Friday, April 4, 2014

Homemade Snickers



So, at our house, we no longer purchase anything made in Russia.  We are boycotting Russian goods because we don't want to put any kopecks in the pockets of the people who have their soldiers camped out on our borders.  (We have many Russian friends, whom we love, it's just the machine of war that we don't want to help fund in any way).

"Don't buy goods of the aggressor"

So far, it hasn't been too much of a sacrifice.  There's a gas station we no longer stop at.  I have to use a different brand of "adjika" (what we use in place of salsa) and we try to check the bar codes of whatever we buy.  (If the first two digits on the bar code are 46, it's made in Russia).  None of that was really painful.
Until yesterday.  Someone pointed out to dear hubby that his Snickers bar is produced in Russia.  He checked the barcode and was immediately deeply saddened by the realization that he will now have to give up Snickers bars. (If you live in other places, your Snickers bars are probably made closer to you - partake with a clear conscience).

So, someone was joking on Facebook that I could ease his sorrow by making homemade Snickers.  And I immediately had a burning need to try to figure it out.

After a couple of false starts and a strange bowlful of something akin to Snickers-flavored Laffy Taffy, I finally formulated a recipe that works.  And it's really yummy.  And no Russian oligarchs benefit from the making of it. 

Tastes like a real Snickers (dare I say better?).  Zero money to the Russian companies.  Euphoric husband.  Win-win-win.

The Step-by-Step

Make the Nougat 


So first, we whip some egg whites with a dash of salt to stiff peaks.  (Remember the essentials of whipping egg whites: clean dry bowl and beaters, room temp eggs).

Now put that aside somewhere.



Next, put a small pot on the stove with the corn syrup, sugar and water in it.  And a candy thermometer.



Now cook and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the thermometer says 275F  (about 140C).  

My thermometer seemed to get stuck on about 175F until I unplugged the fridge and turned off the lights.  Our electricity just needed an extra kick I guess.  Oh well, at least we aren't using Russian gas.



Once you finally get to the right temp, turn the lights back on and pull out your bowl of beaten egg whites.  Pour about a Tablespoon of the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites (NOT into the spinning beaters) and quickly incorporate into the whites with your mixer.  

Keep repeating the process of beating in a tablespoon at a time until it's all mixed in.   

TIP:  Don't dilly-dally during this process -- if the sugar mixture cools at all, it'll turn into glass-like shards of rock-hard sugar.  Pour it in and mix it quickly.  Be Lightning Girl (my superhero name, borrow it if you must).



Once it's all beaten in, it'll start to act all weird and clingy.  Just get a utensil and kindly but firmly detach the nougat from the beaters.  It'll thank you later.



And here's the stroke of genius:  Mix in a big lump of chunky peanut butter.  The nougat becomes this delicious, fluffy, sweet nutty stuff that (in my humble opinion) is actually superior to the stuff in a real Snickers bar.  True story. 

If you want to just stop the recipe here and just eat this stuff out of the bowl with your fingers, I won't tell.  I never even thought nougat should be a thing til I tasted this stuff.



Ok, good job, we are continuing with the recipe and I assume you had enough self-control not to decimate the bowl of better-than-nougat-stuff.  So now, press it into a 8x8 pan that's been lined with greased parchment paper.

Set this pan aside and let it cool down a bit.

Make the Caramel


Now get another pot (or wash the first one), and throw butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt and cream into it.  Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves.



Once the sugar dissolves,  go ahead and deploy your candy thermometer again, and NO MORE STIRRING.  People who know stuff about this whole candy-making gig tell you not to stir caramel.  I have no idea why.  You are, however, allowed to occasionally swirl the pan.  Which is kinda fun.



Heat to 245F.   At this point the caramel should be thick and bubbly and well, caramel-colored.



Take it off the heat and stir in roasted peanuts and vanilla extract.



Spread the caramel-peanutty mixture on the top of the nougat.  Spread evenly to all edges.  Let the pan cool to room temp, then stick it in the fridge for a while.



