Sometimes a project just smacks you on the head.
It’s been a busy two weeks, first a trip to the Cascades (gorgeous!) and then a literal PILE of friends from San Francisco descended on Seattle for a weekend of total gluttony (and all I’m gonna say about that is “Don’t eat a Bacon Cheeseburger at Lunchbox Laboratory before noon. It hurts.”). And the sun. Did I mention the sun? It’s been shining over Seattle for two weeks. There was no way I was spending my days in the kitchen. I was planting a montmorency cherry tree in my front yard. And blueberry and raspberry bushes in the back. And if I can convince John to drive me back to the nursery I suspect we’ll be adding a comice pear tree to the family.
BUT. Back to projects. For some reason caramels just keep popping up. Everywhere. I go out to eat and one gets handed to me with the bill. I go to candy stores and they are there, taunting me. Even Pantea bought me a box as a present before flying away. The weird thing is, for some strange reason, they all tasted like raisins. I can’t explain it, but it was making me think that I left my taste buds in San Francisco. So I decided to make my own. I poked around on the interweb and found a recipe that had the two magic words: salt and creme fraiche. The only changes I made were adding some vanilla and slightly lowering the salt, because I didn’t want that to be ALL one tasted.
First I warmed up some creme fraiche over low heat.
While that was warming I heated up butter, sugar, corn syrup, milk, vanilla bean seeds and salt. This started out easy enough, but it was a tad tricky getting it up to 300 degrees without it burning in spots. There was a lot of stirring involved. I would have taken pictures, but I unfortunately only have 2 hands.
Once it was nice and dark (and 300 degrees) I poured the mixture into a foil lined baking pan. I let it sit overnight to cool.
Then I began the arduous task of slicing it into individual pieces. Can we just take a moment to appreciate that Seattle sunlight?
And candy was had by all! Well, by me and John anyways. I think I’ll be mailing some of this off to friends, because there is just no reason two people need this much deliciousness in their home. And btw, I am happy to report that these caramels did not even remotely taste like raisins. I dare say they were perfect.
SALTED CREME FRAICHE CARAMELS RECIPE:
250 grams sugar
250 grams light corn syrup
250 grams whole milk
200 grams unsalted butter
1 TBSP + 2 tsp salt
1/2 vanilla bean seeds
200 grams creme fraiche
- Line an 8″ square cake pan with foil and brush with melted butter.
- Put creme fraiche in small saucepan over low heat. You want it all loose and melty, not boiling.
- Rub vanilla bean seeds into sugar and place all the ingredients (minus creme fraiche) in a medium sauce pan. Heat over high with a thermometer in place, stirring occasionally. Once it starts to take on color, stir constantly, scraping around the sides to prevent scorching.
- When it reaches 300 degrees, very very slowly pour in the creme fraiche. Since it will probably splatter and attack you, I recommend wearing an oven mitt for protection. Because caramel burns, they hurt. And they scar. Stir the crap out of the caramel, getting all the lumps out.
- Once it is perfectly smooth, pour it into the lined cake pan. Let it cool completely, at least a few hours.
- Turn the candy out onto a cutting board and start slicing. It will stick, but you can easily scoop up the pieces with an offset spatula.
- Wrap them in waxed paper and hand them out to all your friends!
There are two types of cooks. First there are those that burn through recipes and techniques, dipping their toes in many different things and gaining all different kinds of loose intuitive knowledge. Then there are those who master the art of perfecting whatever they are into at the moment. They tinker and tinker with the same dish until they have it down to a science.
I am very much not the second type. I’ll just go right ahead and say it: I have a short attention span. It’s rare that I’ll do anything twice, no matter how much I like it. Vacations, restaurants, recipes: I’m always curious about whether there’s something more fun, so repeats don’t happen often. It’s weird, if you ask me to list the best restaurant meals of my life, I’ve probably never been to any those places twice. I can’t help it!
But. Every now and then, I get presented with an opportunity to get completely OBSESSED with one thing. It usually means I have no choice, or I’m fighting a string of particularly bad luck with a dish. Right now, the stars have aligned and it’s all candied citrus peels. We have this dessert on the menu at Delancey, a meyer lemon budino. A yummy rich lemon cream that is (thankfully) being well received. The cream uses a ton of meyer lemons, but mostly just the juice. After seeing piles and piles of lemon rinds being tossed, I started hoarding them. If there was ever a time to candy citrus, then THIS was it.
