The Coffee Bar

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The Coffee Bar: Coffee Chocolate Nougat swirled with Caramel and topped with Hazelnuts.


But… this bar is about texture as much as it is about flavor. It has a soft, supple nougat wrapped around an even softer chewy caramel layer — if left to its own devices, the caramel will slowly bulge out of an open bar after a few minutes. The nuts add a satisfying crunch that cuts through the chewiness of the nougat and caramel.

In a way, this is a forbidden bar for me — coffee gives me headaches/shakes/anxiety and I usually despise the taste of hazelnuts. But I knew that I wanted to make a coffee-flavored bar, and after tasting plain and almond-studded trials, I found myself dying to try it with hazelnuts. And with good reason — they work wonderfully with coffee and caramel. The flavors together are practically intoxicating.

After all my experiments with nougat, I can make this one in my sleep now. I went through at least 10 different versions of the recipe (and made some versions several times). I adjusted the temperature it was boiled to, the ratio of sugar to glucose, the amount of chocolate in it, the type of chocolate in it, and more. It was wonderful to see how each factor affected the finished product — and how subsequent versions might have to be adjusted to compensate for certain results — but what’s funny is that my final version is almost identical to my first version. It turned out that decreasing the amount of egg white by just a 1/4 ounce in my first version fixed everything. How elegantly simple… at long last.

And the coffee flavor comes from very finely ground Kauai coffee beans, freshly ground in my spice grinder. I guessed the amount in my first try, and adjusted it in subsequent versions until it was as strong as I wanted it. It has to be very finely ground, or else tiny bits of coffee linger in the mouth.

The caramel is based on this wonderful fleur de sel caramels recipe, which I made last year (at the time, I felt kind of weird about just a short, simple post about it). For this, I used glucose instead of corn syrup, kosher salt instead of fleur de sel, and decreased the final boiling temperature. I’m going to do a post soon on caramels, b/c they’re fascinating things.

The swirl was something of a happy accident. I have a tendency to roll doughs out rather thin, and that’s just what I did with the nougat in one of my early versions. The caramel layer that I poured on to it turned out to be just a tad thinner. There was no way that it could be just cut and enrobed as it was — Milky Way-style — without it looking sadly anemic in comparison. I started rolling it up, and there it was: a relatively easy, novel look for a candy bar. It’s a relative of Ho-Ho’s or roulades, depending on your perspective.

The caramel and nougat are settled, but the nuts remain a little bit of an issue. I may just leave them toasted on top like they are, or I may try soaking them in the excellent Patron XO Cafe liqueur that I bought, mixing them with sugar, and roasting them before placing them atop the bar. And I want their placement on top to be a little snazzier.

9 Responses to “The Coffee Bar”

  1. Lisbeth Says:

    Oh, man, you’re killing me. Just as before, this looks excellent! Your ability to come up with all these twists on a standard is really neat, and I love reading about your process. Imagining the flavors, though – that’s the best part! I can’t wait to try them once you get set up!

  2. Aaron Says:

    Being a coffee lover/addict, these flavors sounds killer. I guess I would want a serious crunch to offset the mush and chew factor. How about candying the nuts for extra crunch? They’d look prettier on top that way also…like little jewels studding your creation.

  3. Aaron Says:

    I forgot to say…I went to the French Laundry this week, and one of the mignardises was a “French Laundry Butterfinger.” It tasted just like the real thing, but with better ingredients and some fleur de sel on top…wow…it may have been my favorite part of the meal.
    So I guess great minds think alike. Keep up the good work.

  4. Nina Says:

    Thank you, Lisbeth!

    Aaron – Thanks! I’ll probably give candied nuts on top a try. My only reservation is that there’s already so much caramel on the inside that putting even more on the outside might be a little superfluous. But you’re right – the added crunch and enhanced look might make it worth it. I’ll see.

    And the French Laundry! Now I really miss Napa. ๐Ÿ™‚ That butterfinger must have been amazing. It’s funny you should mention that, too, because I also considered doing something like a coffee-flavored butterfinger (with another nut instead of peanut). That would be a serious crunch! Again, maybe I still will give it a try. ๐Ÿ™‚

    And funny – I just searched “french laundry butterfinger” and someone once had “Deconstructed Butterfinger bar รขโ‚ฌโ€œ chocolate sorbet, with peanut butter cake and crunchy peanuty crumbs.”

    I guess the pastry chef there just adores butterfingers!

  5. lucette Says:

    I’ve been following your creative process with fascination–and the results look wonderful. I probably wouldn’t eat this one (same problems with caffeine as you); or maybe only half!

  6. Nina Says:

    Thank you so much, Lucette! Yeah… it’s such a shame having a sensitivity to coffee. I love the flavor of it… and even decaf affects me!

  7. fattypr Says:

    Oh My God! I can’t believe I missed this one. It looks and sounds too good to be true. How could you have made something so magical? I am glad you came up with it.

  8. Nina Says:

    Thanks, Dude! hehe Magical… I love that. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll hook you up the next time I make them.

    And omg, all of my comment notifications were being sent to my spam folder, so I just saw this one (and others). I feel so bad!

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

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