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Sticky Molasses Toffee {sweet swap}

July 15, 2013

Disaster had never struck so frequently or, for that matter, so wholeheartedly as it did the week I started making treats for the Sweet Swap.

There were the not-quite-right-but-still-quite-tasty sour fruit gummies in passionfruit and cherry-mango flavours. A whole tray of lime flavoured jubes that were just as delicious as they were likely to become deadly choking hazards. Tried and tested fudge recipes (spiked with pink and szechuan peppercorns) became oddly grainy and overly sweet. Even dinner made the night after a day of failures was littered with mistakes.

Alone in my sticky, failure-ridden kitchen, I put my recipe books aside, read Mr McGee’s chapter on sugar, and went back to what I knew.

Black Gold Bars

The chest-filling warmth of chai spices; cinnamon, cardamom, cloves. Creamy and fragrant and tongue tingling.

The bitter-sweetness and luxuriousness of darkest dark chocolate and coffee.

A burst of chilli to spark your senses. Salt for lip-smacking savoury.

And then to a toffee recipe that had never failed me yet.

Black Gold Bars

Oh, it’s complicated. I know. There are too many bits and pieces and steps and measurements needed. There’s the risk of burning. There’s the pain of waiting. There’s the sheer number of things that need to be cleaned and the annoyance of hot water on set sugar in the sink and the scraping and soaking and pulling at dregs.

There’s the pain in your wrist that comes from cutting sheets of cellophane into flimsy squares and twisting, twisting, twisting.

The ache in your shoulders that comes from painstakingly dabbing gold lustre powder on the tops of semi-set chocolatey caramel.

But it’s worth it.

Black Gold Bars

The first taste will be of chocolate and salt. Dark and smooth and sparky.

As it warms, you’ll happen upon some caramel. Lush and velvety and infused with some unknown warmth that creeps into your senses and settles them.

There is coffee in the aftermath. A rich berried brew that somehow goes beyond its instant beginnings.

And just as you think you’re done. As the last of the sweet dissolves into nothing. There is spice. A cayenne pepper kick that envelopes your tongue and has you blinking.

Black Gold Bars

I made these beauties for three lovely bloggers, Chocolate Johnny, Maureen of Orgasmic Chef and Ed from YaYa’s YumYums (who hopefully received them in one piece, and in a silver foil box aptly inscribed with the word “TREASURE”).

And in return, I received a gladly washi-taped package in rosy-red and gold sparkles filled with the most amazing salted buttery almond brittle from Anna of The Littlest Anchovy (who also happens to be one of my favourite bloggers, and who has wrote a guest post on this site just last year). I may or may not (read: definitely) overdosed on it one evening and spent the wee hours of the morning rubbing my belly and sneaking just that little bit more in until it was taken from me and cruelly hidden.

Days later, my doorbell rang again, and when I popped the door open there sat a black and red box, tied with a jaunty satin ribbon. Inside, one of my favourite treats in one of my favourite (and ridiculously difficult to obtain) flavours. Home made matcha kit-kat by Julie of I Dream in Chocolate (and whose treats I’d been secretly stalking on instagram) (and whose hubby shares the same birthday as me!). Even better than the original (which I was also supplied with a sample of – whee!) and resplendent with matcha powder speckles.

My final package was personally delivered by none other than Sweet Swap organiser, and good friend of mine, the lovely Sara of Belly Rumbles, who cheekily tricked me with her text message just days before confirming my RSVP to her birthday party. “Reason being” she said in a craftily worded message “one of the people coming have been matched to you for the sweet swap & they will bring your sweets to give to you.” I should have known better, but appreciated the salty almond bark (in white and milk chocolate no less!) irrespective of her trickery.

What a lucky girl am I!

