The Scotch Bar


*You can now purchase my candy bars and marshmallows at http://www.bonbonbar.com/
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The Scotch Bar: Scotch Ganache layered with Fleur de Sel Caramel and topped with Fleur de Sel. Semi-enrobed in Dark Chocolate.

This is one smooth bar. The sensational flavor combination that is Scotch and chocolate is rounded out by silky, slightly salty caramel, and semi-wrapped within a thin chocolate shell. No crunch, except for the delicate fleur de sel crystals, and just enough chew to satisfy. This bar is meant to melt.

If you haven’t experienced the marvelous sensation that is tasting chocolate and Scotch together, you really should. And here comes the science… In the Scharffen Berger book, it says that, when combined, “new, intense flavors emerge that seem to improve the taste of both the whiskey and the chocolate.” They speculate that they contain similar chemical compounds (classes of alcohols, aldehydes, acids, and esters) that produce “an additive or possibly synergistic effect.” Both have vanilla and caramel notes, but the wonderful match is probably a result of many more little catalysts within each. Other alcohols share similar characteristics, but Scotch goes a little bit further with chocolate. There’s a special warmth and fragrance with Scotch; it’s mellowing. I like it better than rum, which I feel usually competes with or over-runs the chocolate.

The wide slab shape is similar to Fry’s Turkish Bar. It feels delicate, but substantial. I don’t like too much tempered chocolate with caramel because I feel like it gets in the way of a smooth chewiness and flavor, so that’s why I wanted the open top. If enrobed just so, there’s a thin frame of chocolate for the caramel rectangle that looks smart and modern, especially with the white dots of fleur de sel. Although it looks like there’s quite a bit of fleur de sel, the salt isn’t overpowering, and just adds a little something to the main flavor combination. The smaller flakes make it less explosive than large crystals of salt. The caramel is cooked to a relatively low temperature so that it is not too chewy.

I already have too many fields that I’m trying to sort out by variety (such as fruits and wines), so I admit that I’m not a scotch expert. I used Johnny Walker Black Label, which I think does the job well, but if anyone has any suggestions for their favorite Scotch — perhaps single malt — please do let me know. Nothing too extravagant and without strong, smoky flavors, but good.

Other Homemade Candy Bars in Progress:

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

17 Responses to “The Scotch Bar”

  1. Carol Says:

    All I can say is HOLY CRAP THAT LOOKS GOOD!!! Glad my dad paid for that college education so I can say things like “holy crap” now that I’m an adult.

  2. Nina Says:

    Haha Thanks! I’ll see your college education and raise you a partial law school education and a culinary school education… and the priceless look on people’s faces when I tell them, “I make candy bars.” 🙂 So much fun with Hollywood types…

  3. erin Says:

    So when are you hosting a candy bar tasting??? As a scotch/whiskey lover (maybe try maker’s mark?), this sounds fabulous.

  4. Doug Says:

    Scotch is my drink. Depending on on how much scotch you’re using, I’d say its a waste to use really good stuff.

    Looks great…very smooth.

  5. Tommy Says:

    A little off topic perhaps, but I noticed you have a beer bar in the works. Porter would seem like a natural pairing for chocolate. You could throw sour cherries in as well, as I think of it… Porter, sour cherries and chocolate. There’s my thoughts on that.

    The scotch and caramel combination makes a lot of sense too. And sounds damn tasty, I might add… Now go write up a business plan and find yourself some investors! And make sure your distribution chain reaches well north…

  6. jessica Says:

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for some time now– I’d think a bourbon would work really well, like Jack Daniels. It has a sweet vanilla, coconut flavor with a nice smokiness. It’s cheaper than single malt. But then it’d be the “bourbon bar”
    I’m not a big fan of Johnny Walker.
    If you ever get the chance, try dark chocolate with a strong islay whisky. Saline, smoky, tarry…(Laphraoig, Lagavullin, Ardbeg, Talisker)
    A nice smooth single malt is Balvenie. Dalwhinnie is also very smooth.

  7. Nina Says:

    Erin – An LA tasting is actually a very good idea — and I do have an order for 22# of chocolate on the way! And glad that a scotch-lover approves of the bar. I originally conceived of it as more of a Scottish Scotch Bar — with oats, shortbread, and peanuts — but in the end, I just couldn’t get oats to be anywhere near as smooth as scotch!

    Doug – Thanks! And true, but it could be pretty awesome with an amazing scotch — a little goes a very long way. I was surprised when Scharffen Berger recommended a well-aged single malt, but I guess the complexity gets carried well.

    Tommy – Porter, sour cherries, and chocolate sounds great — nice layers of flavors — the cherries would add a nice fruity, acidic brightness. My other beer bar has Guinness, but I could have other beer bars.

