Meanwhile in My Other Life: Bourbon Cocoa Krispy Treats

Just as I’m preparing to wax poetic about Virginia ham, it’s time to take a break from writing about the 50 Plates of America.

Why? Two reasons.

The first is that I’m helping a friend out by developing recipes, drafting a cookbook (a small e-book, nothing fancy) and catering her fundraiser at the end of March. The catering isn’t half so daunting as that cookbook writing thing.  Her organization uses Motocross to reach and serve at-risk youth, so we’re doing something I call “elevated pit food.” I’ll share information and recipes as the project bumps along.

The second is my poor Achilles tendon, the one I originally injured a number of years ago while running for a bus. In Las Vegas. On Halloween night.  Long story, but I’m finally conceding that I’m just not as tough as I think I am and having the damn thing repaired. Surgically. Which requires 6-8 weeks in a cast followed by 6-8 weeks in a boot. On the plus side, I’ve been assured that after completion of cast, boot, and physical therapy, it won’t hurt anymore. I’m ready for it to not hurt anymore.

So, although I’m putting Virginia on hold for a bit, lets consider this a side trip instead of a complete losing of my way. And who knows, maybe I’ll be ready to attack a ham sooner than I think I will. In the meantime, let’s start this side trip with something completely different: Bourbon Cocoa Krispy treats.

Rice Krispy treats are pretty simple, and require only 3 ingredients: marshmallows, puffed rice cereal, and a bit of butter. Melt the marshmallows, stir in the butter, mix into the cereal and ta-da! Rice Krispy treats.

Unless you’re, you know, me. In which case you start by making your own marshmallow fluff not because you’ll only eat home-made marshmallow fluff, but because you’ve never done it before and want to know how hard it could be.

And then fluff-making becomes an obsession.

And then you start adding things (like bourbon) to the fluff.

And the next thing you know, you’re showing up to your book club with a huge plate of gooey, sticky, bourbon-infused Cocoa Krispy treats that are the life of the party all by themselves. Let the record reflect that I didn’t want to share them.  But I did. Because I’m nice that way…or maybe because the plate was wrenched out of my hand and emptied before I could get a word in. One of those.

Also, just a quick note–adding booze to marshmallow fluff makes a fairly thin product. Be sure to refrigerate your treats before serving, or they won’t hang together (that said, I think the loose bourbonized cereal bits would make a killer ice cream topping).

Bourbon Cocoa Krispy Treats

Marshmallow Fluff

1 egg white

3/4 cup corn syrup

3/4 cup powdered sugar

pinch of salt

In a large, clean mixing bowl beat together the egg white and corn syrup (I’m curious about making this with golden cane syrup) until fluffy, glossy, and doubled in volume. I’ve tried both the paddle and whisk attachments; either works, though the whisk is better at building volume.

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See how glossy it is?

Add a pinch of salt and 3/4 cup powdered (confectioner’s) sugar; beat until smooth

Bourbonized Fluff

If you’re making the chocolate bourbon fluff, add

1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (to total a full cup)

1/4 cup bourbon

1/8 cup cocoa powder

and continue beating. It won’t be as dense or sticky after you’ve added the bourbon no matter how much confectioner’s sugar you add. I’m sure a chemist could explain this reaction.

Still glossy, but substantially thinner than pre-bourbonization.

Still glossy, but substantially thinner than pre-bourbonization.

To Make the Treats

  • Melt 2 Tbs of butter in a heavy pot
  • Add fluff mixture, stir over medium heat for 2 minutes
  • Pour in Cocoa Krispies (I don’t know how much I used; I just poured them straight from the box, stirring gently until I didn’t have any fluff left)
  • Pour into a large, buttered pan.
  • Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving–this is a complete departure from classic Rice Krispy treats, but it’s the only way they’re going to stay together.

 

 

The easiest, and best way to get bars to stay together is by covering the pan of coated cereal with parchment and pressing firmly. And be sure to refrigerate.

The easiest, and best way to get bars to stay together is by covering the pan of coated cereal with parchment and pressing firmly. And be sure to refrigerate.

They’re good.  Very, very good.  Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers.

The leftovers.

The leftovers.

