November 25, 2012

Homemade Twinkies

By now, you've all heard that Hostess has gone out of business, stopping production at their plants and selling their assets. According to the Hostess Brands website: "In addition to dozens of baking and distribution facilities around the country, Hostess Brands will sell its popular brands, including Hostess, Drakes and Dolly Madison, which make iconic cake products such as Twinkies, CupCakes, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s, Sno Balls and Donettes. Bread brands to be sold include Wonder, Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride, Butternut, and Beefsteak, among others."

The closing is noted as the result of a union workers' strike. However, it seems as if Hostess has been struggling for a while. I would think it was in part due to a backlash against overly-processed, high fructose-laden foods. Steve Ettlinger's book Twinkie, Deconstructed certainly didn't help, I'm sure.

While I don't typically buy or eat Hostess snack cakes, the closing makes me a little sad. It really is the end of an era. It's a little weird to think that future generations won't know what a Twinkie or a Ding Dong tastes like (ah, nostalgia)...unless we make them ourselves.

Last year, I made homemade Twinkies for my College English class. We were studying food issues; we watched the documentary Food, Inc. and read excerpts from Ettlinger's book. I wanted my students to realize how bad fast food, processed foods, and sugar was for them. So, I brought in a box of Twinkies (which are made of 37 ingredients) to compare with my homemade version. Everyone thought the homemade cakes tasted better; the "real" Twinkies were just too sweet and sticky.

I used an eclair pan to get that classic Twinkie shape.

The cakes were filled with a fluffy vanilla frosting. Don't they look just like "real" Twinkies?

 Homemade Twinkies
recipe from Leite's Culinaria

makes 12 snack cakes

Nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil 
1/2 cup cake flour 
1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
2 tablespoons milk, preferably whole 
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
5 large eggs, at room temperature 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
Seven-Minute Frost, for the filling (recipe below)
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position. Coat a cream canoe/eclair pan with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil. (If you don't have a pan, click HERE for directions on how to make molds out of aluminum foil.)
  • Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
  • Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat add the vanilla. Cover to keep warm.
  • Separate the eggs, placing the whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or, if using a hand mixer or whisk, a large mixing bowl) and reserving the yolks in another bowl. Beat the whites on high speed until foamy. Gradually add 6 tablespoons of the sugar and the cream of tartar and continue to beat until the whites reach soft, moist peaks.
  • Transfer the beaten egg whites to a large bowl and add the egg yolks to the standing mixer bowl—there’s no need to clean the bowl (or, if using a hand mixer or whisk, simply place the egg yolks in a separate large bowl). Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is very thick and a pale lemon color, about 5 minutes. Add the beaten egg whites to the yolks, but do not mix.
  • Sprinkle the flour mixture over the egg whites and then mix everything on low speed for just 10 seconds (or, if using a hand mixer or whisk, until blended but not thoroughly combined). Remove the bowl from the mixer, make a well in one side of the batter, and pour the melted butter mixture into the bowl. Fold gently with a large rubber spatula until the batter shows no trace of flour and the whites and yolks are evenly mixed, about 8 strokes.
  • Immediately scrape the batter into the prepared pan, filling each with about 3/4 inch of batter. Bake until the cake tops are light brown and feel firm and spring back when touched, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the cakes to cool in the molds.
  • Just before filling, remove each cake from the pan. Using the end of a chopstick, poke three holes in the bottom of each cake, just like in the bottom of real Twinkies. Wiggle the tip of the chopstick around quite a lot to make room for the filling.
  • Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fit with a small tip (about 1/4 inch across). Pipe the frosting into the holes you created in the bottom of the cakes. As you fill each cake, hold it in your hand and press your palm gently around it so you can feel the cake expand, taking care not to overfill and crack the cake.
Seven-Minute Frosting (Filling)

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  In the metal bowl of a stand mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water), combine the sugar, corn syrup, 3 tablespoons of water, egg whites, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 3-4 minutes.
  • Attack the bowl to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until glossy, thick, billowing peaks form, about 7 minutes (duh).
  • Beat in the vanilla & use immediately.

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