You see, tucked away in my brain’s recesses was a desire to perfect the technique of candying citrus. I know it’s not exactly hard, but I seem to have a very high standard. I dream of these perfect little gummy peels, flexible and soft, evenly coated with sugar, chewy when you bite into them, and not a trace of bitterness. For something that only has 3 ingredients, I had a hard time finding a way to consistently get perfect candy. But after about 5 rounds with the peels (that would be 5 weeks worth of budino scraps), I am proud to report that I’ve finally got it. What I think is the perfect technique for candied citrus.
First I sliced up my peels to the ideal size. Then I placed them in cold water and brought that to a boil. As soon as the water boiled, I drained them out. I did this 3 times, rinsing the heat out of the peels between each blanch so that they always started in cold water (without rinsing they will warm the water up immediately). This step helps remove the bitterness from the remaining pith.
Then I made a simple syrup of equal parts (in volume) of water and granulated sugar. I made just enough to cover the peels by 1/4″ or so in the pot. I brought them to a bare simmer (not a full boil) and let them poach for 4 hours. I checked them for doneness by pulling out a peel and holding it up the window. I want to be able to see through it. Then, I take the peels off of the heat and place the whole pot in the fridge. I leave them there, covered, for 2 days. It may seem excessive, but I’m convinced that this part gives the peels the delicious gooey soft texture I like. Obviously they can be stored in their liquid (refrigerated) as long as you like, think of 2 days as a minimum soaking time.
Once they’ve soaked, I laid them out on a drying rack over a sheet pan. This is the part where I had my epiphany. Previously, I had simply left the pans out for a couple of days to dry out. After several batches of not guessing the right time (not long enough and the sugar they get tossed in will clump up and become hard and crusty; too long and they get hard and lose their gummy bear texture) and getting extremely frustrated with the humidity in Seattle, it finally hit me: put them in the oven. Duh. So I did just that. And after about 2 hours at 180 degrees, they came out perfect for tossing.
I tossed them in superfine sugar and sealed them away in a tupperware. Supposedly they’ll last a month or so like this, but they’ve never actually lasted that long in my house…
This year I didn’t do much holiday baking. I flew home on Christmas Eve, and there wasn’t much time for hanging in the kitchen. But for some reason, I kept finding time for making toffee. As in, I became slightly obsessed with making toffee. I couldn’t stop it, I’d make a batch, and then everyone would devour it, forcing me to make another. I don’t normally repeat cook (short attention span), but I was just feeling it I guess. The thing is, by making batch after batch of toffee, I started to figure some things out that I hadn’t noticed last year. The most important thing being: actually use a thermometer. This may seem common sense to other candy makers out there, but it was a revelation for me. More on that in a bit.
I started by putting melted butter, sugar, salt and water in a pot and cooking (stirring constantly) over medium to medium low heat. This was another thing I learned around batch #3: Too high of heat makes it cook unevenly, scorching in spots, and also affects the texture negatively. I’m not sure why, my only assumption is that a lower heat allows the water to evaporate out before it reaches the right temperature. Once the mixture reached 260 degrees I added some of the nuts (I used pecans on this batch) and continued cooking.
When it reached 305 degrees, I poured it onto a sheet pan that I had oiled. The 305 being the most important part of that step. Thermometers. Who knew? I tend to be a little loosey-goosey with temperatures, preferring to rely on colors, smells, and textures to guide me. In the case of toffee, that’s not to say that I don’t PUT a thermometer in the pot while the candy is cooking. It’s just that when it reaches the appropriate temperature, I keep cooking it. Why? Because I like alot of caramelization. I tend to go dark on a lot of things, which you would know if you’ve eaten any of my pies, crisps, toast, cookies or caramel sauces. I love that just-before-burnt flavor. But toffee, it turns out, does not want to be caramelized. At around 305 degrees, the candy is at just the right place to spread out in a thick mass. Further cooking does result in a darker and slightly more bitter toffee (yumm), but it also gives you a thin toffee with a not so awesome texture. As in, it sticks in your teeth and is just not pleasant to chew (and pick out of your teeth for the rest of the day).
After it cooled completely, I broke it into chunks.
The traditional way to make it is to score it while it’s still warm and then break it into neat pieces before dipping them into melted chocolate. I’ve found that a) I don’t really care about the neat shapes, because I want to eat the toffee PRONTO and b) since I use good chocolate, there ends up being way too intense of chocolate flavor for the amount of toffee. So my process is to just melt some chocolate down and plop it on the individual chunks. Before it re-solidifies I sprinkle on chopped nuts and let it finish cooling. Another lesson I learned on this toffee marathon: It gets better after several hours. This is a hard one, because it’s torture to resist the toffee’s call while it’s resting. But it’s worth it. When it’s fresh it’s kind of brittle, and the sugar flavor is most prominent. After a few hours, the texture softens and the butter flavor comes through.