 

 

 

Welcome to New Hampshire: The Granite State

NewHampshire welcome We drive through New Hampshire every summer. It’s that state that lies between Vermont and Maine, the one we have to get through in order to reach our favorite lobster pound after spending a couple of days in Bennington and Brattleboro.

In other words, New Hampshire is an inconvenience. But it’s a beautiful one. We take Rte 9 across to Portsmouth, skirting the southern foothills of the White Mountains. One of these years I’m going to break down and drive up Mount Washington (the breakdown being metaphoric, I hope, and pertaining only to my resistance to doing the thing–a resistance more related to time than any philosophical objection) just for the “This Car Climbed Mt. Washington” bumper sticker. What can I say? It’s good to have goals.

Glen, New Hampshire is home to a charmingly funky little theme park called “Story Land.”  When the kiddo was much smaller, we went there on a day trip–a trip he still talks about in rhetorical statements like “Remember that guy dressed like Humpty Dumpty? What was that all about?” (he’s 12; nostalgia is not his métier).

The irony of calling New Hampshire an inconvenience is not lost on me. In addition to Mt. Washington and Story Land, you can find the Lindt chocolate factory. It was relocated from New York to Stratham in 1986 though sadly they don’t offer tours. Also? Organics powerhouse Stonyfield Farms is located in Londonderry and has a visitor’s center (though again, no tours).

And every year I look forward to our lunch stop at the Weathervane–it’s one of a small regional chain, and I mean truly regional: New Hampshire and Maine. The original location is in Kittery, Maine, about 5 miles north of the New Hampshire border. And every year, despite my promises to try something new, I have the same thing: a most marvelous salad of almond-encrusted haddock over crunchy greens served with a raspberry vinaigrette.

Guess what I’m attempting this week.

Choosing what else to make for New Hampshire has proven challenging, at best. While the New Hampshire culinary tradition is decidedly New England, and despite that fact that it is home to both chocolate and yogurt factories, it lacks the specificity we find in neighboring states–such as Maine blueberries and lobster, or Vermont maple syrup and cheese. Pumpkin is one of its official state foods, so that’s the direction we’re taking with an attempt at a pumpkin Whoopie Pie. The Whoopie Pie is a treat that comes from Maine. Or the Pennsylvania Dutch. Or New Hampshire. It’s backstory is sketchy, to say the least. Which, in my mind, makes it the perfect choice to represent a state without strong culinary traditions.

~Brooke

Pumpkin-Molasses Whoopie Pies

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Depending on where we measure, its around 2 feet. With more coming.

I hate to admit defeat, but that almond-encrusted halibut salad is just going to have to wait until my back deck doesn’t look like this:

I feel like I owe New Hampshire an apology: “Dear New Hampshire, I’m sorry.” But honestly, who wants raspberry vinaigrette when there are almost two feet of snow on the ground?  Not this girl. I want Texas food. Cheesy, spicy, over-the-top Texas food, the kind that Lisa Fain writes about in her Homesick Texan blog and cookbooks.

Lisa Fain is my new culinary hero.

Lisa Fain is my new culinary hero.

In fact, I’m making her cheese enchiladas with chile con carne for dinner. Raspberry vinaigrette will just have to wait.

Sometimes, like now, my structure for this project gets in my way. I’m a little weary of New England winters and flavors. I want sun, and color, and enchiladas. And gumbo. And green chile burgers–all of those bold flavors associated with the south and southwest rather than the original 13 colonies. I know, it’s my project and I can play how I want to, but there’s a PLAN, dammit.  And the plan right now is whoopie pies for you and enchiladas for me.

Now about the origins of those whoopie pies. Some sources credit the Pennsylvania Amish with their creation; the corresponding etymology claims that the name comes from workers shouting “whoopee!” upon opening their lunch pails. Given that the Amish actually call them “gobs”, this seems a wee bit apocryphal. But nevertheless, that’s one potential history for these things.

The other ancestral line of whoopie pie genealogy begins in Maine. And indeed, Maine has attempted to strengthen it’s claim by naming the whoopie pie the “State Treat”. Unsurprisingly, lively origin debates flourish across the web but fortunately are fairly flame-free. Small mercies, I say. For our purposes, what’s important to note in both of these threads is that the whoopie pie in question is a chocolate cake with a marshmallow creme filling.

