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.

The Tastiest Bite

I don’t think of myself as a writer. Growing up, my twin sister was the writer. I wrote in a journal nightly and spent just as much time devouring books as she did; but I always saw it as her thing. She seemed better at it and more determined. Rebekah knew it was what she wanted. Maybe I didn’t want to be a copy cat or was tired of the twin cliche but I never thought writing would be my line of work. Finding myself at a food writing workshop was as surprising to me as discovering I like to cook, especially after all those years telling myself I didn’t.

For me, food writing is a form of self reflection (something I clearly need more of). It’s about slowing down and focusing on what was just in my mouth. Remembering the textures, colors and feelings that the food elicits. In an attempt to improve this skill, Naomi Tomky suggests this exercise: write 200 words on the best food eaten that day.

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Day 1

The Tastiest Bite(s) on Valentine’s Day

I had many memorable bites yesterday, much more than a normal Wednesday. An ethereal, creamy vegetable soup topped with crisp speck and cold goat cheese was generously handed to me for lunch by a thoughtful friend at The Shop. Before leaving, I was given a decadent piece of chocolate cake layered with blood orange Italian buttercream. Both warmed my heart and made my taste buds dance in delight.

I was also surprised with chocolate covered strawberries by another friend yesterday afternoon. In all honesty, chocolate and fruit aren’t my favorite combination but these strawberries changed my opinion. They looked so inviting on the tray with the thick coat of dark chocolate enveloping the juicy strawberry.  I picked a strawberry up by its green top and took a bite. The thick chocolate shell shattered to reveal the ruby strawberry inside. My mouth was filled with both flavors simultaneously. Soft, sweet and juicy strawberry with bitter, crunchy chocolate.

My Valentine and I drank a special brut rosé that I had saved since receiving it at Christmas from my brother and sister-in-law and it did not disappoint. After dinner was done and the kids were almost tucked into bed, I heard the familiar whirl of our popcorn maker. This was definitely not our normal Wednesday. Warm and kissed with butter and salt, we cuddled on the couch munching popcorn as we watched our Olympians fly down the mountain. Love came in many forms on Valentine’s Day but most memorably was the sharing of food and drink together.

What was your tastiest bite yesterday?

 

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Can emailing yourself links to recipes be considered a hobby? If so then I am an enthusiast. There is something magical about making a recipe for the first time. My heart beats a little faster and my mind narrows to a point of intense focus.  When I saw an online cookbook club, I knew it would be the perfect fit. A new cookbook every month? New recipe challenges? Count me in. The cookbook club is hosted by Deborah Balint (@rainydaybites) and this month’s cookbook is Diana Henry’s new book “Simple“. The recipe we were to make is the Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream. Being that February is basically the month of chocolate, I was excited to give it a try. Like the cookbook’s name, this cake is simple. Melt, whip, whisk and bake.

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The original recipe calls for an 8 inch springform cake pan, but since I don’t own one of those, I used an 8×3 pan and lined it with parchment on the bottom and sides. I was surprised when the recipe said to bake for 35 minutes. Usually recipes give a 5-10 minute range with some indication of what to look for when done. Nonetheless, the timing seemed perfect and I did appreciate the simplicity of the instructions. The result is a silky, smooth and deeply flavored cake.

img_1610This cake was perfect for Valentine’s Day : simple, classic and perfectly decadent.  I hope you give it a try!

Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream

Take your time with the details of this cake. Buy the best chocolate and cream you can afford. Let your egg whites come to room temperature and stop mixing when your egg whites look like this. I have changed the wording a bit but the recipe is from “Simple” by Diana Henry.

Cake

  • 13 oz unsalted butter, cubed
  • 11 1/2 oz dark chocolate, 70% is the best (I used Theo’s)
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar (I whirled granulated in my food processor instead of buying)
  • 5 large eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup almond flour

Cream

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream (I use non homogenized because I think it tastes better)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional add-ins: I was kind enough to share this cake with the kiddos, so I only used half of this amount and kept the other half plain.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso dissolved in equal amounts boiling water (you could also use part of a shot of espresso if so desired. I would just let it cool slightly before using)
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a small pan with water and bring it to a simmer. Prepare your cake pan by covering with parchment on the bottom, as well as the sides (or use a springform pan). Here is a link if you need a visual guide. Put butter, sugar and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set on top of pan with simmering water. I like to use my Kitchenaid metal mixing bowl for this since the sides are high, I don’t have to worry about water accidentally getting into the pan. Melt the mixture together and stir with a heatproof spatula. Once melted, let mixture cool for a few minutes (original recipe states 4 minutes) and then add the egg yolks one at a time. Incorporating each before adding the next.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form medium firm peaks. Stir almond flour into chocolate mixture and add half of the egg white mixture as well. Once this is incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cool completely. If using the regular cake pan, place a cutting board on top of the pan and hold tightly in place and then flip it over so that the cake comes out. Repeat so that the cake is face up. If using the springform pan, release the sides by unsnapping them and remove.

To make the cream use a hand mixer to whip the heavy cream. Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until the cream is airy and holds a bit of shape. Incorporate bourbon and espresso and serve on top of the cake.

This cake is best at room temp and can be made ahead. It holds up well for a few days. Refrigerate any leftovers.