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Chocolate-Covered Krispie Bites with Mini-Chips

8 Jan

As I mentioned, I did a few things right, and this is one of them. But this was not my first go-round with these things, not at all.

I’m not sure why, for example, I thought I could throw a warm, melted marshmallow  mixture on top of krispies and chocolate mini-chips without melting said chips.  Honestly, sometimes I do these things without even thinking, and then I’m stuck with the shame of whatever preposterous thing I had in my head to do.  I wish there was a 12-step group for people like me—like, WTF Anonymous or something like that.  I shouldn’t have to do crack just get some support.

Local crack problems notwithstanding, keeping those chips intact will be your biggest obstacle. Per4manceplus’s page at ehow (found here), however, shows what should have been obvious to me from the start: Freeze the motherf*%!ers.  I mean, hello.

But then you’re presented with another issue, and that’s the basic flavor.  Most krispie treats have a flavor I’d describe as thin; it’s flavor about as full-bodied as water.  Since these were to be bite-sized and covered in semi, the flavor needed to be about as strong as a punch in the face.  I turned to the folks at Cook’s Country for ideas.

And like the freezing, I should’ve known their answer:  Cook’s Country adds white chocolate to its melted marshmallow mixture.  Better white chocolate (more cocoa butter than tropical oils) makes for a what can only be described as a sound flavor base.  I did however have to use half again as much white chocolate as Cook’s Country recommends, and easily (and necessarily) three times the salt.  (You may achieve a favorable flavor with less; I recommend adding about 1/8 tsp at a time while stirring until the flavor is full-bodied and to your taste.)

Next, as recommended by Per4manceplus, I kept the marshmallow mixture as cool as possible, taking it off the heat and stirring constantly to finish it off.  Then, not wanting to take any chances—I’d already failed more than once—I placed the bowl of marshmallow mixture into a pot of cold water.  This shock encouraged the crystallization of all the sugars in the mixture, but that’s okay: Developing and breaking those bonds help both texture and flavor and in this case, light, airy and crispy krispie treats.

Now, for the fun part.  Handling lukewarm, melted marshmallows is like using Saran Wrap with packing tape:  It sticks to itself; it doesn’t straighten out; it’s very quickly a ball of useless crap.  What’s more, you’ve got to be quick about things so the chips remain as intact as possible.  I used cooking spray on several spatulas– and my own hands–to get this stuff straight in the pan.  You will have to do the same.

What a terrible photo.

Truth is, I’m still not completely happy with them.  For starters, I think I can improve the flavor even more, and they certainly did not need to be coated in semi which, although very pretty, was a bit overpowering and an extra step that required tempering and some other assorted pains in my ass.  I mean, I’m always up for pain and sorrow, but not that much.  These will have to resurface in another form.

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&*(@$(*! Camera

2 Jan

Once upon a time, there was a nice camera named Kodak.  It was a proud camera with a lot of megapixels and, depending on the settings, could even catch my cat doing cute things.  Kodak knew it was better than its old coworker Vivitar, which only shoots fast enough to catch the cat’s anus as it runs away.

Then one day Kodak, proud camera that she was, decided to shoot only what she deemed worthy of those massive megapixels, and sod the rest.  “Documentation’s not my game anymore, bitch!” she cried. “You and your food can just jam it!”

This is what I imagine was happening as I wiped butter, flour and who knows what else off the Kodak, which I believed held the photographic evidence of fudge that looked like vomit, brown sugar meringue that shrunk like wool in hot water and cookies that deflated like a flat chest.  And my ego.

Now, you might think it’s a blessing that I don’t have all my shots, but it isn’t.  It’s important to make a note of one’s mistakes so they’re not repeated.  It’s also important to know that those of us who are quite good at something still—or rather, constantly–make some fantastic mistakes.

I will have to do my best then to describe for you what happened.  I can tell you right away, though, that my biggest error was trying new things while under a time crunch.  I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that this will always break your heart, but as a baker my overconfidence, which I know damn well never works out for anyone, wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me.  It seems I thrive on failure the same as I thrive on success.

