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Chocolate–Peanut Butter Buttercrunch


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By Life Pastry - September 29, 2020

 




Chocolate–Peanut Butter Buttercrunch



Makes 15 to 20 candies

Basically a homemade Butterfinger, this buttercrunch is the perfect balance of peanut butter and chocolate in a light crunchy candy bar. Rachael, our production pastry chef, first shared her buttercrunch recipe with me when we were looking for a garnish for a chocolate–peanut butter cheesecake special. We crumbled it on top and it made a super peanut buttery dessert even more wonderfully peanut buttery. After making it a few times and chopping it all up into little pieces I realized that if I kept it whole and covered it with chocolate it makes an incredible candy bar. You can dip the pieces entirely in chocolate if you like (double the amount of chocolate in the recipe) but I prefer it on one side only to make sure the peanut butter flavor is not overwhelmed by the chocolate. Try both and see which you prefer.


2¼ cups/600 grams extra- crunchy peanut butter

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup/200 grams sugar

¾ cup/240 grams light corn syrup

6 ounces/170 grams semisweet chocolate

 

Place the peanut butter in a medium metal or heatproof glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir for a few minutes to melt the peanut butter so it becomes liquidy. Alternatively, heat the peanut butter in the microwave at 50% power for 30 to 45 seconds, until it warms up and becomes soft and somewhat pourable. Keep it nearby and warm.

Combine the salt and baking soda. Have the baking soda–salt mixture and the vanilla nearby.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; gather a whisk and a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and have them all nearby.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and about ½ cup/120 grams water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Make sure the sugar is moistened with the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Clip a candy thermometer on the sides of the pan and cook without stirring until the sugar syrup reaches 285°F. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, set a glass of ice water near the pot and spoon a little of the caramel into the water to test the consistency. If it separates into hard but pliable threads, it is the right temperature.)

As soon as the syrup reaches 285°F, remove the pot from the heat and immediately whisk in the baking soda–salt mixture and the vanilla. Whisk vigorously and the syrup will turn opaque and foamy. Immediately scrape this out into the liquid peanut mixture.

 

Switch to the silicone spatula and quickly fold the peanut mixture into the foamy syrup. You don’t have to thoroughly fold it, and it’s okay to have striations of the syrup in the peanut butter. It will start to turn into a solid mass and look like brown taffy. Quickly scrape it out onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading the mixture with an offset spatula so it is about an inch thick and shaping it so it is a somewhat rectangular shape. Let cool at room temperature for a few hours until completely cool.

When the buttercrunch is cool, chop the chocolate fine. Place about two-thirds of the chocolate in a metal or heatproof glass bowl and place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the chocolate from time to time to melt, until it is hot to the touch. Alternatively you can melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring it every 20 seconds or so to melt it evenly.

Once the chocolate is entirely melted and hot, add the rest of the unmelted chopped chocolate. Stir slowly and carefully until this chocolate is melted by the heat of the already-melted chocolate. When all the chocolate is completely melted, the temperature of the chocolate should be just under body temperature. The best way to test is to place a little bit of chocolate right underneath your lip. If you can’t feel it or it is a bit cool, it is perfect. If it feels warm, you need to add a bit more unmelted chocolate and keep stirring to cool it down. (By introducing the unmelted chocolate to the melted chocolate, you are encouraging the melted chocolate to become tempered. This means that when you cover the buttercrunch in it, it will cool into a snappy, firm, shiny coating for the candy instead of a streaked, soft, unattractive coating.)

Spread the tempered chocolate evenly across the surface of the buttercrunch. Let the chocolate set for about 1 hour at room temperature.

Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the buttercrunch into rectangular pieces about 2 inches across.

Buttercrunch can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.



Almond Pistachio Cherry

Honey Nougat




Makes 24 pieces

This might sound blasphemous since I’ve made my name as a pastry chef, but I don’t typically like really sweet things. I rarely had sweets growing up other than fruit (and an apple is still my favorite afternoon snack), and my palate is geared toward desserts and pastries that don’t scream SUGAR!! This nougat is a distinct exception. It’s so sweet it almost hurts my teeth but it’s so good I keep reaching for more. Packed full of nuts and dried cherries, it is both super chewy and super crunchy. It is also really beautiful and makes a gorgeous gift when wrapped individually in clear cellophane so you can see all the different colors. It takes a full day to set, so be sure to plan in advance when making this recipe.


2 cups/280 grams whole raw almonds

2 cups/280 grams whole shelled unsalted pistachios

½ cup/60 grams confectioners’ sugar, sifted after measuring

1 cup/340 grams honey

2 large egg whites (about ¼ cup/60 grams), at room temperature

1½ teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons pure almond extract

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2½ cups/500 grams superfine sugar

½ cup/160 grams light corn syrup

1 cup/200 grams dried cherries

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Place the almonds and pistachios on a baking sheet and toast for 8 to 10 minutes, until the insides of the nuts are light golden brown and fragrant; break a few open to check. Set aside.

Line a 9 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat and dust it generously with about half the confectioners’ sugar; set it aside.

Bring the honey to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook until it reaches 250°F, about 3 minutes. It will get pretty foamy while it is boiling. While the honey is cooking, place the egg whites in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.

As soon as the honey reaches 250°F, remove it from the stove. Turn the mixer on high speed and slowly drizzle the honey down the side of the mixer bowl into the whites. (Don’t drizzle it into the center or the whisk will fling it every which way except into the whites.) Add the salt and the almond and vanilla extracts and reduce the speed to medium. Whip for 6 to 8 minutes, until the mixture turns light and fluffy. If the sugar syrup has not reached the proper temperature by then, turn the mixer to its lowest speed.

While the mixture is whipping, place the superfine sugar, corn syrup, and ¾ cup/180 grams water in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan and stir carefully to moisten the sugar. Turn the heat on high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 310°F, a little less than 15 minutes. Switch out the whisk attachment of the mixer for the paddle, and keep the mixer running on low. When the syrup comes to 315°F, remove it from the heat and slowly drizzle the syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into the honey–egg white mixture with the mixer on medium. Again, be sure to drizzle down the side of the bowl and not in the center of the bowl. Paddle for 5 to 6 minutes on medium to allow the mixture to thicken and aerate. You want it to be cool enough to touch but still hot and pliable enough that you can add the nuts and fruit. Add the toasted nuts and the cherries and paddle just long enough to incorporate them into the nougat. Don’t paddle too long, or the cherries will stain the white nougat.

 

Scrape the nougat out onto the prepared baking sheet. It will be extremely sticky and gooey and hard to handle. Do the best you can to scrape it all out of the bowl. The easiest way to flatten it on the baking sheet is to wet your hands and press down with the palms of your hands on the nougat and flatten and fill the sheet. Dust the top of the nougat with the remaining confectioners’ sugar and use a rolling pin to roll across the top of the nougat and smooth it out. Cover the nougat with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight at room temperature to firm up.

The next day, use a long sharp serrated knife sprayed with cooking spray or wiped with a little vegetable oil (such as canola) to cut along the edges of the pan to release the nougat. Invert onto a cutting board and peel off the baking mat. Using the knife in a sawing motion, spraying it or wiping it with oil from time to time, cut the nougat into 8 strips about 1½ inches wide, then cut each strip into 3 pieces about 2½ inches long, to make 24 pieces of nougat total. Let the nougat sit at room temperature, either on the cutting board or on a flat plate or platter, uncovered, for at least 8 hours to dry the sides.

Wrap each piece of nougat in a little piece of wax paper or cellophane to keep it from spreading and softening. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

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