Monday, October 5, 2009

The Snickers

I’ve had the idea for this cupcake in my head since I first started baking a little over two years ago. I took a shot at it last year in the form of a cake, which was good, but not entirely what I was after. Largely because the nougat just didn’t work out. This weekend, however, I decided to take another shot, this time in a cupcake form. The result was a cupcake that I think definitely captured the essence of snickers, though at least some of my tasters thought that these were too much on the sweet side. I used a cocoa-based buttercream, mostly because I was lazy, I think a buttercream made with full chocolate might have been better. Either way, you might want to reduce the sugar from what I’ve listed. What I failed to keep in mind while tasting was that the nougat and caramel are both pretty sweet. For the cake I just used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, which held up well here with a nice chocolate flavor. The caramel recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Chocolate-Salted Caramel cupcakes

These are some of the most challenging cupcakes I’ve ever made, mostly because of the nougat. It’s taken me a good 5 or 6 tries to make it successfully, including two yesterday. For me I think the real problem is that nougat is just not common enough for lots of people to have written about, and so there aren’t a lot of instructions out there on how to make it. I followed the instructions here. I’ve done my best to write my full set of impressions below, but I think it is just one of those things to try a few times until you get the hang of it. The important thing is to coordinate everything in terms of timing, the egg whites and sugar need to be ready at the same time. Unfortunately, the recipe is in grams, which is what I did it in, but I got my grams scale for $5 at Kmart, and it’s worth having, so go out and get one.

The other challenge with these is the assembly. I cut my disks of nougat a little large (mostly because it was the smallest cutter I had). As a consequence I had to hollow out a lot of a large amount of cupcake. The thickness of the nougat also meant the holes had to be very deep. Especially since a layer of nuts and caramel also had to get in there. It’s definitely doable, but takes some effort. Also, the caramel needs to be spooned while it’s still hot, so I filled the cupcakes with the nougat and nuts first, then made the caramel.

Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes ~26

2 sticks unsalted butter
½ cup cocoa-powder
¾ cup water
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 T vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over low heat. Add in the cocoa powder and whisk until smooth. Then add the water and mix until smooth again. Remove from heat

3. One at a time mix in the sugar, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla

4. Sift the dry ingredients over the wet, and whisk until well combined.

5. Fill cupcakes using a ¼ cup measure. Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Let them cool thoroughly before filling.

Peanut Butter Nougat

Makes 1 9 x 13" pan

400 grams sugar
150 grams glucose (white corn syrup)
125 grams water pinch salt
60 grams egg whites (2 large eggs)
125 grams peanut butter

1. line the pan with parchment paper, and oil it. Place the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl, put it in the microwave, set it for 1 minute, and set aside. Put the eggs and the salt in the bowl of a mixer set with the whisk attachment. Put the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk until combined, and place over high heat.

2. Turn on the mixer to high speed, whisking the eggs up to stiff peaks. Ideally you want the eggs to reach stiff peaks at the same time the sugar gets to the right temperature, but it’s hard to coordinate, and it’s easier to stop egg whites from beating than caramel from cooking. If the eggs get to stiff peaks before the caramel ready, turn off the mixer.

3. While the egg whites are whipping, heat the sugar to 270F. When the sugar hits about 250, turn on the microwave to melt the peanut butter (it’s just a lot easier to mix in melted peanut butter than solid).

4. As soon as the caramel hits 270, turn the mixer on high, and slowly pour the caramel down the side of the bowl.

5. Continue beating the mixture until it cools off slightly, and becomes just slightly doughy. It should still be pretty hot. Remove from the mixer, and gently fold in the melted peanut butter. DO NOT OVERBEAT, or you will make it crumbly. It should still be pourable when you’re done. My first batch needed to be scooped out of the bowl, and didn’t spread at all, it was also immediately crumbly. The second, successful batch poured out of the bowl and flowed properly to fill the pan.

6. Set aside to let cool completely.

This is the successful nougat

This is what the failed nougat looked like

Assembly stage 1

Chocolate Cupcakes
Lightly salted peanuts

1. Using a small, circular cutter, cut out disks of nougat. It should cut fairly easily.

2. Cut large, deep cones in the cupcakes. You may need to do some extra hollowing out with the tip of your knife.

3. Place a disk of nougat into each cupcake, top with a few peanuts.

4. Cut the bottoms off of the cones you removed, so that you only have the top, place it back on the cupcake it came from, just to keep track of the proper caps.

I don't know why blogger keeps rotating my images, anyone know how to fix it?

Salted Caramel

2 & 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 & 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Place sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir until clear. Stop stirring and bring to a boil. Continue heating until caramel reaches 360 degrees.

2. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in cream, be careful, the caramel will bubble up and steam. Add the salt and continue stirring.

Assembly Stage 2

Cupcakes from stage
1 Caramel

1. As soon as the caramel becomes manageable, remove the caps from the cupcakes, pour caramel in over the nuts, and reaffix the cupcake tops.

Chocolate Buttercream

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
~4 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk

1. Beat the butter until smooth. Add the cocoa, the milk. Beat in the sugar 1 cup at a time, until the frosting reaches a flavor and consistency you like.

2. This frosting was too thick to pipe, so I just spread it on with a spoon. Top with a sprinkling of peanuts.

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