Sunday, April 14, 2013

Artisan Twinkies Made From Scratch

The classic poets tell us there is always one love in your life that just never dies – that individual you consider “the one.”  For Sherlock Holmes it was the actress Irene Adler.  For Marc Antony it was Cleopatra.  For Richard Burton it was Elizabeth Taylor.   For Steve Austin it was Jamie Somers.  For Batman it was Catwoman.  

For me, it’s the Twinkie.     
Yes, the Twinkie is “the one.”  I’ve already chronicled how the obsession began in my junior high school years during the Golden Age of lunchbox treats.   I would anxiously await the noon hour to get a bite of that airy yellow sponge cake and glossy marshmallow filling.   But alas, a lifetime of happiness was not to be.  More recently, we mourned the demise of the Twinkie, as parent company Hostess became a victim of the Great Recession and all those hateful health food fanatics.

It all seemed over, yet I never quite gave up hope.   I’d hear rumors that the Twinkie had been “purchased” and would soon be staging a triumphant return.   Yet the end-of-the-aisle shelf at the grocery store that once proudly displayed boxes of Twinkies was instead stocked with a variety of snack food posers.  

Finally, I decided to take matters into my own hands.    My muse was this book – “Classic Snacks Made From Scratch” by Casey Barber.   
Barber understands the way to a suburbanite’s heart is with cream-filled snack cakes.   She offers dozens of kitchen-tested recipes for recreating authentic iconic snacks, including Sno-Balls, Devil Dogs, Tastykakes, Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes, and yes … my beloved Twinkie.

The day arrives for our fateful reunion and my heart is pounding with anticipation.   I understand there are some foodies who might look unkindly on the Twinkie, and consider it “the blonde” of the pastry world.   Yet, as I peruse Ms. Barber’s recipe, I can see that the torpedo-shaped sponge cake is grounded in classic pastry techniques. 

For authentic shape, Barber recommends a canoe pan.   I’d never heard of such a thing, but apparently some smart marketers have created the perfect Twinkie-shaped pan, just for purists like me.  Praise be   (And, if anyone tells me I need another specialty baking pan like I need a hole in the head, I’m gonna smack you!) 
The batter contains a mere six ingredients.   Some Twinkie recipes online suggest the use of a boxed pound cake mix.   But in this recipe, Barber gives a nod to the classic French sponge cake.   Egg yolks are separated from whites.  Both are whipped and then folded together like a soufflé, resulting in an oh-so-lite-and-airy-Audrey-Hepburn-in-Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-poofy batter.  The egg yolks create that distinctive Twinkie blondeness. 
Ten minutes in a 350-degree oven, and there’s no mistaking that renowned, shapely sponge cake. 
The pillowy, glossy-white filling is a classic marshmallow cream, or in pastry terminology, “an Italian meringue,” which is boiled sugar whipped into egg whites.      I’m a little nervous attempting to heat a sugar syrup to the soft-ball stage as I’ve had a few kitchen disasters with hot syrup in the past.   Yet the technique is successful, and I beat the boiling sugar into a batch of egg whites whipped to a soft peak.    
I’ve seen these kinds of clouds flying at 30 thousand feet, and there’s enough extra filling to gleefully lick the spoon.  
Once the cakes are cooled, it’s time to fill them.  Here’s where I start to feel like a mad scientist as I fill this slightly threatening pastry syringe with marshmallow cream.   
Three tiny holes are made in each cake and the pastry syringe is inserted.  You can feel the sponge cake swelling with cream.   This is where a little industrialization might actually come in handy.   
It’s messy, and a little tedious filling each cake by hand, but really no different than filling éclairs or pate a choux.  
The look is the ultimate in eye candy, and the taste is sheer bliss – light, frothy and delectable insouciance (but minus the cloying chemical aftertaste we all know and love).
Yes, there are some who might denigrate this classic cream-filled sponge cake or laugh at its slightly frivolous name.  But, I remain firmly and hopelessly in love, even more so, having crafted my own Twinkies lovingly by hand.  Who needs a tarte Tatin, anyway?  As Shakespeare might have written, “A Twinkie, by any other name would smell as sweet.” 
©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Deana Sidney said...

Congrats to you! I have been doing oreo cookies lately. I never liked the cream filling but love the cookies. The best part is that I know what's in them... good quality ingredients.

It must feel great to make your own twinkies... and I must say you did a magnificent job.

Laura Luciano said...

TWB — I need to try my hand at what looks like you have successfully accomplished. Funny story: just before my husband and I got married we both made torrone together and it almost landed us in not walking down the aisle...LOL. Our pots and small tiny kitchen in NYC were plastered with white nougat. My husband and I vowed to never make it again and we made it to the alter. This looks like a better option for my husband and I to partake in and I need to get me that pastry syringe... Great job.Also this brings back fond memories of my twinkie days so thank you.

Unknown said...

Can't spell Twinkie without "TW."

Barbara said...

I am still smiling about that cookbook. What a fun read it must be!
And I'm with you 100% re "just one more pan". When I moved, my daughter looked at all my kitchen stuff and groaned. And I STILL don't have enough. The only brake I have on purchasing them is SPACE.
Super job on those twinkies! They look absolutely perfect.

Kalyn Denny said...

Your Twinkies look amazing perfect! Good job on re-creating a classic.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Only one problem I can foresee -- who eats all of the twinkies? I would need to invite a few friends, for fear I'd eat them all myself. Your twinkies are a triumph!

Gloria Baker said...

aah I love, really I love these treats and look amazing, now I have to find the pan :( yes one of my problems here not always you find all pans cute like these, but we have new stores about kitchen, I will try love how you made:)

Gloria Baker said...

aah and "the one" for me is dulce the leche, but the real dulce de leche when we boiled the jars or make in a pan you know but I make only sometimes because is really tempting!!!xo

Ford Mackenzie said...

Looks good, but I don't think it is a real twinkie until it passes the "bounce" test--a real twinkie will bounce at least once when dropped from the top of a six story building.

tasteofbeirut said...

wow, `i am so impressed! never thought it was possible to reproduce the classic. not that `i would have attempted it, did not like twinkies, but then, i did not grow up eating them either. i do think that billowy creaminess and soft cake must be a global love since we have similar pastries here, just not with a twinkie; here they put two cookies and fill them with a fluffy cream and coat the cream in coconut; they sell for 15 cents a piece.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

How cool is this! They even have their own baking pan. I am impressed T.W. They definitely look like the real thing.

Velva said...

Get out! You made your own twinkles! Totally impressed. You cannot doubt for a second that the store bought version would pale in comparison.


P.S. What did we do before Amazon? I order more cooking gadgets from them that I dare admit.

Kat said...

They look perfect!!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

A really beauty and without chemical preservatives.

~~louise~~ said...

I am so getting myself that book, T.W!

I just lifted the computer to show my daughter the image of your delectable "poofs" of goodness and she said, "Mommy, that looks too good to be a Twinkie." She then closed her eyes and went back to sleep. I bet I know what she's dreaming about, lol...

Thank you so much for posting this, T.W. Today was the bestest day to rekindle memories of Twinkie days of yore and dream of those to come:)