New Hampshire, to bring us back around to where we ostensibly started, claims the distinction of “birthplace of the pumpkin whoopie pie.”  Only fitting given that the pumpkin is, yes, New Hampshire’s state fruit. You think I’m making this up, don’t you? According to The Hippo, pumpkins became the state fruit after intense lobbying by a group of elementary school children, and are at the center of the state’s “most famed festival.” So it is only fitting that the pumpkin whoopie pie represents New Hampshire this week.

The version I’m offering here adds some molasses for depth, and a cream cheese frosting in the middle rather than the traditional marshmallow fluff.

While the boy didn’t say “whoopie” after trying one, he definitely did the happy dance.

Pumpkin-Molasses Whoopie Pies 

Makes About 18

Ingredients

2 1/2 Cups pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup molasses

2 large eggs

1 can pureed pumpkin

1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl
  • Cream butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy
  • Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated
  • Beat in the molasses and vanilla
  • Add the pumpkin puree. The batter will look curdled. This is fine.

    See? Curdled-looking.

    See? Curdled-looking.

  • Stir in the dry ingredients until well-incorporated
  • Scoop even-sized balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheets. I used a 2-Tbs scoop for uniformity, but you can make these
  • smaller or larger according to your preference. Just keep an eye on the baking time if you change the size.
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes until they spring back but are not browned
  • Cool completely
  • Fill with cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting (the easy version)

The frosting density should be about here--sturdy enough to hang off the spatula without falling off, but not cement.

The frosting density should be about here–sturdy enough to hang off the spatula without falling off, but not cement.

  • Beat together equal amounts (by weight) of cream cheese and butter
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla
  • Add powdered (confectioner’s) sugar, 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches desired consistency. If you over-sugar it, add a little milk to thin it out

Meanwhile in My Other Life: Stormageddon…er…Fresh Coconut and Lime Cake

IMG_7231I had everything set and ready for the New Hampshire whoopie pies.  Truly I did.  And then (gratiutious Dr. Who reference ahead) Stormageddon 2015 happened. Let me explain: the hubs had smuggled a fresh coconut home from his recent trip to Florida (fresh as in picked up off the ground near my FiL’s house), and decided it was a good day to tackle it.

After a lot of work involving hammers, chisels, and a screwdriver, he got it open.  So there we were with a bowl of coconut water and some pristinely snow-white coconut flesh.

I couldn’t let that beautiful coconut go to waste when canned pumpkin would wait another day or two, now could I?

Throw in a bit of lime zest and some melted white chocolate and hello there,  Stormageddon Cake. Technically, it’s a chiffon-style cake, as it has foam (beaten egg whites) mixed into it, but whatever you want to call it, it’s seriously good, even without a foot and a half of snow on the ground.

A good day for cake

A good day for cake

Fresh Coconut and Lime Stormageddon Cake 

Serves 3 (more if one isn’t a hungry 12 year old who’s been helping clear snow)

Ingredients

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1 stick of butter, cubed

1/2 c sugar

4 eggs, divided

1/2 cup AP flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup shredded fresh coconut (I suspect you could use unsweetened store-bought and it would just as well)

zest of 1 lime

For Glaze (completely optional)

Coconut water

1/4 cup shredded coconut

2 Tbs sugar

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350º

Melt white chocolate over a double-boiler

When chocolate is melted, add the butter, stirring until its mostly melted*

Transfer to mixer/mixing bowl

Add sugar and mix until it is incorporated

Add egg yolks one at a time, beating each on medium low until incorporated

With mixer on medium low, add in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until it comes together in a fairly dense dough

Mix in lime zest and coconut

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form

Using a flexible spatula or spoon, gently incorporate egg whites into the cake batter. It may look like this is impossible, and that you’re breaking your meringue, but keep going.  Gently.  It’ll get there.IMG_7228

Put into your prepared pan (I used a bunt-style pan which was a bit too big for my batter. A loaf pan is probably a better choice), bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

For the Glaze

Add sugar and grated coconut to the coconut water (I have no idea how much we had–a cup maybe?), and simmer over medium heat until it is reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Pour over the cake.

Notes

The consistency of the butter and white chocolate mixture is going to be very strange–a bit oily and grainy. It’s fine. Honest.

My tester approved.  Heartily.

My tester approved. Heartily.