ENGLISH TOFFEE RECIPE (adapted from “Truffles, Candies & Confections” by Carole Bloom):
2 TBSP canola oil
10oz unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup almonds or pecans, finely chopped
3oz chocolate, finely chopped
- Coat a baking sheet with the canola oil and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar, the water and the salt; increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture registers 260°F on a sugar thermometer (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.
- Add 1/2 cup of the nuts and continue cooking until the mixture becomes golden and registers 305°F on the thermometer (about 8 minutes) stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the mixture onto the oiled sheet pan. Let cool completely.
- Break the toffee into chunks.
- Melt (and temper if you’re up for it) the chocolate. Spread the melted chocolate on the toffee chunks.
- Sprinkle the remaining almonds onto the toffee and let sit until the chocolate is set.
Yesterday a friend emailed asking me for a good southern praline recipe. I vaguely remembered someone making it at Tartine and found the recipe in their cookbook. I know, being from Bama I should consult some relative back home, or at least some dusty old stack of secret southern recipes. But the last recipe for candy my grandmother shared called for paraffin wax (like IN the brittle – YUCK!) and I have my limits. After typing up the recipe for her, it was all I could think about. I had all the ingredients already, so it seemed like a waste to NOT make some…
I started by toasting the pecans for a few minutes, to perk them up.
Then I mixed the sugar, cream, butter, salt, molasses and bourbon in a largish pot.
I let that boil, stirring occasionally, until it reached 240 degrees.
I let it sit in the pot cooling, still stirring occasionally, until it reached 210 degrees. I stirred in the toasted nuts, making sure to get them well coated. Then I poured the mixture out on a sheet pan. I let it cool for 1 minute to start setting up, then sprinkled sea salt on top. Because I like my candy salty. You can omit that step if you prefer unadulterated sweetness.
After it cooled completely I broke the praline into chunks. And then started passing it out to anyone who walked by. Because this stuff is like crack. Pure candy crack. Definitely dangerous, definitely best to share it before I scarf it all down myself! And did I mention that it took like 20 minutes? So really, there are no excuses.
BOURBON PECAN PRALINE RECIPE (Tartine Bakery):
2 cups (10 oz) pecan halves
3 cups (21 oz) sugar
1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream
4 tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp unsulphered molasses
2 tbsp bourbon
sea salt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325
- Spread pecans on baking sheet and toast for 4 minutes. Let cool completely.
- Line another baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
- In a deep heavy bottom saucepan, combine sugar, cream, butter, salt, molasses and bourbon
- Cook over medium high heat, stirring to break up lumps.
- Bring to boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until it registers 240 on thermometer.
- Remove from heat and let cool until it reaches 210.
- Add the pecans and stir vigorously (you have to work fast because it will start to thicken).
- Pour mixture onto the sheet pan and let it cool for 1 minute.
- Sprinkle on sea salt.
- Let cool for an hour and then break into chunks.
I know it’s been a little while since my last post. I went on a much needed vacation to Seattle with some girlfriends for a little girl’s weekend. A 5 day weekend, but a weekend non the less. Two of my friends were the architects for the new Delancey pizzeria (if you read the blog Orangette, you’ve probably already heard of it) in the Ballard neighborhood and we were itching to check it out. I’m happy to report the pizza and the restaurant were amazing, as well as the entire city of Seattle, which stole my heart. It was my first time there and hopefully I’ll be returning soon.
But back here in San Francisco, it’s Halloween! I actually am not motivated at all this year, so instead of partying with my friends, (I have to get up early and I’m old and lazy! Stop judging me!) I’m making candy corn. I’ve seen this recipe floating around on the web and have been curious, so it was good timing.
I started by boiling granulated sugar, corn syrup and butter for about 5-6 minutes. I mixed in some vanilla and let it cool for 15 minutes.
While that was cooling, I sifted together powdered sugar, powdered milk and salt in a large bowl.
I poured in the warm sugar mixture.
I kneaded until it was a smooth dough.
Then I split it into 3 parts and mixed in some food coloring.
I rolled the dough into thin ropes and pressed the 3 colors together.
Then I sliced them into triangles.
