Day 18 of the Free Press's 21 Days of Holiday Cookies features Anna Kidd's Almond Roca. We will be publishing one cookie recipe every day -- Monday to Saturday -- till Christmas.
WINNIPEG'S Anna Kidd is 90 now and rarely bakes, but at Christmas she likes to take out her old recipes and look them over, just for the memories they hold. She estimates that over the years she's made a thousand batches of Almond Roca.
Anna Kidd's Almond Roca
227 g (1 cup) butter (no substitutes -- margarine will separate)
250 ml (1 cup) white sugar
45 ml (3 tbsp) water
15 ml (1 tbsp) corn syrup
100 g (1 cup) flaked toasted almonds
150 ml (1 cup) chocolate coating wafers (such as Merckens), or 225 g (8 oz) semi-sweet or bittersweet baking chocolate, melted in a double boiler over simmering water
Line a 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 in) pan with tin foil. Melt butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add sugar, water and corn syrup and stir until sugar is dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and boil mixture, stirring constantly but gently in a figure-eight, until temperature reaches 150C (300F), or the hard crack stage. (This can take from 10-20 minutes. Mixture will be thickened and a deep caramel colour.) Remove from heat, stir in almonds, immediately pour mixture into prepared pan and spread to cover. Cool thoroughly, cover one side with melted chocolate. Let chocolate harden, then turn over, cover other side and let harden. Break into shards with a knife.
Tester's notes: Candy can be fussy. I botched my first batch, probably by stirring too vigorously so that the sugar crystallized, but the second delicious batch made it all worthwhile. Don't double the quantities, make sure you have a reliable candy thermometer, and don't refrigerate or freeze, as this can spoil the chocolate. Anna says Almond Roca can keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks, but this strikes me as an entirely theoretical point: It's disappearing double-quick at my house.