Please excuse my absence from blogging over the last few days. This is birthday week in my house and we have been pretty busy celebrating. Matthew and Paul have back-to-back birthdays and I try my hardest to ensure that their celebrations are distinct. I think both of them had pretty good days and I'm happy to take a rest from making, decorating, and eating birthday cake until Emma celebrates her birthday in a couple months.
|Matthew drew a picture of Yoda for Paul - in case you were wondering that picture was!|
Paul's birthday was first and he, as usual, was not too forthcoming about how exactly he would like to be celebrated on his special day. After much prodding, he chose Pork Tinga for dinner and his favorite Whiskey Pear Tart with vanilla ice cream for dessert. He made me swear not to buy him any gifts and I stuck to that with the exception of a bottle of Cointreau so he could mix up some margaritas, his favorite mixed drink by far, to go with his dinner. However, I did make plans to send him and Matthew to a local ski hill for a day of tubing. I was a little nervous that this plan would fall through since all the snow had disappeared during the week, but thankfully Mother Nature cooperated and dumped 14 inches of snow on us the night before Paul's birthday. In fact, the amount of snow made the roads a bit treacherous and Paul actually had a bit of trouble driving to the place. Thankfully, he and Matthew made it there all in one piece and they had a blast tubing. In fact, Matthew did not want to leave! However, Paul convinced him to leave the hill by promising hot chocolate and cheese fries in the ski lodge. Matthew will do anything for a cup of cocoa.
Paul was a little bummed about turning 30, but we tried our best to get him to stop focusing on the number and instead celebrate how much he has accomplished so far in his young life. We are so grateful for him - for all that he is and everything he does. He is an amazing husband, an incredible father, a brilliant engineer, and a loyal friend. I couldn't have asked for a better person to be my soul mate. I am one lucky girl.
And I'm just glad that he got to turn 30 first. My day is coming in about 3 1/2 months. But for now, I'm a gal in her 20s married to a man in his 30s. I used to tease Paul this same way when he turned 20 before me. I used to say: "How does it feel to still be dating a teenager?" He didn't find it very amusing then, and he still isn't finding it amusing now. But in all seriousness, Paul is only getting better with age and I will love him forever!
The recipe I'm sharing with you today is in honor of Paul. One of his favorite treats in the world is Almond Roca. His godmother used to make it for him every Christmas. I still remember how she would send him a gigantic tin full of it to his dorm room in college and he would be so excited to receive it! Over the next few months, he would slowly work his way through the stash of almond roca, always willing to share but only in very small amounts. When his supply eventually depleted, it was a sad day for Paul.
Before this Christmas, I actually had never attempted to make Almond Roca even though it is a pretty simple recipe. Shame on me, considering how much Paul loves it. I remedied that this Christmas by making a gigantic batch of it, packaging it into cute little packages, and then stuffing his stocking full with them. He was certainly surprised on Christmas morning to discover his stocking overflowing with a couple pounds of his favorite candy! He should be able to make that stash last quite a while.
I'm telling you, Paul loves this stuff for a reason. It is fantastic. Sweet, salty, buttery, crunchy, chocolaty. It's pretty perfect. I could not stop sneaking pieces of it while I was packaging it up for him. It's so addicting!! I also love how ridiculously easy it is to make. I timed myself while making this recipe and it was done and cooling within 15 minutes. You really can't beat that. I think this recipe will definitely be on my regular Christmas baking schedule from now on. After all, it's a sure-fire way to make my Paul super happy!
Dark Chocolate Almond Roca
from King Arthur Flour
1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 cups chopped almonds, toasted (I used salted and roasted almonds and I loved the extra salt!)
2 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a large, deep saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the salt, sugar, water, and corn syrup, and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil gently over medium heat, without stirring, until the mixture reaches hard-crack stage (300°F on an instant-read or candy thermometer). The syrup will bubble without seeming to change much for awhile, but be patient; all of a sudden it will darken, and at that point you need to take its temperature and see if it's ready. (If you don't have a thermometer, test a dollop in ice water; it should immediately harden to a brittleness sufficient that you'll be able to snap it in two, without any bending or softness). This whole process should take about 10 to 12 minutes. Pay attention; too long on the heat, and the syrup will burn.
While the sugar mixture is gently bubbling, spread half of the nuts, in a fairly closely packed, even single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet (a half sheet pan works well here). Top with half the chocolate.
When the syrup is ready, pour it quickly and evenly over the nuts and chocolate. Immediately top with the remaining chocolate, then the remaining nuts.
Wait several minutes, then gently, using the back of a spatula, press down on the chocolate-nut layer to spread the chocolate around evenly.
While the candy is still slightly warm, use a spatula to loosen it from the baking sheet. When cool, break it into uneven chunks.
Store cooled candy tightly wrapped; it'll stay fresh for a couple of weeks at room temperature. Freeze for longer storage.
Yield: about 24 big bite-sized pieces.