Black Gold Bars

black gold bars
 
aka mocha-chai & smoky chilli molasses toffees, which is far more of a mouthful to say than "black gold bars" and not half as interesting
Ingredients
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 6 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, crushed
  • ¼ tsp ginger powder
  • just a pinch of nutmeg
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup thickened cream
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 2 tbsp chocolate syrup (I used Hershey's)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • ½ cup molasses
  • ½ tsp salt flakes
  • 50g butter
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt flakes
  • bits of gold lustre powder (if you like)
  • some dark chocolate
How to make it
  1. Put the cinnamon quill, cloves, crushed cardamom, ginger, nutmeg and vanilla in a saucepan along with the thickened cream and simmer on a low heat (without bringing to the boil) for 10 or so minutes. Add the instant coffee and chocolate syrup, stir briefly, then pop a lid on top and take the saucepan off the heat. Leave it be for at least half an hour, so that the flavours of the spices infuse into the cream and make it lovely and warm and spicy. Strain the cream through a sieve to remove the big spices (the powdered ones are fine to stay in the cream) and set the cream aside.
  2. Line a 25cm x 25cm square tin with parchment or greaseproof paper, with a bit of overhang so that you can lift the finished toffees out easily.
  3. Pop the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan about three times as large as you think you'll need (staying away from aluminium or stainless steel) and heat it, without stirring, until all of the sugar has melted. Pour the molasses in and heat it until it reaches at least 125C. Because of the impurities in the molasses, it will smoke a good deal and you might think it's burning, but persist (or you'll not end up with set toffees).
  4. Pull the saucepan off the heat, add the butter, the ½ tsp of salt and the cream and stir so that it all comes together. It will bubble like mad and you'll think you've completely wrecked it all, but it's fine. Promise.
  5. Pop the saucepan back on the heat and reheat it again, hitting that elusive 125C mark, then set it aside to cool a touch.
  6. Pour the finished toffee into the tin, letting it spread to the corners, then sprinkle the cayenne pepper and salt all over the top. Grate some chocolate on top of the still hot toffee and it will melt in nicely.
  7. When the toffee is mostly set, but still a bit squishy, slice it into bars and use a brush to pop a touch of gold on top. Let them cool fully before wrapping.


  • #1
    July 15th, 2013

    Whoa, these are so deeply seductive Shez. I just love the flavours here and I am certain your recipients would have been in a blissed- out daze after eating them.
    Thank you so much for your lovely, lovely words! I was so pleased that you loved my package – I think I have a washi-tape addiction now…

  • #2
    July 15th, 2013

    wahh these look really good! the spices must of made them heady and warm for winter!

  • #3
    July 15th, 2013

    OMG these look absolutely divine! Treasure indeed.
    I like your writing style as well…..I may or may not have drooled onto the keyboard 🙂

  • #4
    July 15th, 2013

    Oh, my, gawd. The flavour of these black and gold bars sounds sooo amazing. Like Anna said, they sound sooooooo seductive.. I even want to wink at my screen

  • #5
    July 15th, 2013

    It seemed quite a few of us had some “hiccups” along the way but we got there in the end! 🙂 Your bars look and sound absolutely amazing, yum!

  • #6
    July 15th, 2013

    Oh Shez. Absolutely love your work, from the recipe to the whole black and gold theme of your display photos.

    Bravo my dear, bravo. I bet your Sweet Swap recipients must have been so happy 🙂

  • #7
    July 15th, 2013

    So lucky to have been the recipient of these as they were amazing. Love your work Shez 🙂

  • #8
    July 15th, 2013

    ok sold – i really want one, pleaaaase….

  • #9
    July 15th, 2013

    Okay, now I really really want one! If only there was a second sweetswap. I’ll have to try these out.

  • #10
    July 15th, 2013

    The end product looks amazing (with no signs of mishaps). Drooling over the photos

  • #11
    July 16th, 2013

    These were beautiful!

  • #12
    July 16th, 2013

    i love to have it while watching tv

  • #13
    July 16th, 2013

    An enticingly adult treat! This should be the kind of thing featured in “My Day On a Plate” columns, where a virtuous, lithe person says, “10pm: I snuck in a naughty square of Shez’s Black Gold Bar. I only need half a square because it’s so intense and dark and satisfying.”

  • August 3rd, 2013

    Haha! Goodness!

    I was sharing a couple of spares with some bloggers in the middle of an industrial area next to my car and they have never seemed quite so illicit as they did then.

  • #14
    July 16th, 2013

    What a recipe! All those spices + molasses + good things combined into delicious morsels would have been a dream come true for many and especially your three recipients I’m sure. 🙂

  • #15
    July 18th, 2013

    These completely rock! I can say that as an expert, cause lucky me got to try some, yay!! Awesome addictive toffees Shez.

  • #16
    July 22nd, 2013

    Unfortunately, Sara didn’t save any for me to try!! So, I’ll just have to imagine how amazing they were. What a great sweet treats. Thanks so much for participating this year.

Shez