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My husband has been obsessed with chocolate coffee beans ever since we visited the Mountain Thunder coffee plantain on the Big Island of Hawaii. Because the last jar of the treats he bought was from some random company and a little disappointing, we decided to make our own. The first time we made them, we started by individually removing each bean with a fork. Can you say tedious? Then we got the awesome idea to make chocolate coffee clusters instead of battling with individual beans and, finally, I got the idea to add a honey caramel sauce. This recipe is the result of several batches of experimentation to create delicious chocolate coffee clusters that costs less than buying them from the store and tastes far better!
As you may know, my husband is a Navy nuke. He’s currently in PNEO (a two month long school he has to attend) and these chocolate coffee beans are his secret weapon to staying awake though day after day of working problems, diagrams, and studying. He stays at his desk through lunch, munching on these guys and eating other items brought from home, and leaves earlier than everyone else who went out to lunch and couldn’t stay awake during the day! His being home at a normal, human time is a pleasant change from usual submarine hours, and I’m happy to keep on making chocolate coffee clusters for as long as it helps. =)
Because the caramel is made with honey instead of corn syrup, the honey tends to separate out slightly and form a sort of honey layer on top, which I think is pretty awesome! It does mean, however, that this particular caramel recipe isn’t as useful for creating caramel candies. If you’re interested in that, please check out my pecan bourbon caramels recipe. We’ve used milk chocolate, which chocolate, and dark chocolate to make these clusters, but I like Hershey’s Special Dark best. It has more flavor than milk chocolate, but more sweetness than true dark chocolate. This helps balance the coffee beans‘ bitterness to create an amazing flavor.
You can, of course, not add the caramel, but it is super delicious. Because the quantity is small, it’s pretty quick and easy to make up, and you don’t have to stress about temperatures as much because it doesn’t have to solidify into something you can cut into candies. If you do want to add the caramel, I recommend making the clusters and then starting on the caramel. This will make your life much easier because you won’t have three different pots on the stove at once!
As a side note: If you ever visit Big Island, make sure to stop by a coffee plantation. I’m sure they’re all fine to visit, but we went to the upland Mountain Thunder plantation (they have two) and enjoyed a wonderful, complementary tour led by a very enthusiastic lady who does all their roasting. They are a small operation and only have two roasters, if I remember correctly, and do not wholesale their coffee to many places outside of Hawaii because they believe coffee shouldn’t sit on a shelf and go stale. Instead, you can order it directly from them and they’ll mail it to you, freshly roasted and packaged just for you.
In case you’ve ever wondered, these are the coffee “berries” before they’ve been processed into what we recognize as coffee.
Aren’t they cool looking? But, anyway, on to the recipe!
For the clusters
- 1 cup of chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup of espresso roast whole coffee beans
- Wax paper or parchment paper
For the caramel
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons of butter, divided
- 1/2 a cup of light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup of honey
For the clusters
- Place the cup of chocolate chips in a small saucepan.
- Fill a large pot or Dutch oven about half way with water and place the chocolate-containing saucepan in this pot to create a double boiler. Make sure the water isn't so high it may slosh into your chocolate!
- Place our double boiler on a medium-hot burner.
- Stir the chocolate occasionally to promote even melting and turn down the heat if the water begins to boil. Make sure you don't accidentally get water in the chocolate or it will instantly bind up and you'll have to start over.
- While the chocolate is melting, cover a baking tray with wax or parchment paper.
- After the chocolate is melted, turn off the heat and stir in the coffee beans. Stir thoroughly to ensure the beans are completely coated. You can remove the inner pot from the outer pot, but I find the water's residual heat helps keep the chocolate pliant while I'm working on the clusters.
- Using a soup spoon, create large dollops of chocolate and coffee beans on your wax/parchment paper. I like to create clusters with about one full soup spoon of chocolate each. You don't need to space them super far apart because they won't spread, but I usually leave about two inches.
- Continue creating clusters into you're out of chocolate/coffee beans!
For the caramel
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small sauce pan with the cream. Allow it to come to a slight boil, then remove it from the heat and cover it.
- Combine the sugar and honey in a medium sauce pan and stir thoroughly to coat the sugar. Then place it on a medium to medium-high burner and stir it sparingly, only as needed to prevent scorching, until it is boiling violently and has doubled to tripled in size. If you're using a thermometer, bring it to 310 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the honey/sugar mixture is boiling, cube the remaining tablespoon of butter and allow it to sit at room temperature.
- Once the honey and sugar mix has boiled, remove it from the heat, but keep the burner on, and whisk in the cream/butter mixture. Then return it to the burner and heat until it is about 260 degrees Fahrenheit, or bubbling vigorously but not outright boiling like before. This should only take a minute or two.
- Remove the pan from the heat for the final time and whisk in the vanilla and cubed butter. Continue whisking until the butter is fully melted.
- Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel over your coffee clusters.
- Use the baking tray to transfer the clusters to the fridge and allow them to cool. This usually takes about 2 hours.
You can allow the clusters to cool at room temperature, but it will probably take a maddeningly long time. It’s incredible how quickly chocolate melts and how long it takes to resolidify! Of course, being in Hawaii without air conditioning probably contributes to the length of time my chocolate takes to cool, so you may not need the fridge.
Once the clusters are cool, you can simply peel them off the paper. They keep best in an air tight container or zip top bag. If it’s warm in your home, you can keep them in the fridge, but it isn’t particularly necessary. I have no idea what kind of shelf life they might have because a batch hasn’t lasted more than a week at home!
Do you enjoy making your own versions of store-bought items? What’s your favorite thing to make that other people tend to buy?