Spicy Caramel Nut Candy Bar… With Cocoa Nibs


*You can now purchase my candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
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This is a candy bar by way of Caramello, spicy candied nuts, and a caramel nut tart.

I like it a lot. The flavors of cinnamon, clove, ginger, and cayenne pop out from the nut, caramel, and chocolate background in an addictive way. Every bite is a little different, b/c the nuts and cocoa nibs are randomly arranged. The nuts and molded tempered chocolate also give it a satisfying crunch. With its spices, it’s also perfect for the holidays.

Candy bar engineering has proven to be quite the challenge — I’ve been reading much more about confections than actually making them recently. Why? Sugar and chocolate. Both of those encompass huge worlds of finicky formulations and exquisite possibilities. Factor in the effects (and prices) of fats/dairy like cream and butter, and you’d also be running for the books and classes before blithely throwing them together. I’ll post my developing treatise when I get some more free time.

Spicy Caramel with Nuts and Cocoa Nibs – This has quite a genealogy. For my Restaurant Project in culinary school, I made the Caramel Nut Tart from the Lucques cookbook, but it re-crystallized if made as written (with 2.5c sugar and 2/3c cream). Although it was delicious that way, I experimented a bit, and found that a caramel made of 2.5c sugar and 1c cream comes out quite gooey, but not runny. That seemed perfect for a candy bar filling… So, I made this bar with my adapted way, and in addition to the 2 tsp of honey also originally called for, I added 2 tsp of corn syrup in hopes of bolstering its chew.

For the spicy nuts, I adapted the proportions for Spiced Candied Nuts in David Lebovitz‘s Room For Dessert. I knew I wanted to use 3/4c nuts b/c of the tart filling recipe, so I adjusted the amounts of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cayenne pepper to fit. There were 2 5/8 tsp total of spices, which looked like a lot, but I was feeling lucky. In the finished bar, they blend into the caramel without a powdery finish, which is a relief. I might decrease the cinnamon and increase the cayenne next time, to see what happens.

For the question of when to add the spices to the caramel, I turned to Gale Gand’s recipe for Cinnamon Peanut Brittle, which I’d adapted to make for my culinary school graduation. She adds the spice after the sugar is caramelized, but before she adds butter. So, I added the spices after the sugar was caramelized, but before I added cream.

And for the actual nuts to use, I turned to my fridge: peanuts, walnuts, and Marcona almonds. I toasted the former two, and coarsely chopped them all up, knowing that I wanted neither a paste nor big chunks of nuts that would stick out of the chocolate mold and prevent me from sealing the bars correctly. I also added Scharffen Berger cocoa nibs, b/c I had them and they’re good. I didn’t measure any amounts of anything, except the 3/4 c total. Next time, I’m going to be sure to add a higher proportion of cocoa nibs. They add such complexity when you get one in a bite.

I waited for the caramel mixture to cool to 85F before I filled my molds; any higher, and the chocolate could melt. I then began the painstaking process of using the ends of two butter knives to deposit the caramel mixture bit by bit into the molds b/c it wasn’t pourable. In the future, I could add more cream to make it more runny, but I do like it the way it is so maybe I’ll try to think of a better method. In any case, since it’s only one filling, it’s much easier to engineer than a ganache and cookie combination, like with the Malted Caramel Ganache and Vanilla Shortbread Candy Bar…. which reminds me — I need to start thinking of snazzy names for these things.

I thought about adding a few crystals of fleur de sel or the like in the mold before filling it, but it’s probably not necessary. The bar already has a good, balanced flavor, though the spices strike everyone slightly differently, according to their palates.

Chocolate: Cacao Barry, Mi-Amere, 58%. I like this as my dark chocolate b/c it has a pleasant chocolate backbone flavor; it’s not too fruity or overpowering. And it melts nicely on the tongue. And it comes in pistoles, so I can tempering with pistoles instead of blocks of chocolate.

When I’m filling the molds, I have to remember to keep the chocolate at the higher side of its tempering range so that it’s a little thinner. My walls were a bit thick this time.

10 Responses to “Spicy Caramel Nut Candy Bar… With Cocoa Nibs”

  1. The TriniGourmet Says:

    how absolutely gorgeous 🙂 ! Will you be making these as gifts too? 😀

  2. fattypr Says:

    Seriously. You need to make them as gifts and send them to people you know 🙂 This is in no way meant to be a self-esrving comment 🙂

  3. McAuliflower Says:

    I’m really enjoying reading of your candy bar making adventures!

    In addition to names for them, I can’t help but wonder on their wrappers.

  4. Nina Says:

    Yes, I’m hoping to send them out as gifts this year…. but given my crazy work schedule nowadays, they might be “new year’s” gifts, rather Christmas gifts. 🙂

    And I’m still working on their wrappers. For now, I’m using Gold Foil Wrappers by CK Products. They’re 6″x6″, and they just fit perfectly inside. Later on, I’d love to add a layer of paper over that w/ logo and name…. so the wrapping in all would be modeled on something like a Kit Kat wrapping.

  5. fattypr Says:

    Do you have any ideas for names yet? Or should we start brainstorming?

  6. Nina Says:

    No names yet…. My attempts at names usually involve a list of ingredients… People seem to get impressed and then overwhelmed…. and so I go over the ingredients again… slowly…. and the magic sags just a little.

    So, yes, PLEASE BRAINSTORM AWAY!!!

  7. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » My Candy Bar Business Says:

    […] So, what bars am I going to offer? The Caramel Bar. The Malted Bar. The S’More Bar. The Coconut Bar. They’re all in, but are being minorly or majorly tweaked. I have six other main contenders, and loads of back-up ideas. You’ll be hearing lots about them. […]

  8. Shaggs2dope Says:

    YAY CANDY!! MMMM CANDY!

  9. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » The Scotch Bar Says:

    […] Spiced Caramel Nut Bar S’More Bar The Coconut Peanut Butter Bar Coffee Bar Malt Bar Banana Bar Beer Bar Orange Bar […]

  10. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse, Two Ways Says:

    […] Believe it or not, I actually went for an eggy mousse for my first version b/c I wanted that thick, bubbly texture as a refinement of the texture of peanut butter. My recipe was based on Albert’s Mousse in Bittersweet by Alice Medrich. I subbed 33% of the semisweet chocolate with peanut butter, used slightly less liquid (milk and water; to make up for the looseness of the peanut butter compared to chocolate), included Tuaca as the alcohol (an orange-vanilla liqueur from Italy), and whipped whole eggs. Since there was no cream in the mousse, I thought I’d put some on top, whipped. I also had some spiced nutty caramel leftover from a candy bar experiment, so I thinned it with water and put that in the bottom of the glass for kicks. […]

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