And then spent an embarrassing amount of time squishing each little piece together. Since I lost steam pretty fast, John came to the rescue. It made a certain amount of sense, since he’s the one that will be feasting on these little sugar bombs for the next week!
UPDATE: We’ve had 3 little kiddies visit us for our homemade candy! That alone was worth it!
CANDY CORN RECIPE:
yields aprox. 300 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
10-40 drops red and yellow food coloring
- Heat white sugar, corn syrup and butter in a sauce pan over low heat. Stir until all ingredients are dissolved. Turn heat to high until mixture comes to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and let bubble (uncovered) for 5 minutes.
- Stir in vanilla extract and remove from heat. Allow to cool until warm to the touch (about 15 minutes).
- In a large bowl sift powdered sugar, powdered milk and salt. Add cooled mixture from sauce pan and stir until it’s too thick. Begin to work with your hands and knead the dough until all of the powdered sugar have been absorbed.
- Divide dough into 3 sections, make a dent in 2 pieces and add 20 drops of yellow food coloring to each. In one of those, add 9 drops of red food coloring to create orange. Mix each until colors are even throughout.
- To make candy corns, eyeball 1/8th of the dough from each piece. Roll each color into long ropes and press together. Cut with a bench scraper or knife and smoosh the seams together. John reported good luck with microwaving them in short bursts to keep the dough warm. Allow the candy to cool and air dry.
- Once dry, store in an airtight container.
Today was fun. While lazing about the house with a sad tummy, I was thinking of marshmallows. Not eating them, just making them. After a botched attempt last year I was feeling the need to redeem myself. Several hours later I became a believer that EVERYONE should make homemade marshmallows. Just once. It is total kitchen magic. I had the itch (and some extra egg whites) and decided to make a batch of raspberry flavored mallows.
I started by oiling and then dusting a pan with powdered sugar and cornstarch.
Since it takes a while to get up to temp, I started boiling my sugar syrup.
Then I rubbed some vanilla bean seeds with a bit of sugar.
I tossed that in with some raspberry puree (still had some of the freezer from this day). Then I sprinkled on some gelatin, stirring to keep it from clumping.
Since it immediately becomes stiff, I placed it over a pot of simmering water to melt the gelatin down. This part is a bit tricky: You want the gelatin warm to loosen it up, but if it gets too warm it smells just awful. So have your nose be your guide. If you can smell it, remove it from the heat and stir using the residual heat. If your house suddenly smells like livestock, you have gone too far. I did that once and couldn’t eat a marshmallow for a year. Seriously, gelatin is creepy. In a fabulous sort of way.
I started whipping some egg whites into a stiff meringue.
And then slowly poured in my syrup. I let that whip for a few seconds, and poured in the raspberry mixture. I continued whipping, until the marshmallow had cooled and tripled in volume.
I poured the marshmallow onto the prepared pan.
And attempted to flatten it out.
I let it sit for 3 hours and then turned it onto a powdered sugar coated board. I sprinkled on a thick layer of more powdered sugar and let it sit for another hour.
Then I started slicing!
I rolled the little squares in more powdered sugar and played with them for a while.
And what do we do with fresh yummy squishy marshmallows? We dip them in Chocolate!
RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOW RECIPE:
14 oz sugar
1 TBSP corn syrup
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup (1 oz) gelatin
3/4 cup raspberry puree
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
2 TBSP water
2 egg whites
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
- Mix the cornstarch and powdered sugar together. Prepare a 9″x13″ pan by greasing it lightly with vegetable oil. Dust it with half of the powdered sugar mixture.
- Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 3/4 cup water in a pot over low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, bring to a boil. Place a thermometer inside. You want the syrup to eventually reach 260.
- While syrup is boiling, mix together vanilla bean seeds and 1 TBSP sugar. Rub with fingers until seeds are incorporated into sugar. Mix raspberry puree, water and vanilla sugar in a bowl. Sprinkle gelatin on top, stirring it in to keep it from clumping. Place this over a pot of simmering water to melt the gelatin.
- Begin beating the egg whites until stiff. Once they are stiff and syrup is at 260, begin slowly pouring in syrup while continuing to beat the whites. Beat for 30 seconds to incorporate.
- Beat in raspberry puree mixture. Continue beating until marshmallow mixture is cooled and tripled in volume.
- Immediately pour into the prepared pan and quickly smooth the top flat. Let the marshmallow sit, uncovered, for at least 3 hours at room temperature.
- Dust a work surface with the rest of the sugar cornstarch mixture. Run a knife along the edges to loosen the marshmallow and turn out onto the surface. Cover with a layer of powdered sugar and let sit for 1 hour to develop a sugar crust.
