Rocky Road

At breakfast on Saturday, my grand-daughter noticed the list of ice cream flavors available at the Peninsula Creamery, and was delighted to see Rocky Road as one of the choices. (Not that any of us ordered ice cream for breakfast.) That made me wonder about the name and its history.

The story starts in Oakland CA and eventually finds its way to the UK and on to Australia.

From Wikipedia:

Rocky road ice cream is a chocolate flavored ice cream. Though there are variations on the flavor, it is traditionally composed of chocolate ice cream, nuts, and marshmallows. According to one source, the flavor was created in March 1929 by William Dreyer in Oakland, California when he cut up walnuts and marshmallows with his wife’s sewing scissors and added them to his chocolate ice cream in a manner that reflected his partner Joseph Edy’s chocolate candy creation incorporating walnuts and marshmallow pieces. Later, the walnuts would be replaced by pieces of toasted almond. After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Dreyer and Edy gave the flavor its current name “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Alternatively, Fentons Creamery in Oakland claims that William Dreyer based his recipe on a Rocky Road-style ice cream flavor invented by his friend, Fentons’ George Farren, who blended his own Rocky Road-style candy bar into ice cream; however, Dreyer substituted almonds for walnuts. [Note that the name is sometimes capitalized, sometimes not.]

The original Rocky Road ice cream used chocolate ice cream with no chocolate chip pieces. Today, Rocky Road can be obtained based on vanilla ice cream with chocolate chips, marshmallows and almonds.

[Digression on Dreyer’s and Edy’s, from Wikipedia:

Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream Holdings, Inc., a subsidiary of Nestlé, is a United States-based producer of ice cream and frozen yogurt founded in 1928 as Edy’s Grand Ice Cream in Oakland, California by Joseph Edy and William Dreyer. In 1947 the partnership was dissolved, and in 1953 William Dreyer Jr. took over and changed the name to Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream. In 1981 the company expanded and re-adopted the name Edy’s Grand Ice Cream when marketing its product east of the Rocky Mountains, so as to not be confused with another company named Breyers (today owned by Unilever). Hence they market under the Dreyer’s name in the Western United States, and under the Edy’s name in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Until last week, I’d thought that Edy was a woman’s first name turned into a brand name. But no.]

The story starts with a flavor of ice cream and a candy or dessert. The candy/dessert eventually spreads geographically; note the cites in OED3 (June 2010) for rocky road:

1. A process or course of action fraught with obstacles or difficulties. [first cite 1884]

2. orig. U.S. Also with capital initials. A flavour of ice cream (or other dessert), typically made with a mixture of chocolate chips, marshmallow, and nuts

1934   Fresno (Calif.) Bee 9 Apr.   Tuesday’s menu… Rocky Road Ice Cream.

1938   How to make Rennet-custards 24/1   Rocky Road Ice Cream… After beating the cream, milk, and Chocolate ‘Junket’ Rennet Mix together, add 1/2 cup chopped nuts and 8 chopped marshmallows. Mix well and freeze.

1986   San Diego Union-Tribune (Nexis) 11 Dec. (Food section) 2   The cakes, including such flavors as Rocky Road, Mudd Pie, Turtle, Fudge Brownie, Blueberry and Kahlua, cost $25 for a whole cake serving 16 to 20.

2003   Age (Melbourne) (Nexis) 22 Mar. (A2 section) 6   From its basic recipe of marshmallow, nuts and chocolate, Rocky Road has been adapted by home cooks and commercial chefs to include everything from jelly lollies to pistachios, shredded coconut, sultanas, cherries and extra chocolate bits.

On the dessert, from Wikipedia:

Rocky Road is a type of dessert made up of milk chocolate and marshmallow which is usually served in individual portions such as a cupcake or brownie, or in American cuisine, as an ice cream flavor.

The main ingredients in traditional Australian Rocky Road are: marshmallow, milk chocolate (sometimes dark or white chocolate is used), desiccated coconut, glace cherries, nuts (particularly peanuts), Turkish delight

The main ingredients in traditional British Rocky Road are: marshmallow, biscuit, milk chocolate (sometimes dark or white chocolate is used), raisins and sultanas, a light dusting of icing sugar on the top

The main ingredients in traditional American Rocky Road are: marshmallows, milk chocolate, walnuts or almonds

The most popular version of Rocky Road in the U.S. is in ice cream form, which consists of chocolate ice cream, marshmallows (or sometimes a “marshmallow swirl”), and nuts. Although not as popular, slabs of Rocky Road can also be found at confectioner’s shops. The Annabelle Candy Company manufactures a candy bar called Rocky Road that has marshmallow, a thin covering of chocolate, and cashews.

Ice cream flavors are, for the most part, not very photogenic. But these other confections photograph well. Here’s some Australian delight:

There are tons of photos on the web.

One Response to “Rocky Road”

  1. Tané Tachyon Says:

    I have a 1935 citation in a certain big brown/burgundy book here. 🙂

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