Homemade Snickers-Like Dessert Bars
Well, it happened again. I saw a recipe and I just had to make it. What was it this time? The "Snickers" bars in the most recent issue of Bon Appetit. Have you seen them?
The bars start with a layer of peanut butter and milk chocolate studded with puffed rice. The middle layer is chewy nougat filled with peanuts -- that part of the Snickers bar we all know and love. And the top layer is a chocolate bavarian cream. Finally, all the layers are coated in bittersweet chocolate. While the middle layer is true to form, the other two layers deviated from the standard candy bar, and I thought the chocolate coating should probably be milk chocolate to better resemble a Snickers. Also, there was no caramel! That said, the bars ended up being a very decadent Snickers-like dessert, flavored with peanut butter, chocolate, and honey. I actually wish I had made Snickers minis because they are so rich!
This recipe had its ups and downs. I feel like it's normally made on a larger scale, and it was cut down for the home baker and not tested with the new proportions. I had to throw out my egg mixture and start over while making the chocolate Bavarian cream because the heat was too high. I didn't have enough chocolate to coat all of my candy bars (though it was a good excuse to only finish half of them and save the rest for another day). I thought coating the bars with chocolate could have been simplified. (At Flour, to finish cakes, I would put them on a wire rack set in a pan and pour the chocolate over, smoothing it with an offset.) There wasn't enough guidance for cutting the bars -- and they are tough to cut. And the list goes on...
I've rewritten the recipe adding in some tips and changes in the process here and there, now that I've made the bars and learned from the experience.
On top of the frustrations I was having with the recipe, my Kitchen Aid mixer came out of alignment, the whisk attachment hit against the bowl, and one of the arms decided to snap off. This happened while I was boiling the honey on the stove, so when I ran over to check on the mixer, my honey burnt. I didn't have enough honey in the house to just boil more, so we had to run down the street to get more honey right in the middle of the recipe. I futilely tried to duct tape the arm back on, but eventually had to resort to using my handheld mixer. I'm glad I kept a handheld mixer around, but I also realized how weak it is compared to the stand mixer. It's a good thing these bars were good enough to compensate for all the trouble I had with them!
Homemade Snickers-Like Dessert Bars (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 1/2 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup puffed rice cereal
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon plus 3/4 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Milk Chocolate Bavarian Cream
4 tablespoons whole milk, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup chilled heavy cream, divided
3 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
9 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, melted
(I would double these ingredients if you want to coat all of the bars.)
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
To make the base: Coat an 8-by-8-by-2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray and line the pan with plastic wrap, pressing to smooth out any wrinkles.
Place the chocolate in the top pan of a double boiler set over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove top pan from saucepan. Stir in peanut butter and then cereal.
Transfer mixture to prepared pan; press over bottom in an even layer. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
While the base is chilling, make the peanut nougat: Line a baking sheet with parchment, and coat the parchment with nonstick spray. Place egg white in bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add 1/8 teaspoon sugar, and beat until peaks begin to form.
Bring honey just to a boil in a small saucepan. With mixer running, gradually add honey to egg white. Set aside.
Stir 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 3 tablespoons water in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Increase heat, and boil until mixture reaches 275 degrees, 5 to 7 minutes.
Return mixer with egg white to medium speed. Gradually add syrup to egg white, allowing it to drip down sides of bowl. Beat until glossy and stiff, about 5 minutes. Fold in peanuts and salt. Spread nougat over prepared sheet into an 8" square (about 1/4" thick). (Jeff did this part for me and figured out that it was easiest to use a large offset spatula to spread and shape the nougat.) Let cool for 1 hour.
Invert nougat over base in pan, peel off parchment, and spread over base in an even layer. (Again, Jeff took on this task.)
To make the milk chocolate Bavarian cream: Place 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over and let stand to soften, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring remaining 2 tablespoons milk and 1/4 cup cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk yolks and sugar in a medium bowl; gradually whisk in hot cream mixture. (You basically want to add the cream mixture to eggs by small ladlefuls, whisking constantly, until you have added all of the cream mixture.) Return mixture to same pan. Stir constantly over low heat with rubber spatula until thickened and a thermometer registers 175 degrees, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Add gelatin, and whisk until dissolved.
Place melted chocolate in another medium bowl. Pour cream mixture through a strainer into chocolate; whisk until smooth.
Beat remaining 3/4 cup chilled cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture in 2 additions, folding just to blend between additions.
Pour Bavarian cream over nougat, spreading in an even layer. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours.
To make the chocolate coating: Place chocolate and butter in top pan of double boiler set over saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Invert dessert onto a cutting board; remove pan and peel off plastic.
Place another cutting board on top of the dessert and flip the dessert. Remove cutting board from top of dessert.
Run a large knife under hot water and wipe it dry. Cut the dessert into 6 slices, then halve each slice crosswise. You'll need to reheat and re-dry the knife between each cut. The nougat is pretty tough to cut through, so be prepared to work a little (or in my case, ask Jeff to do the manual labor for me).
Transfer pieces to prepared baking sheet, base side down. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate over tops and sides of bars. (I think it would be easier to set the bars on a wire rack set in a sheet pan and then pour the chocolate over the bars and smooth the chocolate off the top and down the sides of the bars with an offset spatula. Chocolate that ends up in the sheet pan can be re-melted, strained, and reused.)
Freeze to set, about 30 minutes.
Let bars stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving.
I wrapped my finished frozen bars in plastic wrap and then placed them in a Ziploc bag. We've been taking one out each evening to share.
I did not finish half of the bars because I ran out of chocolate and energy, so I wrapped half of the dessert in plastic and placed it in a Ziploc bag.
At some point, I'll cut and finish the rest of the bars. I may try coating them in milk chocolate when I do, and I'll probably try to cut small squares to make mini versions.
If you have a lot of free time and a giant sweet tooth, you're ready to take these on! It's not going to be easy, but the end result is totally worth it.
Have you ever made a homemade version of a candy bar?
Labels: Desserts - cookies bars candies