We all strive for a life that is rewarding, perhaps challenging, but hopefully not arduous. We want to avoid rocky roads, except for perhaps a vacation adventure. No, our pathways in life ideally are as smooth as asphalt with easy hills.

Uh, there is one exception. Everyone should taste a rocky road, a cookie made for anyone who does not have sugar issues. What is a rocky road? It is a second generation brownie, topped with marshmallows and nuts and then doubly topped with a chocolate glaze.

I call this a second generation brownie because after the first round of brownie recipes, some creative cooks wanted a way to boost the dessert experience. And the rocky road was unleashed. Actually, in Great Britain they add cherries, raisins, or sultanas [a white seedless grape]. I prefer mine American style with just the marshmallow.

While you can make this extension to any brownie, Maida Heatter in Maida Heatter’s Cookies offers an exceptionally different brownie. The basis for most brownie recipes is a standard combination: 2 ounces of chocolate, 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of sugar and ½ cup of flour. Other things go in, but the main ingredients come in those proportions.

Not in this recipe. There is more flour, less butter, and less chocolate. The result is a cookie that seems not be baking properly, but you need some faith and you need to follow the directions below. The hardest part is letting the final product cool overnight or for at least 5-6 hours. You can go ahead and try to cut through the cookie sooner than that, but it will be about as messy as an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. You really, really, really need to let these sit overnight. Then you are free to indulge.

I’ve changed this recipe a bit, going for a more common square pan and suggesting you use mini-marshmallows instead of cutting up large ones. It gives you a better coverage of the brownie base and an easier time when you try to melt the marshmallows.

By using just 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate for this recipe, instead of 2, Maida has created a cookie that is less fudgy, more mellow. It’s make the brownie base a better complement to the marshmallows and that very intense glaze that follow.

Dark Rocky Roads

Yield: 16 large brownies or just 1 very intense chocolate experience

Ingredients for the Brownie Layer:

¾ cup sifted all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 ounces (generous ½ cup) coarsely cut or broken pecans

Preparation of the Brownie Layer:

Adjust  a rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Butter a 9 x 9 inch baking pan and set aside.

Place the chocolate and the butter in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan over moderately low heat. Stir constantly until they are melted. Remove from the heat. Add the vanilla and the sugar and stir to mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until thoroughly incorporated after each addition. Stir in the shifted dry ingredients until thoroughly mixed, then stir in the nuts.

Pour into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer.

Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out barely dry.

Do not overbake.

A few minutes before the brownie layer is done, start to prepare the glaze below.

Ingredients for the Topping:

1 to 1 ½ cups mini-marshmallows
2 ½ ounces [¾ cup pecan halves or large pieces

Preparation of the Topping:

Have the marshmallows and nuts ready to use just before the brownie layer is finished baking.

Ingredients for the Glaze:

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup strained confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
About 2 tablespoons boiling water

Preparation of the Topping and Completion of the Rocky Roads:

Melt the chocolate and butter in the top of a small double boiler over hot water on moderate hat. Removed from the heat, but do not mix in the remaining ingredients until you are ready to use the glaze

When the brownie layer is done, remove it from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat. Quickly place the mini-marshmallows over the top of the brownies, using enough to cover the entire area.

Immediately return the pan to the oven and bake for 1-2 minutes until the marshmallows are very soft, but not browning or melting.

Remove the pan from the oven and finish the glaze as follows: Add the sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of boiling water to the melted-chocolate-butter mixture. Stir until smooth. The mixture should be thick, but thin enough to drizzle over the marshmallows. It may be necessary to add a bit more water, but add it very gradually and be sure that you do not add too much.

Quickly sprinkle the pecans over the marshmallows and then immediately (while the cake is still hot and before the glaze thickens), drizzle the glaze unevenly over the marshmallows and nuts. Some of the marshmallows should show through in a few spots, but the nuts should be at least partially covered in order to keep them from falling off.

Let stand uncovered overnight or for at least 5-6 hour is possible. Cut around the sides with a small, sharp knife to release the cake. Then cut into the proportions you desire. Keep dipping the knife into cold water to prevent it from sticking.

Source: Maida Heatter’s Cookies by Maida Heater