(Note: I wasn’t going to post this particular creation as it didn’t quite turn out the way I had intended. I wanted a chewy, “bacony” caramel and instead got a crunchy toffee. I was convinced to share otherwise by a friend who had tasted more than a few pieces and thought it would be a crime not to share — it was “just about the most amazing thing [she] had ever put in her mouth.” Yikes. Apparently, I had neglected to tell her this was supposed to be moist and chewy, not sticky and crunchy. Without knowing what it was supposed to be she decided that what it was was fantastic. So, I put away the cups, got out the foils, and re-branded my caramels “Roca” and called it a day. There is a lesson in there about expectation setting. I think.)
“Roca” is the Spanish word for “rock” which is why it was used in the name for the iconic Almond Roca when it was invented in 1923. My grandmother always had a large tin of Almond Roca at her house when I was growing up. (Now that I think about it, I never saw her actually eat a piece of Almond Roca so perhaps she only had that one tin?) As far as butter crunch toffees go, I am more partial to See’s classic Victoria Toffee. My grandmother always had a box of See’s dark chocolate around and it was her nightly treat to herself to eat one piece. Just one piece a night. It was my nightly treat to eat just one piece… and then take a few more when she wasn’t looking. The two pound assortment in those days contained just one piece of this precious toffee and it would always be my first choice. She knew it was my favorite and always tried to save it for me even going so far as to take it out of the box when her friends came over and putting it back in before I arrived.
My grandmother made a lot of things but she never made candy. I used to giggle when she would refer to “Mrs. See’s candy” as if she actually knew the old lady on the sign. Like they were girlfriends. Then one day I found out that she actually did know “Mrs. See” — only it was Florence See, the founders wife! She had also met the “old lady”, Mary See, (the founder’s mother) several times as well. This was “back in the day” when they were all young adults in early Los Angeles (think L.A. Confidential) and it was more than likely a extremely casual (think ladies club) acquaintanceship that had blossomed into familiarity only in my grandmother’s memory of an earlier time in her life. Still, when you think your good neighbor ‘friend’ is Mary See, why learn to make your own candy?
My own mother never made candy either. She was more about sprouted alfalfa when I was a lad.. About 10 minutes into this particular project and I began wondering why I had even wanted to tackle this cooking genre. Candy making is boring, technical, and apparently unforgiving for…you see, this delightfully crunchy Bacon Roca was supposed to be a delectably chewy Bacon Salted Caramel. I had first seen them over at my friend Jules’ blog and then again over at the fantastic With Out Salt blog. (Jules has her own brand of culinary adventure that is infectious. Bacon caramels is actually quite tame for her!) Once I saw her fantastic pictures of salted bacon chewy-ness I knew I had to give it candy making a try.
I whipped up a shitload of bacon one night after work and went about making the caramels. You would have thought it would have been extremely easy given the short and concise recipe. I won’t go into all the details of what I learned that night but I did figure out that candy making is more like science than art. Sugar behaves a certain way and if you don’t follow the rules it won’t cooperate.
Still, you can only go so wrong with this much bacon in your recipe, right? The reaction as I walked around the office was surprising. Most stared at me like I had just offered them the most unusual culinary creation they had ever heard of. Really? Bacon in candy? I suppose not one of them had ever swabbed their bacon in the maple syrup at breakfast?
“Oh no. I don’t eat bacon. OK, well…just one piece. Oh My GOD!”
“Oh wow. Just wow.!”
“You made this? Why? Really? Why? Ommph. Can I have another?”
I did regroup and do some more research to figure out the error of my candy making ways. It had to do with time and temperature and my eagerness to warm up the mixture. My next candy making effort went much better and I will be posting on it shortly. I will definitely make these bacon treats again once my chief audience forgets about Roca.
Salted Bacon Roca
*Get the recipe for the caramels at With Out Salt. If you want to make Roca then overcook it to Hard Ball Stage, 250 degrees.