Thursday, April 17, 2008

Clarification to the "butterfinger" recipe!

Yipes. I was flush with success and confidence after the candy bar triumph - so it was pretty certain I was due to have my wings melted a little bit! On Tuesday I raced off to the store for more peanut butter and decided to make a DOUBLE BATCH of the bars. I mean, what could be more efficient, right? Well, you pretty much know the answer to that. Disaster. See pic below for what you don't want them to look like. This stuff was like epoxy with too much of the setting up agent in it - there was no controlling it!

And I wasn't sure why - there were a couple of different variables.

First, I made the mistake of watching the candy thermometer too closely, and actually pulled the syrup off at about 325 degrees - almost exactly what they recommend, but I could tell from looking at it that it was cooler than the original batch. But at the time I didn't know that this would be a problem.

Then, the peanut butter I bought was not the same as what I originally used - my fault for
grabbing the wrong kind in the store, even after I studied the shelf for 10 minutes. It was supposedly just one gram lower in sugar (still Jif), but it seemed quite stiff and not as nice as the regular kind. In my defense, I never buy peanut butter, and there are like hundreds of variations - Jif, Skippy, Adams, store brand, upscale store brand, and some organic brand. Then, each one has a low salt option, a low sugar option, a low salt AND low sugar option, and THEN you have to find creamy versus chunky versus extra chunky. Good lord, it was a miracle I got as close as I did.

So, anyway, when I mixed the peanut butter into the sugar syrup, it seized up and turned crumbly- absolutely unspreadable and completely different from the creamy caramely mass I had on Monday that I was able to spread nicely into the pan. Recovery efforts just made it worse, including some burned sugar and a pan that required 24 hours of soaking, plus some chiseling, to get it clean. Long story short(er) - I threw everything away and lay awake all night fretting about what went wrong - was it the wrong peanut butter? the wrong temperature? the double batch? Shoot, I could hardly wait to get home on Wednesday and try it again.

Wednesday - I made three batches! Kind of like a "Cooks Illustrated" sort of experiment. The first batch I cooked to about 340 degrees and it was nearly perfect - caramel-y and spreadable., but a little rough compared to how the first batch came out. See below.
The second batch I cooked to the recipe, 325 degrees - this would test if the earlier failure was due to double batching or peanut butter. Success!! I mean failure!! I mean it failed in the same way as it failed before, so at this point I was pretty sure I had identified the cause as being sugar that was not sufficiently caramelized. Then I cooked the third batch until the thermometer nearly went off the scale - 375 degrees. But honestly the syrup was just starting to turn amber, which is supposed to happen at a lower temp. But I had calibrated the thermometer in boiling water and it seems to be accurate. So. One of life's mysteries. The important thing is that this one was perfect! Smooth and creamy, pourable and spreadable, not crumbly. See picture below.

So the good news is I can use all three batches - the first and the third worked to make bars, and the second crumbly batch still tasted good, so I think I am going to mix it with chocolate and stir it into some vanilla ice cream!

OK, chocolate tempering to come up later this month, I may be getting that nailed down as well.


Kim said...

Oh your tenacity is amazing! I'm not sure I have it in me to go three rounds on anything. Isn't it something when doubling just doesn't do it. Hard to figure out sometimes. Have a great weekend.

Lisa said...

Hey Kim - thank goodness I got it after three or I would have kept going! Sometimes I'm like a dog with a bone on these things . . . .

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