Chocolate Dipped Sponge Toffee + Chuck Hughes at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

by byn on December 4, 2011

in Candy

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Erin and I went to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo a few weeks ago, mostly to see Chuck (we’re on a first name basis, he follows me on Twitter). The Expo itself was something I had a feeling I would either absolutely love or truly hate; do you want to guess which one?

 Let’s just say we walked in, made a beeline to the Food Network Stage, and left as soon as Chuck’s demo was over. Obviously I’m only like 50% of the target audience for the Expo (I’m not a wine drinker), but I also have a fairly low tolerance for fake food snobs. Sample observation overheard on our way in: “I mean, like, their guacamole is really good, and I’m like, really picky about guacamole”. Good grief.

Anyway, Chuck started off doing a Food Demo, but the hour basically turned into him just taking questions from the crowd and joking around. But he was very honest and frank about a few things, and I wanted to share them:

  1. Chuck can’t even cook in Garde Manger anymore. He said if he’s there, he’s doing the whole PR thing, taking pictures, chatting with customers, kissing babies. Since the kitchen is open, people can always see him there, so he can’t focus on the food. This really disturbed me. It’s actually still bothering me. Think of all the blood, sweat and tears that went into building that place up, and now he can’t even execute dishes in his own freaking kitchen. Wow.
  2. This is what lead him to his new show on Cooking Channel, Chuck’s Week Off (not airing in Canada until next year, don’t get me started). He’s traveling across Mexico looking for inspiration to bring back to Montreal. They spent two and a half months in Mexico, and will do the same in the Caribbean (I think Jamaica, but he didn’t say), then Greece, Turkey and Croatia.
  3. Chuck said that he can’t go anywhere now without people asking him about beating Bobby Flay on Iron Chef. He kind of wistfully said that that 1 hour of TV gave him more notority and exposure than the previous 17 years working in the restaurant industry.
  4. Finally, sadly, he is not single.

The demo started off with Chuck making sponge toffee, that was supposed to be a garnish for a poached pear, but things went off the rails shortly thereafter, and it never happened. I actually saw him make this on his show, and always meant to try it out. Sponge toffee is the heavenly confection in the middle of a Crunchie Bar, friends. And this is how you make it at home.

Chocolate Dipped Sponge Toffee (Homemade Crunchie Bars)

Source: Chuck’s Day Off

Yield: approx 4 dozen pieces of toffee, depending on the size of the pieces you break it into. The yield is brought to you by Nicole, who complained that it’s not included in the recipes on Planet Byn, so I’m making an effort to include it now!


1 cup sugar

1 cup corn syrup (white or golden, doesn’t matter)

1 tbsp vanilla

1 tbsp baking soda

+ a candy thermometer

+ melted chocolate (from a bar or chips, whatever you have, I used dark chocolate above, but milk chocolate would make it more like Crunchie Bars)


  1. First, line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and butter the paper lightly. I normally put a little bit of butter on a paper towel and spread it around that way.
  2. In a large saucepan, add the sugar, corn syrup, and vanilla and heat over medium heat, until the sugar melts, stirring gently.
  3. Clip the candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan, and increase the heat a little bit. The mixture will start to bubble, and the magic number is 300F. When the mixture reaches 300F, remove it from heat.
  4. Add the baking soda – the mixture will bubble and fizz – and stir very well. I used a silicone spoon and this seemed to work well.
  5. Pour/spoon toffee out onto the baking sheet. You can try to spread it out a little bit.
  6. Wait 30 minutes or until the toffee is completely cool, then break into pieces. Dip in chocolate, or use a squeeze bottle to cutely drizzle over the top.
  7. Note that the remaining toffee will shellac itself to your saucepan. Fill it with warm water and set it aside overnight. The sugar will dissolve and you can just rinse it away. That’s just a little tip from me to you :)

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle December 4, 2011 at 11:55 pm

I wish you wouldn’t have exposed me as Chuck’s girlfriend on your blog. How am I ever going to get any privacy? :)


Byn December 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm

sorry dani! haha


Erin December 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Also, he spends a fair bit of time in Toronto for work. That was part 2 of the fangirl’s question. I think she actually thought she had a chance.

Yummy sponge toffee! I appreciate the timbit of information! :)


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