So sit back and check out my failures.  A little schaudenfreude never hurt anyone.

What Can Brown (Cookies) Do for You?

2 Jan

Chocolate-chips cookies are a holiday staple.  Scratch that: They are a staple, period.  You can, for example, buy chocolate-chip cookie cereal, which is a grain and, according to the MIT food pyramid, one needs six to 11 servings of grains per day to live a wonderful life.  Suck it, gubmint food nannies.

Anyway, despite the fact that I have developed a foolproof, infinitely adaptable chocolate-chip cookie recipe (see here for a maple version), I decided that having had success fiddling around with saturated/unsaturated fat ratios in brownies, I would try to replicate that same, very desirable chew in cookies.  I have been close using combinations of butter and lard, but the chew eventually gives way to softness and while that’s still good, I wanted to bake a cookie that remained chewy over time.

So, here’s what I did, using a standard quick-bread mixing method:

2 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. oatmeal
1 ½ c. dark brown sugar
8 oz. semisweet chips
2 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
Raw sugar for decorating

1 lg egg
2 TBL vanilla
12 TBL butter, melted
2 TBL lard (melted with butter)
2 TBL vegetable oil

These did turn out chewy… after biting through the tortoise-like shell.  What’s more, the dark brown sugar made these things very, very brown and combined with the oatmeal, they tasted a little like granola.  Here’s what I think happened:

Because I was using cooking oil, I omitted some of the ingredients used to soften cookies, thinking that it might be too much, like when I added too much honey to a previous batch.  And while the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats might be right for creating that awesome grocery-store chew, not all saturated fats behave the same.  That’s why and additional egg yolk is often used to soften cookies and encourage some chew.

I also omitted a TBL of corn syrup, also useful for softening and chew, given its hygroscopic properties.  But plainly, one or the other or both should have remained in the recipe.  Or, one of the two, and only one TBL of vegetable oil… you get the idea.  I have to continue experimenting, and I’m just not smart enough to know what will happen, exactly, before I do it.  (Off the top of my head, though, I think the best bet’s to add one egg yolk, and reduce the oil by one TBL.  The egg yolk will emulsify–suspend–the water in the butter and the oil together.)

The quantity of dry ingredients is also just a bit too high, I think, also evidenced by the cookie’s stiffness and granola flavor.  Reducing the flour and oats by a ¼ each would probably do the trick.  The dark brown sugar, which contains a very high quantity of molasses, also added to the granola flavor.  And of course, the ridiculous brown color.

They were still quality cookies, though.  I put them out at the office without owning up to them–they were too brown and I’m too vain–but they were gone in an instant.  But that could also be because, as one of the least favored in my work group, no one knew the cookies came from me.

Sunday Fudgy Sunday

2 Jan

The original plan was to help out an old man with a sweet tooth.  I mean, a real sweet tooth.  I’m not talking about the coworker who cuts a quarter off a muffin with a butter knife, proclaims herself to be naughty, then pukes it up in a bathroom on a different floor.  No, I mean I think that old guy eats sugar packets when we’re not looking.

This makes him an easy target for fudge, seeing as how that stuff, no matter how you make it, is nearly all sugar.  Personally, I’m not much of a fan; the kind I’ve had is the kind of fudge sold in cute country stores and is always, and unrepentantly, dried out.  Can’t figure out why a proprietor would leave a large, uncovered tray of fudge in a refrigerated case.  Transmission fluid would dry out if left uncovered in a refrigerated case.

And traditional fudge can be tricky as it is: Like all candy, the temperature to which you heat your sugar will determine its characteristics and in this, precision is key.  If your candy thermometer is off, your candy will be off.  If your timing is off, your candy will be off.  In this case, heating the sugar component of fudge too high will produce a dry, crumbly fudge, which is how I suspect a lot of fudge is sold at the start.

(On a side note, I would like to meet the people who will pay American dollars for what tastes like candied sand, because boy, have I got some serious rejects available for those fools.)