Once this deliciousness is nice and firm, cut it into bars (these are about 3"x1") and put the pan back in the fridge until you are ready for them.

Dip them in Chocolate


This is the chocolate we are using today -- made by Roshen (The CEO of Roshen is running for president, seems like he might be a good option....).  Made in Ukraine.  If you do not have access to Ukrainian-made chocolate, then go ahead and use any milk-chocolate you want- bars or chips or whatever.  I used 700 grams, which is approximately 1.5 pounds of chocolate.




Break up the chocolate into pieces, and melt in a double boiler (if you don't have one, use a heat-proof bowl set on top of a saucepan.  Put a little water in the bottom of the saucepan, but the bottom of the bowl shouldn't touch the water).




Make sure the chocolate is completely melted, no lumps.  Then using a fork, dip the bars into the chocolate.  




Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and place the dipped candy onto the parchment.  Let the chocolate set (you can use the fridge to speed up the process).



These will keep in a tupperware on the counter or in the fridge, but they are best served room temp (the caramel can be a little extra chewy if you take it directly from the refrigerator).

Enjoy this delicious treat, and pray for peace in Ukraine.....

The Recipe

MAKES ABOUT 20 BARS (APPROX.  3" x 1")

FOR THE NOUGAT:
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

Beat the egg whites and salt in a mixing bowl to stiff peaks.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water.   Using a candy thermometer, cook and stir until the temperature reaches 275F (135C).

With the mixer running in the egg whites, pour a tablespoon at a time into the egg whites and immediately incorporate into the egg whites.  Work quickly, and don't allow the sugar mixture to cool.

Once the sugar mixture is all incorporated into the egg whites, beat until the nougat pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 

Using a greased spatula, fold in the peanut butter. 

Press evenly into an 8"x8" pan lined with greased parchment paper.  Set aside.

FOR THE CARAMEL:
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cream
1/2 cup corn syrup
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups roasted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan, cook and stir the sugar, cream, corn syrup, butter, and salt, until the sugar dissolves. 

Continue cooking without stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches 250F (120C).  This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Swirl the pan occasionally.   The mixture should be thick and bubbly and caramel-colored.

Mix in the peanuts and vanilla.  Pour onto the nougat and spread evenly.  Cool to room temp, then refrigerate.  Once firm, cut into bars (about 3" x 1").  Return to fridge while you prepare the chocolate.

FOR THE CHOCOLATE:
700 grams (about 1.5 pounds) of milk chocolate (chips or chunks or broken up bars are all ok)
Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate pieces. 

Once smooth, use a fork to dip each nougat/caramel bar into the chocolate, turning to coat on all sides. Let the excess chocolate drip off then place the dipped candy onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. When all pieces are dipped, you can place the pan into the refrigerator to set.

Serve at room temperature.  Keep in a sealed container.








Monday, March 17, 2014

Seriously Amazing Mini Chicken Pot Pies


So what does your meal planning look like when a possible Russian invasion is imminent?  Well, something that you fix today, while things are calm, that you can later pull out of a freezer with minimal fuss and thinking.  'Cause you may have other things on your mind at that point.

So today I made a batch of lovely mini Chicken pot pies.  Each pie is a hearty single serving.  Just

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Coconut Panna-Cotta with Blueberry Red-Wine Sauce


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To answer that:  yes, it sounds fancy.  No, it's really not too complicated or time-consuming to bother making.   And so impressive!  Especially if you serve it in fancy-pants champagne flutes. The panna cotta actually is made ahead of time, since it needs to chill, so you can make this the day before a nice dinner and pull these luxurious desserts out of the fridge with a flourish (do you know how to pull

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cherry Ripe Slice


My husband is originally from Australia, and so I have been introduced to lots of Australian people, phrases, bizarre animals, foods, and cultural differences during the last several years.

