I am learning quickly about candy making. An important part of my education is experimenting with different techniques and styles. I am familiar with making dry and wet caramel thinned with cream after the caramel reaches the desired degree of caramelization. However, I did not try making it with every ingredient all in the pot from the start. This was the reason that drew me to Liddabit Sweets’ Passion Spice Bar. The description of this chocolate bar is enticing enough on its own: passion fruit spiked caramel with a touch of cayenne and rice crispies enrobed in chocolate. Mmm.
I had one little problem though. It is not trivial for me to source passion fruit puree. The uniquely tropical tart flavour of passion fruit cannot really be substituted. Thankfully, the recipe suggested an alternative of using three times the volume of passion fruit juice. While the caramel cooks, the excess water evaporates to create a more concentrated dose of flavour. I decided to take that idea one step further and used unfiltered apple cider and cinnamon instead. Cider, Crispies, Caramel, and Cinnamon. That’s 4 Cs in one!
The recipe began with 3 cups of heavy cream to be cooked down with sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt. It required a watchful eye since the mixture bubbles furiously way up high. It took a long time before the mixture reached 240F. At that point, I added a cup of apple cider and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. More cooking and stirring followed until the syrup concentrated to reach 250F. Lastly, I folded in brown rice crispies (gluten free) and smooth the warm caramel into my pan.
I must have overcooked the caramel by just a degree or two because the caramel set to a sturdy slab. Very easy to cut and a joy to work with when I dipped them in tempered dark chocolate. But just a little too much work for the jaw when it came time to eat. I would have preferred a slightly softer texture like the own shown in the cookbook.
In terms of flavour, I would say the cinnamon was just right without overpowering. The brown rice crispies retained their crunchiness for fun textural contrast. I would definitely like a more pronounced apple flavour. My caramel had an undertone of fruitiness but the apple flavour was subtle at best. While my caramel was cooking, I took the opportunity to make a 75% reduction of apple cider at the same time. I think using the reduction directly in the caramel instead of straight up apple cider would be a better choice. The next version ought to be better with these changes.
On a more positive note, my chocolate tempering skill is improving! I got the tempering right on the first try. I only reheated it two more times during dipping since I had a lot of bars to dip. I am very pleased with the chocolate part of my 4C Bar over all. As you can see from the photos, even harsh sunlight could not reveal any streaks. For a special treat, I used the last of the tempered chocolate to dip some homemade yuzu marshmallows. I made a mental note to always keep some marshmallows around when I do chocolate work.
If you wonder what happens to all the chocolate bars I’ve been making, I take most of them to the office. The rest are shared among friends and family for discerning taste tests. After all, feedback is always welcomed. My office lacks a vending machine and the cafeteria downstairs closes at 3pm. You can say I have a monopoly in snack dealing at my office.