line a small baking sheet with non-stick paper.
- In a medium heavy sauce pan (with a candy thermometer attached), melt butter, brown and white sugar, molasses, salt, and espresso together over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally with a whisk until the temperature reaches 250°F. Then whisking constantly, until mixture reaches 300°F.
- Carefully pour mixture onto baking sheet and spread evenly with a spatula. Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over the toffee and let sit for about a minute until softening, then spread chocolate evenly over the candy base. Sprinkle hazelnuts over chocolate.
- Place in fridge (or freezer) till toffee is set, about 15-20 minutes.
- Break toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container.