Monday, October 25, 2010

Apricot and Date Rocky Road

Food shopping is one of my major hobbies/activities here. Somedays it's what keeps me going--when I'm feeling a bit culture shocked, there's nothing like having a friendly interaction with a market stall person and picking up some beautiful produce.
Although the outdoor market in St. Germain is quite large, I've chosen my regular stands, and the merchants seem to recognize and appreciate that. They greet me more or less effusively, joke with me, correct my French, ask me what's for dinner. I try to stay on their good side by using a list so that I don't waste their time and giving them exact change. Soon I'll probably start bringing them cookies, just like David Lebovitz. But in the meantime, I see the market experience as part of my linguistic and cultural education. And we eat pretty darned well, too.

So, you say, what has this to do with Maida Heatter recipes? Well, look above. All these ingredients for the rocky road were carefully sourced from the market or from local shops. Those are hand-crafted marshmallows you see there. And single-origin chocolate. This is some high-class candy I'm making!

I have to say that I was skeptical about this recipe, until I went to my favorite chocolatier and discovered these really yummy chocolate, fruit, and nut clusters. His had apricots, candied ginger, orange peel, and almonds. Yum. So I figured this could be really good as well.

It's not a difficult recipe to make, once you've cut up all your ingredients. And it's rather festive as well.

I don't have an 8-inch pan, so I improvised. It was fine, but perhaps in a more enclosed space the chocolate would have distributed itself more evenly among all the fruits and nuts.

But in general, there were a couple of problems with this candy: 1) it didn't cut neatly; 2) it was therefore too easy to take little nibbles. Julia and I especially couldn't keep our hands off of it. But we agreed that if I were to make this again, I would leave out the dates for more nuts and/or a different kind of dried fruit. The dates were a bit too sweet to be covered in chocolate.

So here's the recipe. Get the best ingredients from your favorite merchants and try to give this away before you eat it all.

Apricot and Date Rocky Road

about 14 large marshmallows
10 pitted dates
10-12 dried apricots (I think the Mediterranean kind might be best for this use)
(about 1/3 cup chopped candied ginger)
1 lb. milk chocolate
6 oz. toasted pecan halves

Line an 8-inch square pan with aluminum foil or parchment. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut the marshmallows into quarters. Do the same with the dates; cut the apricots into strips. Melt the chocolate very carefully, either in a double boiler on the stove or in 20-second intervals in the microwave. Milk chocolate burns easily! Pour about 1/3 of the chocolate into the foil-lined pan and spread it to make a thin layer. Lay the marshmallows on top of that, then the dates, apricots, ginger, and 2/3 the pecans. Now carefully pour the remaining chocolate on top, trying to let it seep between the fruit and nuts. It may not cover everything perfectly. Working quickly before the chocolate hardens, arrange the remaining pecan halves over top. Maida says to refrigerate this, but it hardened nicely on my kitchen countertop. After it's had some time to sit and become firm, remove it from the pan and peel off the foil. With a large, sharp knife, cut the candy into squares. Store in Tupperware or wrap individually or put on a tray and cover with plastic. Tell yourself it's health food because of all the fruits and nuts.

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