Any kid will tell you: October is just one long countdown to Halloween. The whole month revolves around first choosing a costume and then, of course, concocting a plan for cashing in on as many sweets as possible. That second piece was even more crucial in our house because my mother was a dental hygienist and candy was taboo for most the rest of the year. So, when trick-or-treating season rolled around, you can imagine how driven I was to fill my pillowcase to the brim.
At the end of it all, I’d run home, hide in the closet (to avoid having to share with any of my five siblings), and blissfully taste-test my loot of gooey gum drops, tacky caramels, and overly-sweet chocolates. The bag was then taken away and we were each doled out one treat a day until it ran out or Thanksgiving arrived, whichever came first.
That said I figure it’s only natural that, like clockwork, my sweet tooth goes into overdrive this time of year — particularly for something chocolate. On the off chance that I haven’t made it abundantly obvious, I have more than a passing thing for chocolate. It can be milk, bittersweet, or dark but it has to be the good stuff.
And when the slightest hint of Halloween is in the air, I crave a treat. The latest treat I’ve been tweaking is this ridiculously simple recipe for coffee and toffee-flecked ganache that is more or less a grown-up take on a Hershey Kiss. I’ve tried to glamorize them a bit by coining them chocolate clusters, but the name is irrelevant, they’re still my Halloween loot that I’d just as soon not share — except perhaps just this once.
Pretty. Easy. Toffee-Espresso Chocolate Clusters Recipe
Makes: About 40 clusters
Seek out good-quality chocolate because a cheaper chocolate will create a waxy texture. If you want to make these a bit more elegant, you could turn them into truffles. To do so, just refrigerate the chocolate mixture until it is completely hard (about 4 hours); use a melon baller to scoop into spheres; roll the spheres between your palms until smooth; then roll in a dusting cocoa powder just before serving.
12 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
1/2 cup toffee bits
Maldon sea salt or other flaky sea salt, for garnish
Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, parchment paper, or aluminum foil.
Fill a small pot with an inch of water and bring to a simmer (don’t let it boil) over medium-low heat. Combine 2/3 of the chocolate, all the cream, and all the coffee in a medium heatproof bowl and nest over the small pot and allow the chocolate to melt; do not cover. When most of the chocolate is melted and shiny, stir until smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in the remaining chocolate and all the toffee bits until evenly combined. Set aside and let set up slightly, about 20 minutes.
Drop chocolate mixture by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle each cluster with a few flakes of sea salt, then set aside to completely set up. If it is hot out, you can put them in the refrigerator to help them along. (Clusters will last up to 2 weeks when stored in an airtight container between sheets of parchment paper in a cool, dark place. If it is particularly hot out, you can store them in the refrigerator.)
Pretty Easy is a monthly feature showcasing doable yet interesting recipes. Even those who fear cooking often find success with these recipes.