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Reinvention of famed nutroll requires secret hiding place

The classic Minnesota nutroll proved to be a temptress, husband and wife lured by the sweet nutty flavor. (Amy Thielen/For the Enterprise)

I love the tradition of making homemade bars that taste just like commercial candy bars: Snickers bars, Mars bars, but it is a curious one: driven by thrift or just hunger?

This week I've come to the conclusion that maybe it's the distance you live from town that spurs you to make your own candy bars. What if you're marooned out in the woods, or snowed in, and you're craving something decadent and junky? Believe me, you'll figure out a way to get it.

Last week I was craving a Pearson's Salted Nut Roll, that wonderful candy bar made right in St. Paul on West 7th Street, but I didn't want to drive the five miles to the Two Inlets Country Store to get one.

So I sifted through some Internet recipes and most called for marshmallows, which I didn't have. In the back of my pantry I found a stowaway jar of Marshmallow Fluff, long past its prime, if that's even possible. (It tasted fine.)

And then for the caramel I melted all of my mom's homemade caramels left over from Christmas. (You could use those caramels in little wrappers). I made a snake of marshmallow fluff nougat, covered it in melted caramel, rolled the thing in peanuts, and presto, I had what I wanted. It was beyond my hopes for "just as good."

In fact, it was a temptress. After a few days of my husband and I taking secret turns whittling small chunks off of the nut roll, I walked into the pantry, sure it was all gone by now, to find just the end nubbin wrapped in about an acre of crumpled plastic wrap.

I had the feeling that he was hiding the last of it from me, but as I lobbed it into my mouth I felt no guilt. I can always make another nut roll. Or maybe next time I'll attempt a Whatchamacallit. I think if I begin with some crispy chocolate rice crispies I'll be headed in the right direction.

Salted Nutroll

Makes 2

1 cup marshmallow fluff

1 1/2 cup (more or less) confectioner's sugar

2 cups salted roasted peanuts, lightly crushed

10 ounces caramels, homemade or store-bought

Melt the caramels in a saucepot over low heat.

Beat the sugar into the marshmallow fluff gradually, until it becomes so stiff that mixing is difficult. Turn it out onto a workspace heavily coated with confectioner's sugar and knead in the rest of the sugar, until it becomes stiff and pliable. Roll into two logs.

Butter the centers of two rectangles (approximately 9 x 13 inches) of parchment paper. Spoon a layer of caramel down the center, in a rectangular shape. Sprinkle with the nuts. Set the sugar roll in the center. (The caramel should be larger.) Cover the roll with more caramel and sprinkle heavily with crushed peanuts, pressing into the caramel.

Immediately slide the roll onto a plate and chill in the refrigerator. Repeat with the second roll.

To serve, trim the excess nuts and caramel and slice into portions. If the roll has flattened, gather the paper around the candy and roll until cylindrical; chill again.

Wrap extra tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. (In a secret place, if necessary.)