    The only problem is that I’ve been thinking about a cherry bar for a long time now, and I just can’t work out what form the cherries would be in, because I would want to use fresh, preserved, or maybe juiced. They would have to be saturated with enough sugar or alcohol to prevent spoilage, but even then, their flavor would be compromised and they’d be pretty wet… and I don’t know how to fit them in — mixed into ganache or (if jam) layered with ganache? Cherry cordials are done, but they’re so liquid-y (and sweet) that I couldn’t make a bar out of them.

    I just canned some brandied cherries yesterday… so maybe that’ll turn into something… Or maybe cherry jam would work in a molded bar…

    And yes, the business plan…. working on it… Investors welcomed… 🙂

    Jessica – Thank you so much for the suggestions!

    I think that a separate Bourbon Bar would be great. Interesting that you mention coconut flavors in Jack Daniels… For bourbon, I was thinking along the lines of cherry, apricot, or mint (which I think would be the hardest to successfully match in a chocolate bar, flavor-wise), but I really like the idea of accentuating the coconut flavor — for a more unexpected and complex bar.

    I’ll look into the different kinds of scotch — most of them are new to me!

    And glad you like my blog!

  8. Doug Says:

    I wonder how a smokey/petey highland scotch would work. If the flavor comes through I think it would add a nice element to the bar.

  9. Nina Says:

    I’m curious, too… but a little scared b/c I once made a ganache with a smoky tea that still leaves me nauseous at the thought of it. But I’d like to get over that, so I’ll give it a shot.

  10. Sweet Napa » Blog Archive » The Whiskey Bar Says:

    […] These are similar in shape and size to the Scotch Bar, but it has the additions to distinguish itself. Whereas I feel that Scotch should be unencumbered by much else, Jack Daniels calls for a little bit of playing around. […]

  11. Brian Says:

    I just wanted to let you know I just found your site the other day and have immensely enjoyed reading it. I’m back on a cooking kick, reading Ruhlman’s “Soul of a Chef” after a friend recommended it when I reminisced about my French Laundry dinner a year or so ago, and the whole episode reminded me that back when I lived in San Francisco a friend (a former chef herself) and I had a friendly, informal competition at work, bringing in various desserts on alternating weeks for our coworkers (who were more than happy to declare each dessert better than the last to motivate us to continue one-upping one another.) We eventually burnt out when I made the Millennium’s vegan chocolate midnight cake with a cherry compote and she retaliated with the best butter toffee I’ve ever had.

    We had always talked about bringing it back with a collaboration, and making a gourmet rendition on the Snickers bar, and after I picked up McGee’s On Food and Cooking the other day I thought of my poor candy thermometer, gathering dust in the drawer for less-often-used cooking tools, the hard-to-reach one, and decided I’d figure out a way.

    Your site has been an immense inspiration. I used to make a lot of candy as a kid, but I never even mastered fudge. I made a lot of lollipops, taffies, caramels, and fondants, though, and reading about the cold water test stages brings back some hazy old memories.

    Rather than try for a perfect nougat and liquid caramel with roasted peanuts and trying to enrobe all that at once (I’ve never enrobed anything in my life) I think I’ll start a bit small and attempt a clone of this bar, because it sounds unbelievably good, and I’ve made enough ganache frosting and caramel in my life I think I can probably handle it. I’m trying to work out the logistics, especially how you got the bar solid enough to enrobe, but I guess that’s the fun in experimenting.

    Thanks again for the inspiration and all the great information. Reading this site makes me wonder if maybe cooking wouldn’t have been the better career path after all. Distant hills are greener, though, and all that.

  12. Nina Says:

    Hello, Brian. Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad that my blog has brought back memories and inspired you! It’s great how blogs connect with people all over the world — a couple times, I’ve just had to read a new-to-me blog from start to finish right away.

    And that sounds like such a fun competition! I would have loved to have had that in the offices that I worked in when I was in the film industry, but no one cooked or baked much. At least my first aspirations to learn how to prepare food happened during my last office job, when I had all of 3 minutes of real work a day. I started by reading Alton Brown’s cookbooks and found food blogs for the first time, and the days started flying by.

    As long as you find a recipe for a chewy caramel and make a medium ganache, you should be able to replicate this bar closely enough. And spreading a “foot” (a thin layer of chocolate) on the bottom of the slab of ganache before you cut it makes it easier to dip. The intensity of flavors is pretty adjustable, too — if it’s not salty enough, sprinkle more salt on top, and if it’s not Scotch-y enough, drink some on the side. 🙂 I still want to try it with Balvanie, as someone above suggested.

    Good luck! And I hope you have good temperature control. 🙂 Chocolate likes a room temp of about 68F best during tempering, although a little warmer is ok.

