My search to satisfy a guilty pleasure started off innocently enough. I was in the mood for some rocky road ice cream. But regular, commercial brands are out of the question because they use regular marshmallows.
Instead of mixing up my own version of lacto-ovo vegetarian friendly rocky road ice cream, I felt lazy and wanted some pre-packaged brand. While scouring the interwebs for a vegetarian or vegan friendly rocky road ice cream, I found out about National Rocky Road Day.
This is one of those unofficial holidays that was probably started as a commercial promotion by the ice cream industry or a company that sells ready made, flavored ice creams.
The actual mixture came about in 1853, near Melbourne, Australia as a way to sell chocolate that had become a bit stale during the long shipment time from Europe. Eager not to lose money, unscrupulous businessmen wanted to find a way to unload their great quantities of third rate chocolate. The solution was to chop up the chocolate, and mix the small pieces with locally grown nuts and filler ingredients.
A ready market already existed in the gold mining settlements around Melbourne. The hundreds of miners had plenty of cash to spend, but most were not sophisticated nor highly cultured individuals. The questionable chocolate product could be unloaded on the willing miners at a handsome profit. The name was coined because the merchants had to travel very rough, rocky roads in order to reach the gold fields. The story sounds a bit suspect, but I like it anyway.
If you feel creative, you can whip up a batch of rocky road brownies by folding chopped or crushed nuts and mini marshmallows into your favorite brownie recipe. Variations include rocky road “pizza”, rocky road “trail mix”, and other concoctions. In the spirit of the original Australian merchants, go ahead and experiment. Just use a better grade of chocolate.
How about the popular American ice cream treat? William Dreyer was an ice cream maker and Joseph Edy was a manufacturer of fine confectionaries. The two formed a partnership in Oakland, California. In March of 1929, the business partners came up with the idea to manufacture an ice cream flavor based on rocky road candy. At the time, only vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavored ice creams were available to the public.
Edy experimented with proportions and ingredients. Because only large marshmallows were available, Edy used his wife’s sewing scissors to cut marshmallows to small pieces. A mixture of chopped roasted almonds and marshmallow was blended into chocolate ice cream to make the first batches of rocky road ice cream.
By the time the product was ready for the market, the infamous Wall Street Crash of 1929 had happened and the country was suffering in the depths of the Great Depression. The partners promoted their new ice cream as a way to describe the hard times people were suffering but worded their advertising in a way to make light of difficult times. Their idea took off and became one of the most popular ice cream flavors sold.
A quick shortcut rocky road ice cream for lazy vegetarians is really easy. I take a carton of regular chocolate chip or chocolate ice cream or ice milk and place it on your countertop to soften a little. While you’re waiting, chop 3/4 or a full cup of peanuts or almonds in a chopper, food processor, or blender. Reserve 3/4 or a full cup of vegan or vegetarian mini marshmallows. If you can only find regular size marshmallows, cut them up to small sized ones.
Next mix in the peanuts and mini marshmallows with the chocolate chip ice cream. You will probably need to use your blender enough to accomodate half a gallon of ice cream, or if you have a large capacity food processor, use that. Place the mixture into a suitable container into your freezer to allow it to firm up again. Later, just enjoy.
If you have more ambition, and/or are vegetarian or vegan, there are recipes available on the web for frozen treats, including rocky road desserts. If you own an ice cream appliance, you have many options.
However you buy it or make it. I hope you can enjoy National Rocky Road Day with a little indulgence, today.