- Cut the marshmallow into squares and toss the squares in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
I’m not saying it wasn’t fun, I’m just saying if you ever hear me talk about making 400 reinvented classic candy bars I want you to hit me. Today I post the last and most certainly not least in my candy bar collection – The S’mores bar. I know technically it’s not a candy bar, but well, who cares? It is now!
First I made a graham cracker crust.
Then I whipped egg yolks and powdered sugar until fluffy.
Then I melted butter and mixed in cocoa powder and chocolate.
I whisked in the egg mixture and then folded in some whipped cream.
I spread the mousse onto my crust and popped the tray into the freezer to firm up.
I sliced them into bite-sized squares and put them back in the fridge. While they were chilling I made a meringue and piped it on top. I used a torch to burn the meringue. So cute!
3 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 oz butter
1 tbsp sugar
8 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz butter
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 oz egg whites
12 oz sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- To make the crust: Combine the graham cracker crumbs with the melted butter and granulated sugar until well combined. Press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch metal baking pan. Bake the crust until it starts to brown and become crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- To make the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and confectioners’ sugar together in a large bowl until they are thick and the color of butter. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly, then gradually beat into the egg mixture.
- Fold the softly beaten heavy cream into the chocolate mixture just until combined. Spoon the chocolate cream over the graham cracker crust, smoothing it evenly with a spatula. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and freeze for 3 hours.
- When ready to serve, make the meringue: Combine whites and sugar in a KitchenAid bowl. Place over a pan of simmering water and whisk continuously, until the whites register 155 on a thermometer. Transfer to mixer and beat until cooled. It should be thick and shiny. Beat in the vanilla.
- Carefully slice the s’mores into squares using a hot knife. Top each with the meringue in a large dollop. Use a torch to carefully burnish the meringue until topped with golden brown. Serve immediately.
The fun just never stops! Yesterday I had my friends Kaveena and Sareena helping me out and we made Almond Joy Bars for the Party Corps Fundraiser. I’m not usually excited about coconut, but I couldn’t resist this recipe…
I started by boiling sugar, butter, corn syrup and water.
I poured the mixture over the chopped chocolate and let stand for about 1 minute.
Then I whisked in the rest of the ingredients to make a brownie batter.
I spread out the brownie batter.
I baked the brownies until they had a nice flaky top.
I made a meringue, then folded in shredded coconut, sour cream and the seeds from a vanilla bean.
I spread on the filling and popped it back in the oven.
I baked the coconut filling until it was nice and browned.
Then I sliced the bars into bite-sized squares.
I finished them off by pouring on some ganache and topping them with an almond. Adorable!
14 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
7 large egg whites
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 pound finely shredded unsweetened coconut (6 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (optional)
1 pound 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
4 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
40 unsalted roasted almonds
MAKE THE BROWNIES: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup and water and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and let stand for about 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the flour and salt, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla until fully incorporated.
Scrape the brownie batter onto the prepared baking sheet and spread it to the edge. Bake for 15 minutes, until the top of the brownie looks dry and crackly. Transfer the baking sheet to a rack to cool, then transfer the baking sheet to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes, until the brownie base is completely firm.
MEANWHILE, MAKE THE COCONUT TOPPING: In a large heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites with the sugar. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of boiling water and whisk the mixture over moderate heat until it is warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. Fold in the shredded coconut, sour cream, vanilla seeds and grated orange zest, if using. Spread the coconut topping evenly over the brownie base. Bake for 30 minutes, until the coconut topping is lightly golden and set. Transfer to a rack to cool, then cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.
MAKE THE GLAZE: Combine the chopped bittersweet chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a large bowl. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Let stand until warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, using a sharp knife, trim the border of the chilled brownie base to make it neat. Cut the base into 2-inch squares and transfer them to 2 wire racks set over baking sheets. Top each square with an almond. Using a small ladle, pour a thick coating of the chocolate glaze over each brownie bar. Using a small offset spatula, spread the glaze to coat the top and sides completely. (Rewarm the glaze over a pot of simmering water if it gets too thick.) Refrigerate the brownie bars until the glaze sets up, about 1 hour. Serve chilled.
Today I tackle the Twix candy bar, another personal favorite!
I got started by cooking the dulce de leche. This was a time-consuming task involving about 3 hours of cooking over a pot of simmering water to evaporate the water without scorching the milk.
Then I made a shortbread dough and pressed it into a buttered pan.
I pricked holes in the dough and baked it until it was nice and browned.
