Rocky Road Candy

For kids and parents alike, summer break is like Christmas in July. As parents we spend months planning vacations and scheduling camps to somehow make this summer just as good (or better!) than last years. The kids are giddy with excitement with each passing day, until finally school is out and summer break is here.

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A Christmas Puzzle in July anyone?

Right as summer break started this year, one child and then the other came down with pneumonia, added on top of oral surgery for the youngest sandwiched in between. Spending the first precious weeks of summer running to the doctor, taking medicine and staying inside day after precious day, and you can imagine that I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and my kids, too. I needed to salvage this summer somehow.

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With little thought or planning, I decided to break out the crafts and celebrate Christmas in July. I dug out the Christmas puzzle that we hadn’t quite had enough time to put together. Then, I bought soft wool and began needle felting delicate balls for a new garland for the mantel. Now all I needed was some special treats to munch on to top off our celebration.

In our family, making candy is as much a holiday tradition as baking cookies. Though summer is typically a time for fruit pies and homemade ice cream, making homemade candy is the perfect treat for a sweltering kitchen.

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Marshmallows snipped into perfect sized chunks

Candy is simpler than you may think. No oven required and done more quickly than the first complaints of summer boredom. Candy is the perfect summer concoction.

With dreams of marshmallows, instead of chestnuts, roasting over the open fire and cold lemonade, instead of hot cocoa, in my cup; I decide to make the dream a reality and make a batch of  rocky road candy. Gooey marshmallows combined with chocolate, nuts and a heavy sprinkling of smoked salt brings us right to the crackling campfire that summer nights are made of.

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Smoked salt for the win

Most rocky road recipes include sweetened condensed milk so when I found this recipe from Alice Medrich that contains only chocolate, marshmallows and nuts, I knew I had to try it. The simpleness of this recipe allows for the ingredients to really shine. Buy chocolate tasty enough to eat and you won’t be disappointed.

Happy summer and may all your summer dreams come true.

Rocky Road Candy

You will want a candy thermometer to make this recipe (and most candies for that matter).  I have a simple one that does the job but am putting an instant-read digital on my wish list. Successful candy making requires accurate temperatures and reading a foggy thermometer is stress I don’t need.

Use any chocolate that you want, but I used semi-sweet Callebrut, found sold in bulk for a good price, that I would highly recommend. Chocolate chips worked fine though and is definitely the most economical choice.

Also, buying regular sized marshmallows and snipping them into quarters, instead of mini marshmallows, is totally worth the extra effort. The quartered marshmallows are slightly bigger and are softer in texture than the minis.

Smoked salt is a finishing salt that I found in the bulk section. Maldon salt would be a great choice and it’s sold on Amazon for a few dollars.

Makes 1.5 pounds

Adapted from Alice Medrich

Ingredients:

  • 16 regular sized marshmallows, quartered (4 ounces)
  • 1 cup pecan halves, chopped and roasted and cooled
  • 1 pound chocolate, chopped (see headnote)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon smoked salt

Directions:

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Then, melt chocolate slowly in a saucepan and stir regularly to keep it from scorching. Once melted, take off heat and scrape into a medium bowl. Clip on a candy thermometer and cool to 90°F. This is important and will help the candy set correctly.

Once cooled to 90°F, dump in the pecans and marshmallows. Stir to coat marshmallows and nuts evenly. Scrape into a log shape, roughly 3×10 and sprinkle with smoked salt. Place pan in refrigerator until the candy is dry and firm to the touch. This will take about 20 minutes.

Remove from refrigerator and cut into thick strips with a serrated knife. I found that pieces 1×3 were a nice size. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

Bittersweet Almond Toffee

My husband and I had our 16th (!!!)  wedding anniversary this month and I have been thinking about how much has happened since that day. All the decisions that we have made to create this life that we are living right now. Each year builds on the last. I truly feel I comprehend the depth of the words of our vows. We have been through better and worse, richer and poorer, and sickness and health and we keep coming back to the table day after day and decide once again to choose each other.

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This toffee was one of the first recipes I remember making that wasn’t made because of our childhood experiences. I don’t remember eating toffee as a child and it wasn’t a recipe passed down from any family member. After impatiently waiting for it to cool, I snapped off a couple pieces and we each took a bite. Our taste buds lit up in satisfaction and I that this too we agreed on and would bring with us through the years.

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Halloween is the quintessential candy holiday and mine is going to include one of my favorite homemade version. I love the uneven shards of chocolate covered caramel. Like most candies, the ingredients are simple and the steps are pretty fail proof if you have a trusty candy thermometer.

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Ready to take a crack at it? Maybe it will become a part of your family as well.

Bittersweet Almond Toffee

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds

Adapted from Better Homes and Garden – which happens to be the first cookbook I received for our wedding. Correctly reading the thermometer is the most important step in making successful toffee. Before starting the ingredients to simmer, take a good look at your thermometer and determine which line is 290 degrees. This will help you move confidently through the steps without wasting precious time deciphering the temp. Also, make sure that the bulb of the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan as this will give a false reading. As the mixture thickens you may have to spoon the mixture over the bulb to get an accurate reading.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 4 oz (1 baking bar) bittersweet chocolate
  • Flaky sea salt for finishing (such as Maldon)

Directions:

Line a baking sheet with foil and spread 1/2 cup toasted almonds on the foil. Set aside. Combine butter, sugar, fine sea salt, water and corn syrup in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to mix the ingredients as they melt. Once the mixture boils, turn down to medium and clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pan. As the mixture simmers, chop the chocolate bar and set aside. Every couple minutes give the pan a good stir with a wooden spoon.

Once the mixture starts to thicken, stir more often and keep an eye on the thermometer. It can quickly go from done to scorched. You can tell it is getting close when it is starting to get some color and smells more of caramel. Yum! Once the the thermometer hits 290 degrees, evenly pour the candy over the almonds. Use a spatula to get everything out of the pan and to smooth the candy if needed. Let cool until set (about 5 minutes).

Next, sprinkle the chocolate over the candy and let melt for a minute or two. Use the spatula to spread the chocolate completely over the caramel layer. Sprinkle with remaining almonds and flaky sea salt. Place baking sheet in refrigerator to firm up the chocolate. Once cool, break into pieces and store in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep for a long time.