  13. Brian Says:

    It looks like I have more experimenting to do. Luckily most of the ingredients are cheap other than the scotch and chocolate.

    My first batch of caramel cooked down in much less time than the recipe predicted, once I poured in the dairy — 4 minutes instead of 10-15. I was so astonished I went for a glass of cold water to make sure my thermometer wasn’t busted. It wasn’t, and the time it took to test turned it into toffee. I peeled that off the ganache when I confirmed that, yes, it would be rock-hard, and made another batch. It’s still too hard, and I stopped cooking when the thermometer registered 240 — well below firm-ball — but off the heat, the thermometer kept going up to 250, so it’s still going to be harder than I wanted. It’s a little confusing, I’m not sure where that heat was coming from. Maybe my thick-bottom pans really keep radiating longer than I thought, or maybe my thermometer is a little slow on the uptake.

    Oh yeah, and I used a 12-year Glenlivet for the ganache, and I left it in my car today, and when I got in my car to drive home from work, I found that in the Texas heat, the bottle had exploded, tearing off the foil and blowing the cork out and spilling scotch all over my car, leaving me with just 3T for the ganache. And my car smells like a distillery. Hah!

    The tempering’s gonna be tough. Austin’s pretty warm right now, and it’s hard to keep my house very cool. At this point, though, with this batch, the shininess of the coating is not terribly high on my list of concerns. 🙂 Next time!

  14. Nina Says:

    Brian — I still can’t believe that happened to your car! Yeah, a nice sheen seems like small worries now. Way to persevere! I just hope you don’t get pulled over by the cops anytime soon!

    For the caramel, I’m wondering, did you cook it on high? If so, the residual heat will escalate the temperature after it is taken off the heat, esp if the pan is good at retaining heat, as yours seem to be. I like to keep the heat on medium-high until it gets to about 225, and then turn it down to medium, and sometimes, when it’s one or two degrees away, to medium-low. You *could* put a bowl of water next to the stove, and briefly dip the bottom of the pan into it to take away some of the heat once it’s off the heat. I don’t like to do that so much, though, because the pan could warp from the shock. I also gently stir the caramel (gently so that it doesn’t promote crystallization, but you should also have sufficient doctor, such as an acid or liquid sugar, to be safe) until it gets to temp to make sure that it doesn’t scorch on the bottom or edges (stirring also releases heat, so it takes a little longer that way). Also, always reading the candy thermometer at eye level is important, even though it’s kind of awkward (sorry, I know it’s obvious, but I want to cover all bases so that you’re rewarded with deliciousness next time!).

    Good luck!

  15. Brian Says:

    Yeah, I think I had the heat too high on the caramel, and also was using an aluminum-core pan, which another cook-friend pointed out retains a lot of heat, much more than my parents’ copper pans I used years ago.

    And yep, I shoulda turned the heat down as it warmed up, and probably dipped the pan in some cool water afterwards.

    Otherwise, most of it came down to finesse — your bars look pristine, and mine looked… rustic? Yeah, rustic.

    One interesting observation on the scotch ganache is that the flavors change very dramatically with the temperature of the ganache. Mine remains somewhat soft even when I leave it in the freezer, but when it’s chilled that cold, the scotch flavors are very pronounced and the chocolate is in the background, only really comes out as it warms up on your tongue. When the ganache is at room temperature, the scotch is just an accent to the warm, strong chocolate taste.

  16. Nina Says:

    Ah well, rustic happens. 🙂

    That’s interesting that the prominence of the scotch and chocolate flavors oscillates depending on the temperature — I had no idea. Given that and your slightly soft ganache, I bet it would be great swirled into ice cream — vanilla or ooh, caramel. I might have to try that myself 🙂

    Anyway, hope they tasted good! It seemed like it was quite an adventure!

  17. Please Take My Valentine’s Day Candy Bar Survey! - Sweet Napa Says:

    […] Personally, I’m favoring Scotch Diamonds (which would be my Scotch Bars w/ Scotch ganache and salted caramel cut into diamond shapes; slightly different from the original, I now favor Balvenie Scotch and Maldon sea salt), but I’m not sure that whether the majority of Valentine’s Day gift-recipients like Scotch enough — or whether their significant others would assume that they would like Scotch enough.  I could also offer candy bars made with my homemade fruit liqueurs that I made from farmer’s market fruit.  Months in the making, their pretty delicious.  Also, I’m almost positive that I’ll offer Passion Fruit Marshmallow Hearts, with BonBonBar Hot Chocolate Mix. Or maybe you have a completely different idea — if you do, please describe it on the survey and leave your email address. If I decide to formulate your bar, I’ll send contact you and send you a free box. […]

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