Rocky Road ice cream is a flavor with a great story behind it. It was created in March of 1929 by ice cream makers Joseph Edy and William Dreyer, who put marshmallows and walnuts into chocolate ice cream. After the big Stock Market Crash in December of 1929 (which started the Great Depression), the partners gave the flavor it’s current name – Rocky Road – “to give folks something to smile about in the midst of the Great Depression.” Even the story puts a smile on my face, and the ice cream itself is one of the most popular flavors out there almost a century later.
Rich chocolate ice cream, crunchy walnuts and sweet, fluffy marshmallows are a fantastic combination for an ice cream flavor. I start my Homemade Rocky Road Ice Cream with a classic chocolate ice cream base. The basic custard is made with milk and cream, and thickened with egg yolks. The chocolate flavor comes both from semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder, so it has a really balanced chocolate flavor that is neither too dark nor too sweet, but just right for a batch of rocky road. You’ll need an ice cream maker to get the best, creamiest results with this recipe – and with most homemade ice cream recipes, so it is worth investing in one if you’re an ice cream lover planning to make it yourself on a regular basis.
My biggest complaint with rocky road ice creams that you can buy at ice cream shops or at grocery stores is that they don’t have enough stuff in them. Not that there is anything wrong with chocolate ice cream on its own, but if I wanted plain chocolate I would buy that! Fortunately, when you’re making your own ice cream you have a lot of control over how many add-ins you can add. I like to put in a lot of miniature marshmallows (homemade will work, but I tend to prefer the lighter store-bought minis for ice cream) and plenty of nuts. Walnuts are classic for rocky road, though I will often use a combination of toasted walnuts and pecans when I’m making it at home.
Rocky Road Ice Cream
2 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (chocolate chips are fine)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 cup toasted walnuts and/or pecans, coarsely chopped
In a large saucepan, combine semisweet chocolate, cream and milk. Bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to dissolve the chocolate.
While milk is heating, whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, salt and egg yolks in a large bowl. When milk comes to a simmer, remove it from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly drizzle it into the sugar mixture. Continue to whisk until all of the milk has been incorporated into the bowl, then pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan.
Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently with a spatula and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl, until mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Stir in vanilla extract and remove from heat.
Strain (optional, to ensure smoothness) into a large, clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
Pour chocolate ice cream base into your ice cream maker and chill as directed.
When it has finished churning, transfer the soft ice cream into a freezable container with an airtight lid. Fold in mini marshmallows and chopped nuts, then cover with the lid and freeze until firm (about 1-2 hours) before serving.
Makes approx 1 1/2 quarts.