If the scent of Christmas is pine, the taste of Christmas is almond roca. Growing up, Grandma Millie would fill round cookie tins with her signature dessert every December. The toffee: buttery, sweet, crunchy; the almonds: perfectly roasted, immersed in the toffee, and dusting the top. Divine is the only word to describe this treat.
Grandma Millie passed away over a decade ago. I miss her, I wish my children could have known her. Fortunately, she taught me the art of almond roca and I'm committed to carrying on the family tradition. Her secret to success: boil the butter and sugar until they are Cocker Spaniel brown. Cocker Spaniel brown—poetic, romantic instructions that resulted in too many messed up batches to count (I clearly didn't inherit her 6th sense). Don't be fooled by the short list of ingredients: this dessert is a veritable science experiment and anyone but Millie will need a candy thermometer.
GRANDMA MILLIE'S ALMOND ROCA
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 Tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- about 2 cups of almonds, roasted and chopped
- 1-2 Hershey's chocolate bars
Put the butter, sugar, water, and salt in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Lightly boil and stir often with a wooden spoon. Once the ingredients have melted and combined, position the candy thermometer on the edge of the pot. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture reaches a temperature of 150°C. This will take about 10-15 minutes, during which time you will watch the candy mixture change from light yellow to Cocker Spaniel brown.
While the candy cooks, spread a layer of chopped almonds onto a baking sheet—the more almonds the better, in my opinion. When the candy reaches 150°C, immediately remove it from the heat and pour it over the almonds onto the cookie sheet, making a rough oval. Use a silicone spatula to scrape all the candy from the pot and push the candy around to fill in gaps on your baking sheet. You don't need to cover all the almonds, whatever doesn't become part of the toffee can be used on top of the almond roca.
Unwrap your chocolate and separate into squares; gently lay the chocolate squares on top of the hot candy. (Use anywhere from 1 to 1.5 chocolate bars, all depends on how thick of a chocolate layer you'd like.) After a few minutes, the heat from the candy will melt the chocolate; at this point, use the spatula to spread the chocolate into a thin, even layer over the candy. Generously sprinkle the chocolate layer with chopped almonds—I especially like covering the top with almond dust. Gently press the almonds into the chocolate with your hand.
Let the sheet of almond roca cool. To speed up the process, cover and place in the fridge or freezer. Once cooled, lift from the cookie sheet, break into pieces, and store in an air-tight container. I like to keep mine in the fridge, I find it stays crunchier that way.
Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays! (p.s. This makes a great gift.)
Warnings & Tips:
- You might mess up a batch. Be very patient and precise with the boiling. If you don't boil the candy long enough, it won't harden. If you boil the candy too long, the butter and sugar will separate and the batch will be ruined. This truly is a science and you should celebrate if you nail your first batch.
- I like to put roughly chopped almonds on the cookie sheet, and finely chopped almonds on top of the chocolate.
- Almond roca has an especially addictive quality. At least there's protein in it!