One of my favorites is a candy bar called a "Cherry Ripe".  It has a coconut and cherry filling, and is

Friday, January 3, 2014

Baked Chicken Chimichangas


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Prices were cheap by American standards, but such a huge expense compared to our normal grocery budget that it felt like throwing caution to the wind to place an order.  And as long as you were in that frame of mind, you might as well order the "Macho Chimichanga" -- the largest, most filling entree

Monday, December 9, 2013

Homemade Frango Chocolates


Things I miss about Christmas in Seattle:  White Christmas lights on all the trees downtown.  The Bon Star.   The carousel at Westlake.  The live piano music at Nordstroms.  The Nutcracker by the Pacific Northwest Ballet. Having an order of Ivar's clams during a break in Christmas shopping.  The way Christmas lights in the neighborhood looked on foggy nights.  And Frango chocolates in the hexagonal boxes.

Frango chocolate candies were originally made and sold by Frederick and Nelson's department store in Seattle.  They have become something of an iconic treat in the northwest (and I hear, in the

Monday, November 18, 2013

Apple Yam Side Dish


Growing up, Thanksgiving meant all the extended relatives gathering at my grandparents' house, everybody packed into the small space, bunking on hide-a-beds, couches or sleeping bags on the

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Jumbo Apricot Muffins


I love recipes that tell a story.  Sure, I cruise online to discover yummy recipes that have zero sentimental value, they're just yummy.  But I love the recipes that are a part of my history.  I have family recipes from both sides of the family, some dating back to great-great people who made those same recipes in an entirely different era.  Some are recipes I jotted down on travels -- collecting memories of meals and the people I ate them with.  My recipe box is like a scrapbook of places and people and times I remember and the food connected with them.

This recipe doesn't have much history behind it.  Yet.  I created this recipe a few years ago when I

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Oatmeal Cookies


So, when I was in college, I not only played on the women's volleyball team, but I was also "team manager" during the men's season.  This meant I recorded stats and washed uniforms on road trips, I helped the coach during practices, and most importantly, I made cookies.

Before every road trip, I made several kinds of cookies and packaged them in little bags for each of the players.  I remember staying up late in the dorm common area, studying and baking cookies in

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Blitz Kuchen

Blitz Kuchen is German for "lightning cake".  And according to my extensive research (I googled it), blitz kuchen looks like it can mean pretty much anything in the "quick cake" category. 

My mom's side of the family is German and  this recipe was our family's version of blitz kuchen.  It's actually more of a cookie.  

And it is, indeed, lightning fast.  With 5 ingredients and a bake time of 8-10 minutes, these babies can go from being an idea in your head to a treat in your mouth in 15 minutes flat.

These cookies were the go-to choice when I was a kid and announced to my mom at 7pm that I needed to bring a treat to school tomorrow.  I remember this happening with surprising frequency.  We always had all the ingredients on hand, by about 4th grade I could make these myself, and they were done fast.

So carve 15 minutes out of your busy schedule and whip up a batch.  They go great with coffee, all my kids love them, and they are perfect when you need a last-minute treat.  Another bonus, you can

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Maple Nut Cheesecakes in Mason Jars


So cheesecakes are kinda my thing.  It all started around 2001 when the very first ever grocery store opened in Kiev.  I was living in Kiev at the time, and this was a very exciting event.  I wandered slowly through the aisles, savoring the sights of ground beef (In a styrofoam tray! Wrapped in plastic wrap! Wonder of wonders!) and bread packaged in plastic bags (Oh, the sanitary-ness!) and refrigerated yogurt.  It was wonderful.

As I walked through the dairy section, I spied CREAM CHEESE!! I was so excited to have cream cheese available, that I bought like 10 packages.  Oh frabjous day! Callooh, callay! I chortled in my joy.

Then I got home with my purchases, and I realized that I couldn't remember anything that is made with cream cheese.  What would I do with my bounty?  What if I made... cheesecake?  It seemed like it would be

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Roasted Carrot Salad with almonds, blue cheese, and cranberries


So if you looked in my recipe box (yes, I still have one of those), you would see two big fat sections and a bunch of sparse ones.  My fat sections?  Baked Goods and Desserts.  Yeah, so, baking is really