So while all of this is true, there actually is a very easy way to produce better-than-average fudge without regard to precision, temperature or technique.  I can’t take credit for it; it’s a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that uses sweetened condensed milk, chips, and a little baking soda to add just enough air to keep it from being too dense.  (I’m sorry, but the recipe is not free, so I can’t reproduce it here.  But if you search for “15-Minute Walnut Fudge,” you might get lucky.)

The recipe is in fact so easy, I thought I could substitute just about any flavor chip I wanted to make the fudge.  It’s the sweetened condensed milk and baking soda doing the work, both of which could hide a multitude of sins considering that precision and temperature were not involved.  With that in mind I decided, having made plenty of chocolate fudge for our favorite old guy in the past, I’d make butterscotch fudge for him using butterscotch chips, marshmallows, and chunks of Werther’s.  Pretty damn sugary, that.

This did not work out at all.

First, although the largest constituent of all chips is sugar, all bets are off after that.  Naturally, I didn’t bother to check this or even think about it knowing full well that if the type and amount of fat varies greatly between white and dark chocolate, maybe I ought to check out the content of the butterscotch chips because, you know, they’re not chocolate.  But whatever, right?

The butterscotch chips I used (purchased from Aldi and believe me, that store brings it in sweets department) actually have a remarkably high amount of palm oil in them, nearly as much as the sugar.  If you’ve worked with palm oil, then you know that while it solidifies at room temperature, it’s still very malleable.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  It’s a superb idea to use palm oil for this purpose.  White chocolate coatings will use more palm oil than shortening, making it cheaper and easier to work with; better peanut butters use palm oil instead of shortening, too, to give it that creamy texture.  As for butterscotch chips, there’s a huge gulf in taste between those made with palm oil and those made with shortening.  That said, the crappier-tasting, shortening-laden butterscotch chips would’ve been better suited to making this variety of fudge.  Here’s why.

Once mixed, melted and cooled with the sweetened condensed milk, baking soda, salt and vanilla, it never set properly.  Palm oil, though it’s solid at room temperature, is still 49.2 percent unsaturated fat.  The stuff is, like, half cooking oil, basically.  Combining this with gooey sweetened condensed milk made it impossible for it to set.  Chips made with shortening, which is a fully saturated fat, would probably set up just fine.

Then there were aesthetic issues I didn’t anticipate, but should’ve.  Butterscotch chips are an orange shade of tan and to combat this, I thought adding white marshmallows would add a nice contrast.  Except that the marshmallows ended up coated in orange-tan goo and were too large even in the miniature variety.  This made for orange-tan goo with lumps.

No problem, I thought; these shiny Werther’s chunks I just pulverized with a stubby hammer will look shiny and great even though the bag broke and there’s butterscotch dust everywhere.  Okay, that’s a lie.  “Oh shit!” was what I thought immediately.  But I added the Werther’s bits to the top anyway, which made for orange-tan goo with lumps and chunks.

I pretty much knew there was no hope at this point.  But I thought that maybe I’d get lucky–that cutting into them would reveal this marvelous contrast of colors and textures and regardless of what the tops looked like, maybe that’s what people would see first.  And maybe it would’ve been if my orange-tan goo with lumps and chunks had solidified at all.

Instead, it’s sitting in my uninsulated mudroom, held back in an old Tupperware container like some slimy alien, its nasty gooey arms clinging to the sides as if it’s going to kill me for this when it breaks out.  This fudge could be the end of me.

Please note that despite all this it is ridiculously delicious, so I will do something with it someday.

Peanut Butter Cups: I Failed

3 Oct

Update:  I’m just gonna say it.  This looks like a vagina.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t in the mood, or maybe it was because I filled the house with chlorine gas the night before.  I don’t know.  But I performed a thoughtless and poorly planned test of these peanut butter cups.  And it shows.  I’ve attached a photo, and will detail my failure for you this week.

I will take your pity, if you wish to give it.

Yeesh!