The road of a do-er is rocky

I pride myself on being a do-er. You know the expression about talking the talk, but not walking the walk? Well, I’m short on talk and heavy on walk. I’m walking before talking has even been contemplated.

That’s why it pains me to say that I have spent a good deal of my life thinking about making Rocky Road Bars, but never actually doing it. In fact, the closest I’ve come to Rocky Road is the ice cream. (And I was just looking at a tub of it in the ice cream freezer at Baskin Robbins.)

So today, R. and I put our feet where our thoughts are and knocked a few things off that meaning-to-do list.

Early this afternoon, we headed out to Hintonburg, a mistakenly oft-maligned area of Ottawa just west of Centretown. It’s our new favourite part of town, full of a ton of great food places like the Trillium Bakery, the 3 Tarts Bakery and Thyme & Again, as well as my new favourite bookstore, Collected Works. Because we always seem to be in the neighbourhood on Sunday, we consistently miss out on the same places. Today, being Saturday, we finally hit Wellington Sandwiches for lunch and Artistic Cake Design on the way home for some chocolate-making supplies.

Back at the ranch, I finally tackled those Rocky Road Bars. I get the sense that it’s a classic square, but oddly enough – given that I come from a long line of bakers – there seems to be no family recipe in the vault. As synchronicity would have it, however, the October 2006 issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine contained a recipe sent in by a reader (from Beamsville, Ontario, no less!).

I had the impression that Rocky Road Bars contain graham crackers or crumbs, but this recipe begins with a thin brownie base, which is later stacked with nuts, chocolate chips, marshmallows and – if you’re The Casual Baker – dried cranberries. R. claims that the acidity of the cranberries cuts through the sweetness of the square.

In the words of a few good friends, I support that.

Rocky Road Bars

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup mini marshmallows
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.

Place the butter and cocoa in a medium saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth.

Remove from heat. Add the sugar, flour, vanilla and egg, lightly beaten. Slowly add the milk, stirring to incorporate along the way.

Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and dried cranberries. Toss to mix.

Once the brownie base is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the “rocky road” mixture evenly on top. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 3 minutes until the marshmallows begin to puff up. If you want golden marshmallows, cook briefly (1 minute or less) under the broiler at a reduced heat (375 degrees Fahrenheit).

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack until the square is set. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Source: Based on a recipe submitted by Nancy Morgan of Beamsville, Ontario, to the October 2006 issue of Everyday Food magazine (p. 24).