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!