I spread on top my dulce de leche and popped it in the freezer to really firm up.
And then I spread on some chocolate.
And then disaster struck. Big time. When I cut my little bars, all of the dulce de leche oozed out the sides. Totally not cute at all. By this time it was midnight, I had worked a full shift at the restaurant and was NOT in the mood for failure. But these little punks didn’t care. They failed anyways. So I broke up with them, kicked them out of the candy bar club and officially disinvited them from the party.
But you know what? They still tasted good. Really good and very Twix-esque. So I’ll probably nibble them on the sly…
RECIPE: (adapted from BAKED: New Frontiers in Baking)
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 /12 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
28 ounces sweetened condensed milk (two 14-ounce cans)
1/2 vanilla bean
6 ounces dark chocolate (60% cacao), coarsely choppe
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
For the shortbread:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter together until blended.
3. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat until well combined. Add the egg yolk and beat for a few seconds, or until just combined.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough and your hands with a little flour. Use your hands to gently work the dough into a 6-by-6-inch square. You will have to turn the dough and sprinkle the top with flour as you go. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup flour on the surface of the dough. Fold the dough over and knead until incorporated, then flatten the dough into a rectangle. Transfer the rectangle to the prepared pan and press it into the pan.
5. Prick the dough all over with a fork and bake in the center of the oven for 23 to 26 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
For the caramel filling:
Put the sweetened condensed milk in a medium heat-proof bowl and set it over a saucepan of boiling water over low heat with the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean. Cook for 1 1/2 hours, until thick and caramel colored. Remove the bowl from the pan and beat until smooth.
3. Pour the caramel filling over the cooled shortbread and place the pan in the refrigerator until cool, about two hours.
For the chocolate glaze:
1. In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled caramel layer and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.
2. Put in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the glaze hardens.
3. Remove the pan from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving so as not to crack the chocolate glaze. Cut into squares and serve.
The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.
Guess what? I’m on the board or directors for a nonprofit company called Party Corps. What is Party Corps, you say? Well, we like to throw parties! Parties that generate cash for other nonprofits in San Francisco. This Saturday is our third party and will be benefiting The Women’s Community Clinic. Of course, my participation in the company means I get to do what I do best – feed people! The last party was for outreach in Africa, so I made African donuts. This time, I’m going retro. I’ve decided to recreate classic candy bars, but without all the nasty preservatives and artificial flavors. So my first mission: Whatchamacallit bars! This was my personal favorite candy bar when I was a kid (or adult, but who’s keeping track?). I was so excited to make them that I broke my #1 budget rule and ran out and bought a cookbook new instead of waiting to find it used at Green Apple. The book was “Baked – New Frontiers in Baking” and I highly recommend it. They don’t actually call this a Whatchamacallit in the book, but that’s wht it is. So. Let us begin…
I started by pouring my puffed rice in a large bowl.
Then I made a sugar syrup. Once it reached 235 on a thermometer, I stirred in some butter.
I poured that syrup over the puffed rice and mixed it together. Then I pressed the rice into a buttered pan.
While that was cooling I started on the next layer: peanut butter and milk chocolate.
I melted them together into gooey bowl of deliciousness.
ANd poured that on top of the puffed rice.
I spread it out all nice and smooth and popped it into the fridge to firm up.
Once that firmed up I melted some chocolate and butter to top it with.
I spread that around and put it back in the fridge to set up some more.
Then I wait and wait and FINALLY! I get to slice them into cute little bite-size squares!
So pretty! And they totally taste like Whatchamacallits! 35 down, 365 to go!
For the crispy crust
1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted (their recommendation) or salted (what I used, and liked) butter, melted
For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 ounces good-quality milk (their recommendation) or semi-sweet (what I’d use next time) chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup creamy peanut butter
For the chocolate icing
3 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72 percent cocoa), coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Make the crispy crust: Lightly spray a paper towel with nonstick cooking spray and use it to rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan.
Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan. Gently add the sugar and corn syrup (do not let any sugar or syrup get on the sides of the pan) and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage, 235 degrees F.
Remove from the heat, stir in the butter, and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.
Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, stir together the chocolate and the peanut butter. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for about 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the refridgerator for 1 hour, or until the top layer hardens.
Make the chocolate icing: In a large nonreactive metal bowl, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.
Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the pan and stir for 30 seconds to cool slightly. Pour the mixture over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer. Put the pan into the refrigerator for 1 hour, or until the topping hardens.
Cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly, for up to 4 days.