Twinkies and Ding Dongs (recipes at end of entry)

As most of you know, Hostess has bit the dust.  The unions refused to budge, and as a result more than 18,000 people have lost their jobs.  I feel for the workers, plus it sucks twice as much to have this crap happen right before the holidays.

Am I mourning the loss of the Twinkies and Ding Dongs?  In their present form produced by the company, not at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a hater of Twinkies and Ding Dongs.  They’re treats, indulgences to be enjoyed occasionally.  The occasional indulgence isn’t going to make your ass widen.  Gorging on them daily will.  That’s the user’s fault, not the snack.

However, I am of an age that I remember when Twinkies and Ding Dongs actually tasted GOOD.  Before they started substituting chemicals and fillers and crap to make them “last longer”.  Gotta chase the almighty dollar, you know, even if it meant sacrificing the quality of the product.  The bean counters had no shame.

I hadn’t had a Twinkie or Ding Dong in years because of the quality decline.  Just to give them the benefit of the doubt, I went and purchased the freshest box of each I could find…and came away utterly disappointed.  The Twinkie was rubbery, left a strange feeling coating in my mouth from the filling.  Cream filling?  Hardly.  The Ding Dong was even more disappointing.  No longer wrapped in thin shiny foil, the imposter hiding within the opaque white plastic was pathetic.  The “chocolate” coating surrounding the woefully dry cake was so waxy it was like biting into a beeswax candle.

So what is one to do, when the memory of the good old days and biting into delicious, luscious, decadent snacks is still alive and taunting the brain?  You hunt down recipes to make your own Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

The following recipes come from the Simple Math Bakery for the Twinkies and A Cozy Kitchen for the Ding Dongs.  As the entry for the Simple Math Bakery Twinkies points out, store bought Twinkies (in 2010) had 39 ingredients, while the homemade ones have 12.   The website has awesome pictures to go with the recipe, so make sure you check those out.  While they call for a canoe pan or muffin pan to make the Twinkies, I also ran across the suggestion of making molds out of heavy duty aluminum foil that had been wrapped around a 4-inch spice bottle to shape, leaving the top open for filling.  Just make sure you spray some nonstick spray on the foil before filling.

Go ahead–make some.  Sure, it’s a lot more work than just buying a box, but you couldn’t get ones to do the good old days justice anyway.  Step back in time, make something that’s worth sinking your teeth into, and make some new memories!

First the TWINKIES RECIPE

Vanilla Snack Cakes (Twinkies)
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Yield: 24 cakes

Snack Cakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons corn starch
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a canoe pan or muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they are very stiff. They should hold their shape when removed from the bowl. Set aside.

Combine the flour, corn starch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together or beat on low speed for a minute, until combined. Add oil, water, vanilla extract, and egg yolks. Beat on medium speed until smooth.

Using a rubber spatula, gently scoop 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter. Fold the egg whites in by slicing the spatula through the center of the bowl, gently scooping batter from the bottom and wrapping it over the top. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat until the egg whites are barely visible. Repeat this process with each remaining 1/3 of the egg whites.

Spoon the batter into the pan, filling the wells 2/3 full. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until cakes are golden brown and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cakes will puff up when cooking, but will settle as they cool. Cool the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently remove them from the pan using a rubber spatula. Allow them to cool, flat side down, directly on the cooling rack.

Filling:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a small saucepan, heat the flour and milk over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture becomes a paste (about 5 minutes), remove from heat and allow to cool for 1 minute. Stir in the vanilla extract. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and set aside to cool completely.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cooled milk mixture and beat for about 5 minutes, until smooth and creamy.

Use the pastry filler that comes with the pan (or a pastry bag with round tip) to fill the cakes. Place the tip about halfway into the cake and squeeze gently. Holding the cake in your palm while filling it will allow you to feel when it is full. Fill each cake 3 times to ensure that each bite contains cream filling!

DING DONGS RECIPE

Homemade Ding Dongs

Recipe slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Beantown Baker

Yields 15 ding dongs

2 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 cups hot brewed coffee
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms of 2 10-inch round cake pans with wax paper and grease paper. If you don’t have 10-inch cake pans, you can make 2 9-inch cake pans and a dozen cupcakes.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Seven Minute Frosting

Recipe from Epicurious

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

In large metal bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Set bowl over pan of barely simmering water and mix with handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

Transfer bowl from pan to folded kitchen towel on counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vanilla. (Frosting can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.)

Ganache
Recipe from BeantownBaker

1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
12 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-ounce pieces

Heat the heavy cream and the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

Place the semisweet chocolate in a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.

Assembly

Once the cake layers have cooled completely, use a small round cookie cutter to cut small circles of cake out of the layers. Enjoy the scraps or save them for cake balls.

Using the cone method, scoop out a small portion of cake from each circle. Fill with 7-minute frosting and replace top of cake.

Using a pastry brush or spoon, cover individual cakes with ganache. Allow ganache to completely set up before serving.

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