Bark candy is as forgiving as it gets—no need to shape the chocolate into pretty molds, just hack away at it and what you get will live up to its name. This version mixes honey-roasted walnuts and dried sour cherries into tempered white chocolate.
Scotch maple caramel
Maple cream (or maple spread) has been around for almost as long as people have been tapping trees. It’s simply maple syrup that’s boiled then cooled and stirred to the consistency of peanut butter. Splashes of Scotch serve as filling for the caramel logs.
While the fruit changes according to season (Roberts is now using the last of the peaches she pureed and froze while they were at their peak), the formula for the classic French confections known as pate de fruits remains the same: Boil pureed fruit with sugar, add pectin, then stir the mix until thick and syrupy. The jellies firm up as they cool.
Cocoa nib cream
By filling a molded, bittersweet chocolate with ganache cream that’s been infused with cocoa nibs and blended with a touch of white chocolate and salt, Roberts is able to subtly mimic the foam that tops a hot chocolate once its marshmallows melt.
Butter and pistachios are added to hot, liquid caramel, which is then poured onto a sheet pan and hand-stretched for a different take on the more common peanut brittle.
Sour candied citrus
The classier sibling of the Sour Patch Kid, these citrus peels are slowly candied in a two-day process for soft, even results and then dusted with sugar and citric acid for that addictive sweet-and-sour one-two punch.
Similar to the iconic Mallomar (minus the cookie), this chocolate-enrobed marshmallow gets a bit of kick from the addition of ground ras el hanout, an earthy, aromatic Moroccan spice blend.
After the strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are cooked down, the fruit “goo” is poured onto a sheet pan then dehydrated in the oven at an extremely low temperature. Roberts often cuts shark and sea-horse shapes into the fruit roll-ups to inspire grade-school nostalgia.
To watch Toni Roberts at work—head down, quietly pulling hot caramel by hand or breaking sheets of chocolate into barklike shards—it’s easy to imagine her plying her craft in the old-school production kitchens of Fannie May or Blommer. But Roberts produces her modern classics in the high-end kitchen of C-House(166 E Superior St, 312-523-0923), Marcus Samuelsson’s sea-centric restaurant in the Affinia Hotel. A craftsman at heart, the CIA grad has immersed herself in the time-consuming and relatively difficult art of chocolate and confections. Check out this sampling of treats from her order-by-the-piece Candy Bar (and if some seem familiar, it’s because Roberts was behind the candies at Custom House before taking her current post).