I first tasted Almond Roca when visiting my brother in Japan, funny, since it is an American candy. It was first invented in 1923 by Brown and Haley. It gets its name from the Spanish word ‘roca’ which means ‘rock’ – as the bite size treats resemble shards of rock. It didn’t take long for the love affair to begin and soon we were braving the biting Japanese winter to visit ‘The foreign shop’ to buy bags of these delicious sweets to bring home. Even the packet is gorgeous, in a dusky pink and gold. If you have never had the pleasure of tasting Almond Roca, imagine crunchy, buttery caramel, studded with toasted almonds, enrobed in dark chocolate and dipped in ground almonds. It is like a Daim bar – but infinitely better. Soon my candy stash had depleted and I could not find any local stockists, until one day I happened to visit Gorima’s Spices in Durban and there on the shelf amongst the Thai curry pastes and cinnamon bark, I saw tubs of caramel shards, coated in coconut and bearing the label ‘Almond Roca’. This Roca was very similar to the Brown and Haley version, the only difference was that it wasn’t coated in chocolate. I immediately did some research on the internet where a number of recipes cropped up. I tried a few of them before arriving at this particular recipe – which I had to adapt a little, to get the desired effect. My Almond Roca is rustic to say the least – but it tastes almost as good as the original. These candies are so easy to make and would be a delightful after dinner sweet, served with coffee, or a fabulous gift…if you can bear to share them! The recipe calls for a teaspoon of corn syrup which I was able to find at my local supermarket – it is a clear syrup that has a buttery corn taste to it. If you can’t find it – leave it out.
Makes 20 sweets
100g unsalted butter
3/4 cup, packed brown sugar
1 tsp corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups blanched almonds, toasted and half a cup’s worth coarsely chopped
1 slab Lindt 70% dark chocolate (100g)
1 slab Lindt super fine milk chocolate (100g)
Begin by thoroughly spraying a small foil dish with non-stick spray. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-heat, add the sugar, salt and corn syrup. Turn the heat down a little and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Keep stirring until the mixture starts to resemble melted marshmallow – it will be foamy, but don’t panic! The original recipe said to do this over high-heat but I had better results and more control doing this over medium-heat. As you stir, the mixture will slowly turn a light golden brown and become a more cohesive and smooth caramel. Stir constantly as you do not want it to burn. From the point the sugar has dissolved to the stage it is ready will take between 4-6 minutes. Once it reaches the caramel stage, remove it from the heat and stir in half a cup of the coarsely chopped, toasted almonds, and pour it into your dish. Gently smooth the surface and leave it to stand for about 4 minutes, before cutting 10 strips vertically and then halving them so that you have 20 small cylindrical looking bars. The idea is that once the caramel has cooled you will be able to break it easily into pieces. At this stage put it in the deep freeze to harden and then break it up. It will look rustic! Set aside in a cool place while you prepare the chocolate.
Using a double boiler (or a glass bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering hot water), add the 2 slabs of chocolate broken into pieces, allow to melt over low-heat until glossy and smooth. Using a food processor, process the remaining almonds – you don’t want almond meal, rather the consistency of sprinkle nuts. Using 2 forks, dip the almond roca shards into the melted chocolate and then into the almond ‘rubble’. Do this gently, to ensure the roca is evenly coated in chocolate and nuts, set aside on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Once all the roca are coated, place the baking sheet in the deep freeze, and leave them there for approximately 20 minutes to set. Store in a cool place in an airtight container, if you can resist not eating them immediately!