When Elie and I first started dating, we had an agreement: I would cook and he would play guitar while I cooked. It’s been a successful arrangement, one that makes us both happy. But every now and then, Elie gets the urge to make something sweet. I bought him an ice cream churn for his birthday, and he’s become quite the ice cream maker, perfecting chocolate peanut butter (our favorite) and butter pecan. He once tried to make caramels, but all the butter separated. It was a happy accident, because we were left with a really rich, delicious version of Tootsie Rolls. But his signature treat is Pecan Roca, which he has started making once a year, around the holidays.
It doesn’t surprise me that Elie’s a good pastry chef–he’s good at everything he attempts. On our babymoon in Austin, he attempted archery for the first time, and he was the only one to shoot the arrow through the apple. But, I digress.
This Pecan Roca is deceptively easy. There are only two tricks. One, use good ingredients. We use an unsalted cultured butter, organic sugar and really good chocolate (at least 70% cocoa content). Two, when you’re cooking the butter and sugar mixture, stir continuously and watch it carefully. This is not the time to answer the phone or check email. It will go from looking like separated butter to bubbling cheese to a smooth caramel. Just keep going. Once the caramel gets to a deep (but not burnt) color, immediately remove it from the heat and stir in the pecans. That’s the only trick. The rest is easy. You don’t even need a candy thermometer.
For sheet pans, you can either use a half-sheet pan or a full one, depending on how thick you want the Pecan Roca to be. We ended up tilting the full sheet pan, propping one end on a towel, to make this batch a little thicker.
I like to top the Pecan Roca with a little Murray River flaky salt. Elie leaves it off. You choose – it’s great either way. Because this candy is addictive, we suggest making a batch for a party, or immediately giving most of it away to your family and friends. Or, do like Elie does, and hide it from yourself.
These short days make for tough food photography, and we ate most of the Pecan Roca before I thought to get good pictures. But, you get the idea. It’s perfect for your New Year’s Eve celebration. Happy New Year!
- 4 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 tablespoons water
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 cups toasted pecans, chopped
- 1 cup chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
- Murray River salt (optional)
- Prepare a rimmed baking sheet by greasing it with butter. If you like a thicker roca, use a half-sheet pan. If you want a thinner roca, use a full-sheet pan.
- Combine the butter, sugar, water and a pinch of salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Turn the heat to medium-high. Stir continuously. The mixture will look grainy and then like bubbling cheese. Keep stirring until the mixture is smooth and has turned a caramel brown color. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the toasted pecans.
- Pour the mixture on to the greased baking sheet and spread it into an even layer.
- While the mixture is still warm, sprinkle the chopped chocolate evenly across the top. Let the chocolate melt slightly, and then spread the chocolate in an even layer across the candy. Sprinkle the salt over the chocolate.
- Leave the baking sheet on the counter and allow it to harden completely This will take at least an hour. Once it is completely hardened, break it into rustic pieces. Store in airtight containers.