By Angela Denstad Stigeler
No matter how exciting a new school year promises to be, it’s always a little hard to say goodbye to summer break, especially when the weather seems at the height of the season. If you’re in need of a little encouragement during the transition, it never hurts to give vacation a sweet send-off. A good old fashioned nut roll is just the thing to bring out those sunny smiles, whether in a lunchbox or as an after-school treat.
While salty peanuts are the traditional foil for the sweet nougat and caramel, when you make your own candy you can easily substitute other nuts if allergies are an issue. Slivered almonds or chopped cashews would be great here, and provide all the protein and nutrition of the original treat. If necessary, you could forego the nuts altogether and substitute crushed pretzels or corn flakes. Any of these combinations will be sure to make the grade. So start the school year off on a roll with these salted nut rolls. They’re sure to win you top honors.
Salted Nut Rolls
1 cup marshmallow crème
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
6 tablespoons salted butter
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups salted, roasted peanuts or other nuts, coarsely chopped
Either by hand or with a mixer fitted with a dough hook, stir together the marshmallow crème, 1½ cups powdered sugar, vanilla and almond extracts until well combined. The mixture should be dry enough to just barely stick to your finger. Knead in the additional powdered sugar as necessary.
Divide the nougat into four parts and, on waxed paper, roll each section under your fingers into a long cylinder, about ½-inch in diameter. Transfer the rolls to the freezer until firm.
Meanwhile, put the granulated sugar into a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan and pour the water over the top. Over low heat, stir gently to dissolve the sugar without splashing crystals up onto the sides of the pan. When the mixture looks shiny and smooth, turn the heat to medium-high and cook without stirring until the sugar begins to change color, 5-10 minutes. Watch carefully, swirling the pot if needed—but don’t stir!—until the caramel is amber-colored and registers 340 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Immediately turn off the heat and add the butter, stirring vigorously to combine. Carefully add 2 tablespoons of the cream (it will bubble up) and stir to combine.
Remove the nougat from the freezer and cut into desired sizes. Dip the cold nougat into the caramel to coat, roll in the nuts and place on a waxed paper-lined tray to cool.