The month or so between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is, without question, my favorite time of year. Christmas carols can be heard on most radio stations, there are more than just bills in the mail, the temperature takes a tumble, houses are positively infested with blinking holiday lights, and on occasion, snowflakes fly in the Mid-Atlantic. But it’s the scents of the season that delight and tease my senses the most. And many a sundry aroma can be found in my very own kitchen.
Under normal, non-holiday, situations, my kitchen smells like a bakery cum bistro. If I’m not baking some form of bread, I’m reducing sauces or sautéing meat and vegetables, or grilling a roasted bell pepper caprese or more likely, a fresh moz and pesto sandwich. But come the start of December, the house smells like heaven sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.
Decorative boxes of spritz cookies, snickerdoodles, Russian teacakes, cinnamon rolls, zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate truffles and more festoon my counters in what can only be described as a sugar junkie’s utopia when I box it all up and ship it off to my friends and family in the Midwest, or stack and deliver them to my neighbors here. My children’s eyes shoot many a dagger in my direction when I remind them the baked goods are for the “home-baker challenged” and there’ll be more later. Probably.
But one of these delights gets to have its day in the sun all year long. Nut Rocha is far and away, the most requested treat in my house. The simplicity of its ingredients guarantees I will have them on-hand when needed. And the volume of candy produced guarantees our family won’t be the only ones enjoying this treat.
So this Christmas, consider adding one more treat to your holiday cookie tray. It might just become a year-long goodie in your house too.
- 1 pound of salted butter (4 sticks)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 T. light corn syrup
- ⅓ cup water
11.5 oz bag of Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
1½ cups chopped nuts, toasted (I prefer slivered almonds for this)
Line a half-sheet (12×16-inch inside dimension) baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil. Toast the nuts in a dry pan, over medium heat until they are slightly brown and fragrant, turning frequently, 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a large sauce pan of at least 4 quarts. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar, syrup and water and stir continuously to combine and dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar-butter mixture begins to boil, clip a candy thermometer to the sauce pan. Stir continuously until the thermometer reads 290°F, soft crack stage. This will take about 20-25 minutes and the sugars will caramelize into that classic toffee color. The last 10 degrees go very quickly, so keep an eye on the thermometer. Once the temperature reaches 290°F, quickly pour the toffee into the lined pan. If you pour it along the perimeter and feather it to the middle, rather than pouring it in the middle and spreading to cover the pan, you will get a more consistent thickness to the toffee. After smoothing out the toffee, allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes to firm up. It will still be very, very hot. Pour the chocolate chips evenly over the surface of the toffee and allow them to sit and melt for 5-10 minutes. Using an offset spatula, smooth the chocolate over the entire surface of the toffee, feathering out any identifiable chip lumps. Top the chocolate with the toasted nuts, pressing them into the chocolate slightly. Allow the rocha to come to room temperature, 1-2 hours, and then refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 2 hours. Break the rocha into 1-2 inch pieces.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature.