Saturday, April 25, 2009

CSA week 20 - Malted honey peanut butter balls two ways

I found this recipe on the blog and there was some discussion in the comments of this being (or at least being a variation on) a traditional American recipe, but I've never seen it before and Googling doesn't turn it up anywhere else. Their recipe tweaks a recipe in from the 1976 More-with-Less Cookbook. I suppose that's enough time for it to filter out a little and the origin to be forgotten. You can see their version here. For my first version I tweaked the recipe a little more but still kept it simple.

1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup malted milk powder
1/3 cup white chocolate

1. Toast coconut flakes (carefully as they go from raw to burnt very quickly) and break them up into small bits in a clean spice or coffee grinder.

2. Mix coconut bits with honey, peanut butter and malted milk powder until they form a slightly sticky, crumbly lump. I found that the full cup of powder didn't want to incorporate so I had to knead it in like getting all of flour into a wet dough.

3. Let rest a short while to hydrate, then pinch off pieces and roll into balls.

4. Melt white chocolate in microwave or in a double boiler. Dip each ball into the chocolate and set somewhere cool to firm up. If you store them in the refrigerator, let them warm up a bit before serving.

OK, maybe that's not quite as simple as the original mix-then-roll-into-balls, but the toasting and the white chocolate are good additions.

This was good, but messy at Miami room temperature as the balls slumped and expressed oil while the white chocolate melted. Also, I wasn't entirely happy with the grainy final texture. I was clear that while the malted milk was fully incorporated a lot of it was only mixed in and not dissolved.

I wondered what would happen if I melted the honey, peanut butter and white chocolate together and then mixed in the powders. Secondarily, I had just bought a bottle of amber agave nectar. I had only tried the light version before and I was wondering how this slightly more flavorful version would work in this recipe.

That makes the new recipe:
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup natural unsweetened creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 cup malted milk powder
1/3 cup white chocolate
a few drops vanilla

1. Toast coconut flakes and grind them into a paste oozing coconut oil in a clean spice or coffee grinder. (Another change there to smooth out the texture.)

2. In small saucier, melt peanut butter, nectar, vanilla and chocolate and stir until homogeneous. Stir in coconut and malted milk powder and blend. When the powders have been fully incorporated, pour the mixture out into a small container to cool. The texture at this point was the gooey sticky napalm of melted marshmallow so may have been possible to whip in some air to adjust the texture as it cooled, but I just let it settle into a dense brick and sliced it up into rectangular cuboids. (That's the right term; don't blame me. Hyperrectangle or 3-D orthotope are close, but imply hollowness. That leaves out 'box', too.)

I took both into work and had a taste test. The results were close, but by a small margin everyone preferred the second version. The texture ended up somewhere between caramel and fudge, which is a good place for a candy to end up and sure you'll agree. I pressed the point that the crumblier candy and creamy chocolate coating made the first version much more interesting texturally, but good was preferred over interesting (much to my and every other experimental chef's disappointment).

They also liked the purer peanut flavor to the honey/peanut mix. The amber agave really wasn't much different from the light version. They both have the vacant mildly floral sweetness of honeysuckle easily overwhelmed by the stronger flavors at play here. I shouldn't have been surprised; it says "mild" right there on the bottle. The malt and coconut flavors are there too, but they're enriching the peanut, not standing up recognizably on their.

One of my colleagues who's from south India made the interesting observation that the second version's flavors and textures aren't far from some traditional candies from that region. That opens the possibilities of adding cardamom, pistachios, maybe rosewater. Lots of room for further experimentation here, but they're plenty tasty as is too.


kat said...

The second batch does look a lot like fudge. I can see why people preferred its texture

billjac said...

I think there's still more that could be done from a textural standpoint. I want to make another batch and pull it as it cools to see if I can get something resembling taffy.