I’m stunned. I mean to say that I am absolutely beside myself with the Rocky Road Bark from the December Magazine of the Month, Cook’s Illustrated 2008 Baking. Not only is it our MoM, but we also have a major AwK Advisory in effect.
I looked at the recipe and thought it was a throwaway. Basically it’s one of those kid-friendly looking things where you just layer stuff in a pan, bake it and call it good.
But no. Oh no.
The bottom layer is graham crackers – which is what threw me off. I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of eating something that had graham crackers on the bottom, because I associate that with day care and being five-years old. As an adult, I now cannot stand graham crackers. They’re dry and tasteless and I’d like to think that my palette has evolved since then.
But the graham crackers do not stay in this state for long. After the graham crackers go down, salty caramel is made.
The ingredients to the caramel are butter, light brown sugar and salt – with the salt being the most important ingredient. The caramel that emerges is this outrageously delicious salty-sweet concoction that I couldn’t get enough of. After the sugar is mostly dissolved, I continued to stir it until it became slightly foamy, then I removed it from the heat.
This is spread over the graham crackers and baked in the oven.
While it bakes, the caramel starts to bubble, the rest of the sugar crystals dissolve. More importantly, the graham crackers start to absorb the moisture from the caramel, which is seeping through the cracks, coating the crackers on both sides. The graham crackers are transformed into a higher state of being.
Once the caramel comes out of the oven, it will cool, the bubbles will subside and the color of the salty caramel will be a dark amber.
Chocolate chips are sprinkled on top, warmed up in the oven, then spread over the caramel to make a chocolate layer.
You can sort of see the darkened caramel beneath the chocolate chips.
After the chocolate chips are spread over the top, nuts and miniature marshmallows are sprinkled on top, then pressed in to adhere.
I have to admit, I thought this bark was going to be completely stupid, but when I put it in my mouth, it was heavenly. The secret is the homemade salty caramel. You HAVE TO make this – find it on page 55 of our Dec. ’08 MoM. After it’s cooled a bit, it is cut up into pretty little 2-inch squares. These also went into my cookie boxes, and I have to say it’s probably my favorite thing that I’ve made this season. I will definitely be making it again.