I make 3 kinds of cookies, a couple different types of fudge, Russian Tea Cakes and mashed potato candy.
Despite all those heaps of goodies, I get the same question every year, starting around Halloween:
When will you be making Almond Roca??
Many of my recipes have been handed down and I honestly don’t know how far back the Almond Roca goes – only that my grandmother passed the secret on to my mom, and she SUPPOSEDLY passed the secret to me.
When I was 26 years old my mom came to visit from Missouri, as she did every year at Thanksgiving, but I’ll never forget that particular year because I was deemed ready for my very own almond roca pan. My mom knelt before me in my aunt’s living room and placed a perfectly seasoned cast iron pan in my lap and told me, “This year, you are in charge of the roca.”
This “passing of the pan” is a very big deal in my family. The Pan is the clear signal that you have graduated from apprenticeship to become a “True Roca Master.”
Southern California, where I live, is not exactly a baking mecca and I am famed far and wide for my Christmas baking. I get asked for my roca recipe all the time (not that it helps people when I give it to them) and, in the spirit of generosity, I’ll put my mother’s recipe below.
The sad reality is, if you don’t know the
lies secrets, you will have an epic fail on your hands trying it out.
Almond Roca Recipe
- In heavy fry pan melt 1 lb butter, 2 ½ cup sugar.
- Cook & stir over highest heat until mixture foams vigorously.
- Cook and stir 5 min more over low heat.
- Add 1 ½ cup whole unblanched almonds
- Stir over high heat until nuts begin to pop.
- Reduce heat & cook another 7 minutes.
- If mix darkens too much remove from heat but stir the full 7 mins.
- Pour in shallow 12×18 pan. Cool.
- Melt 1 ½ cups chocolate chips. Spread ½ over candy.
- Sprinkle with ¾ cup chopped walnuts or almonds.
- Cool. Flip over and do other side.
OK, that looks simple enough, right? (Wrong!)
Let me explain the various lies inherent in this recipe:
Lie #1: You can’t make almond roca when it rains – it won’t set up.
With the recipe above, this is absolutely true. I grew up watching the weather around Thanksgiving like a farmer (even though I lived in L.A.). My mom would say, “Jennifer, take a walk and let me know if we can make roca today.” We’d check the Weather Channel too, just to make sure an unexpected gale wasn’t on the way.
Apparently when it rains, candy-making changes (unless you have a candy thermometer). Now do YOU see a candy thermometer in that recipe? Thasss right, you do not!
I had to figure this all out myself one particularly rainy season.
Lie #2: Just use 1 lb of butter – any butter will do.
This “any butter” notion is deadly to almond roca.
My mom always used Parkay stick margarine so I did too. Then a few years ago, my area of Southern California stopped carrying it in the grocery stores so I tried Land O’ Lakes butter instead. Then I tried another kind…and another…
In all I tried FIVE different kinds of butter. Epic fails for every batch of roca I attempted. I started swapping out margarine…SEVEN different brands of margarine, to be exact. Not a one of them worked.
Apparently my mother made it with Parkay because you can ONLY make it with Parkay. Not that she told me that. (See? They omit from these recipes…)
I called my relatives in Missouri and told them there would be no almond roca until they sent me Parkay, which means every one of them went out and bought me 5 pounds. (I’ve got TWENTY pounds of Parkay in my freezer now.)
Lie #3: Follow the recipe EXACTLY!
There’s code words in this recipe. Seriously. For example: Cook & stir over highest heat until mixture foams vigorously. That last word is definitely meant to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of the family bakers.
Let me show you the difference between “foams” and “foams vigorously.”
There is certainly a difference in feel but you’d have to have made it a gajillion times like me to know.
Just so you can’t say I never told you any secrets… In that
stupid recipe up top, here’s the secret code:
“Foams vigorously” equals soft crack on your new trusty candy thermometer
“When the first almond pops” equals hard crack on your new trusty thermometer
If you are armed with the secrets in this post, you can make this candy when it rains. And you won’t need to go on lockdown to hear “the almonds pop” as you make your roca. (I kid you not, we’d make people turn off the TV and any radios while we made it, just to be sure we heard those almonds. If someone really couldn’t shut their piehole, they were sent outside with the dogs.)
You still need to have a cast iron pan, and you’d better use Parkay so you don’t cry, but if you print out this blog, you should have everything you need for the roca.
I am virtually passing you the pan.
Note: Just in case of bad candy-making juju in your kitchen, stock LOTS of alcoholic beverages…at least that’s what I do.
Do you have these kinds of old family recipes? (You know, from before the candy thermometer or from the 4’2″ great-grandma who used “two handfuls of this and a dollop of that.”) Do you bake during the holidays? What’s your specialty? Enquiring minds love to know these things here at More Cowbell!
Need More Holiday Yum?
For the month of November and December, I am part of the Holiday Yum Blog Hop where a group of uber bloggers will regale you with recipes and funny cooking stories.
Our tentative schedule looks like this:
- November 17: My Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Meal – it turned out fab!
- November 19: Kathy Owen’s Spiced Pecans – I sooo want to try these.
- November 26: Ellen M. Gregg’s Chocolatiest Chocolate Cake Evah – OMG!
- November 28: My Almond Roca
- December 2: Estee Lavitt’s Latkes
- December 5: Natalie Hartford’s French Lace Cookies
- December 10: Kathy Owen’s Butter Spritz Cookies
- December 14: Ellen M. Gregg’s Old-fashioned Buttermilk Sugar Cookies (with Christmas punch)
- December 17: Nat’s back with a simple recipe for Cheesecake
- December 19: My Holly Candy
- December 23: Jess Witkins will entice us with either some comfort food or appetizer
- December 26: Kathy Owen will come through with beef rib-eye roast with currant jelly brown gravy
- December 28: Natalie shares fabulous Mocktail options for your New Year’s Eve
Stay tuned for link updates as posts go live and for more to be added to the schedule. Be sure to check out our ever uberlicious host, Kathy Owen’s Holiday Yum page and leave her some blog hop love!
Break out the bubbly…the holidays are HERE!