Saturday, October 18, 2014

Where does the time go?

So... CCU. Yeah. Wow. Look, apples!

This circle contains such varieties as Enterprize, Liberty, TFO-1 (not as delicious as I'd hoped, given the exciting name), and Summergold. In one of my very few free days, I also found this massive Japanese radish that tasted great with apple and a miso-honey dressing.

Enough of produce, though. Andy recently earned a great academic distinction and, when asked how he wanted to celebrate, answered, "With nougat." Well, sir, then nougat you shall have.

I actually think the hazelnut mastiha nougat was the least delicious component of these homemade fancy Snickers. Out of impatience, I poured on the cayenne caramel layer before the nougat had fully dried, so it stayed kind of sticky even after the bars had set overnight.

There is a dollar store nearby that inexplicably sells Wilton candy molds for five to ten dollars. I seriously considered buying one in order to make these, but couldn't get over the stupidity of stuffing another implement into my overstuffed kitchen, so settled for ugly candy bars. Plus, I'm not sure if the dukkah and candied orange peel would have stuck had I used a mold. Next time, I may cut the bars before putting on the final layer of chocolate (super-dark 75%) so they look more like a real Snickers.

Of course, since candy for dinner is not healthful, I also made ravioli with a pumpkin, mascarpone, and harissa filling, and a spicy spinach fennel bechamel.

So good for you, I know.

Grown-up Snickers

Quality dark (very dark) chocolate
Dukkah (homemade, kicking around from when I made this amazing recipe)
Thinly sliced candied orange peel (I made my own in the microwave)

Line an 8x8 metal baking pan with parchment paper, molded tightly to the pan. Melt some chocolate (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup) and spread in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool completely, at least 1.5 hours, before you start the nougat.

Hazelnut nougat
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch salt
I cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
Optional: 3-4 grains mastiha

Over medium-low heat, whisk the honey, sugar, and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is melted. Cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 248F. Meanwhile, beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. When the syrup is ready, slowly pour into the egg white with the beater running (for which I used a stand mixture with the whisk attachment). Continue to beat until the candy is stiff but spreadable and lukewarm to room temperature. Fold in the nuts, salt, and vanilla, and spread over your first chocolate layer. Alternatively, only fold in the salt and vanilla, then sprinkle the nuts on top after you've spread it in (if you prefer to have the nuts embedded in the caramel). Allow to set completely--and here was my mistake, so please let it set for at least 6 hours--before preparing the caramel.

Cayenne caramel
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
cayenne pepper to taste (I like spicy, so I used lots!)

In a large pot or saucepan (at least 2 quarts), whisk together the sugar, water, and honey. Cook without stirring until the syrup is at 290F.

Meanwhile, mix the heavy cream, butter, and salt in a microwaveable container. Microwave until the butter is melted and the mixture is very hot, but do not allow it to boil. It should still be steaming by the time you're ready to add it to the syrup.

When the syrup is at temperature, remove it from the heat and slowly pour in the cream mixture, whisking constantly. It will bubble and sputter. When it is fully whisked in, cook without stirring over medium-high heat to 250F. Whisk in the vanilla and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for a couple minutes in the pot before you pour it over the nougat layer; it should still be spreadable, but not so hot that it melts the nougat.

Let the caramel set for at least 2.5 hours before you pour on the final chocolate layer. If you want to cut the bars first and dip them in the tempered chocolate, definitely let it set for a good 6 hours.

David Lebovitz has a great guide to tempering chocolate here. Do that, then pour over the caramel layer (or dip the bars in). Allow to set for 30 minutes or so, then sprinkle on dukkah (and a bit of sea salt if your dukkah is not salted) and some candied orange rind. Don't let it set too long or the toppings won't stick, but do wait a little while or the spices will just melt into the chocolate.