Monday, January 11, 2010

Nut Goody Bars

Dangerous. That's what these things are. Absolutely dangerous. For your hips, your waistline, your thighs... wherever. No place is safe when you take a bite of these. Heck, if your teeth don't rot and fall out of your head, they'll probably gain weight. But it'll be worth it- these things are rich and decadent and calling your name this very minute...

You want to make these.

You need to make these.

                    (photo credit: Kathie Jenkins/Pioneer Press)

And before I go any further, I'd like to say a couple things- first, the recipe comes from my local newspaper. I had to sign up for their Cookie-A-Day email newsletter to get it (though I probably could have found it in the archives later, but I didn't know that at the time and didn't want to take any chances on missing it). So they get the credit. I never would have come up with this on my own. However, having made it, and compared it to an actual Nut Goodie Bar, I have a couple slight tweaks to recommend, as well as a couple thoughts on the making process. But for now, the recipe, courtesy Kathie Jenkins, Pioneer Press Food Editor:

Makes 2 dozen (1-by-3-inch) bars.
  • 1-1/2 pounds milk chocolate
  • 1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) regular vanilla pudding mix
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons maple flavoring
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar
  • 1 pound Virginia peanuts
To prepare pan: Invert 10-by-15-inch jellyroll pan. Place length of aluminum foil, shiny side down, over pan. Using hands, press down on sides and corners of foil to shape it to pan. Remove foil. Turn pan right side up. Place foil in pan. Very carefully press foil in place in pan. Lightly butter foil. Set aside.

To prepare bars: Melt milk chocolate and unsweetened chocolate. Spread small amount of melted chocolate to cover bottom of jellyroll pan. Put pan in freezer.

To prepare filling: In small saucepan, combine butter, pudding mix and milk. Bring to a boil. (Note: Don't worry if mixture curdles, just keep stirring.) Remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Pour mixture into large bowl. Using electric mixer on low speed, beat in maple flavoring. Slowly add powdered sugar. Continue to beat until combined and no lumps remain. Spread mixture over chocolate layer in jellyroll pan. Refrigerate until firm.

To finish bars: Stir salted peanuts into remaining chocolate mixture. Mix well. Spread evenly over powdered-sugar layer.

To cool bars: Refrigerate until firm. Remove from refrigerator. Cover with rack or cookie sheet. Invert. Remove pan and foil lining. Cover with cutting board or length of wax paper. Invert again, leaving bars right side up. Cut into 1-by-3-inch bars or, if using on cookie tray, cut smaller.


Ok, some thoughts...

The recipe calls for Virginia peanuts, but I don't see why dry-roasted nuts wouldn't work (although, it does stray from the actual product, which in fact uses unsalted Virginia peanuts. Then again, they also use corn syrup, soy protein (wtf?) and invertase (whatever that is) which aren't in this recipe, so do whatever you like). In fact, I think they might actually be better, since they (I believe) are a little saltier. Because the recipe could use a little salt. I actually bought a Nut Goodie Bar from the store to compare the two, and these tasted very, very similar to the commercial variety (nice work, Kathie!). The main difference I noticed was that the commercial one was a little saltier (just enough, though). But before I even tasted the store-bought one, I knew from tasting the pudding/powdered sugar mix as I was blending it that it definitely needed some, and so threw in a couple pinches of kosher salt. Even that was not enough, in my opinion, once I tasted the finished product. So... couple pinches of kosher along with dry roasted nuts, or Virginia nuts with maybe a teaspoon (totally estimating here...) of kosher.

I also think it needs more maple flavoring than what the recipe calls for. I didn't measure it out, preferring instead to eyeball it, as is my habit when it comes to adding stuff to recipes, but I think I added approximately double what the recipe calls for. That's about what I was aiming for, anyway. Taste it as you make it to see what you think, but I think mine came out great with (approximately) double.

You'll notice that the recipe says, 'Don't worry if mixture curdles, just keep stirring.' Yeah, that's an understatement. She makes it sound like it might not curdle. Well, it curdled alright, and quite a bit. I was briefly tempted to throw the mix out and start over, thinking that I must have done something wrong, but I took her advice and just kept stirring, and it came out just fine. So keep that in mind when you're mixing the sugar/pudding mix. No matter how it looks, just keep stirring. Also, she says, 'Using electric mixer on low speed, beat in maple flavoring. Slowly add powdered sugar.' She makes it sound like you want to keep the mixer on low the whole time (and kind of you do- you don't want powdered sugar flying everywhere) but you'll see as soon as you start doing this that you'll need to turn the speed up at some point, and quite high depending on your mixer's power. There's a lot of sugar involved, and the mix gets quite thick. Low speed probably will not cut it for very long.

I don't have any pics of the actual cooking process, but I do have some pics of the results:

The ones on the left are mine, and the ones on the right are the store-bought. As you can see, both the top layer of chocolate and the middle nougat layer are quite thick in mine. A little too thick. But I was using some weird cake pan, unlike any other cake pan I've ever used before, with really thick high walls, so it was difficult to tell when I was spreading it all out just how thick I was laying it on. No biggie, though, they still taste phenomenal. I think maybe more nuts would be in order, though. Nuts and chocolate go together like, well, nuts and chocolate, and more is always better. At least until you reach some sort of equilibrium, say 50-50. (Mine is more 60-40, chocolate to nuts.)

Here's another shot, with some keys thrown in for perspective (hey, it's all I had handy at the moment) -

Ok, now get thee to a kitchen without delay- these things are still calling out to you and they don't like to be kept waiting!

(p.s. i know the title of the post is spelled slightly different than the actual product. not a mistake.)

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