The Setting: Gloomy day, but warm enough to leave the ski mask at home.
The Soundtrack: Hoosband flipping through papers and working out figures on the calculator. Hooray tax time!
Steaming up the Oven: Bread.
The Scenario: We're in the home stretch for Music City in the Midwest, with our second-to-last recipe, Homemade GooGoo Clusters.
In 1912, Nashville's Standard Candy Company brought the world its very first mass-produced combination candy-bar.
In a world of plain-Jane candy bars made exclusively of chocolate or taffy, the GooGoo Cluster proudly combined chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts in a confection so tasty people would start asking for it from birth--that's right, the next time you hear a baby say "Goo Goo," you'll know what he's clamoring for.
My version uses dulce de leche instead of caramel (because it's easier to make, easier to work with, and pretty freaking delicious) and honey-roasted peanuts for an added flavor bonus.
This recipe is dedicated to my daughter, Oia, who is expressing her share of goos and gahs these days, and to the memory of my grandparents, who always had a stash of GooGoo Clusters somewhere in the house.
Homemade GooGoo Clusters
This recipe uses the same Marshmallow Cream recipe as the Homemade MoonPies, also featured in Music City in the Midwest.
1/3 cup powdered sugar, for sprinkling and rolling
1 1/2 cups cold water, divided
3 (1/4-oz) envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups dulce de leche
1 1/2 lbs honey-roasted peanuts
16 oz semisweet and/or dark chocolate, divided
16 oz milk chocolate, divided
4 1/2 T coconut oil, divided
Make the Marshmallow Cream: Prop up each of two disposable pastry bags in each of two tall drinking glasses and fold the tops of the bags down a few inches (as if you were going to turn then inside-out). Set aside.
Line your counter with parchment paper and sift half the powdered sugar over the parchment.
Sprinkle the gelatin over 3/4 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Fix a 3-quart saucepan with a candy thermometer so that the bottom of the thermometer is just above, not touching the bottom of the pan. Make sure the thermometer is set to Fahrenheit. Add the sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, salt, and remaining water to the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir. Continue cooking until the thermometer reads 231 degrees F. The mixture will be light-golden-to-pale-amber in color. Remove from heat, turn the mixer on low, and very slowly and carefully stream the sugar mixture into the gelatin mixture.
Add the vanilla and increase the speed slightly. Continue increasing the speed slightly every 30-to-60 seconds until the speed is set to high. Beat on high until the mixture is white, fluffy, and voluminous and the bowl is almost cool to the touch, about 6 minutes.
Split the mixture between the two pastry bags, and pipe rough 1 1/2-inch puffs onto the prepared parchment.
Sprinkle with remaining powdered sugar, and roll each puff gently in the powdered sugar to coat (this will prevent the puffs from sticking to each other and make them easier to handle.
Top each puff with about 1 T dulce de leche.
Place the peanuts in a bowl. Press each puff, dulce-de-leche-side down into the peanuts so that the nuts cling to the dulce de leche.
Prepare the Chocolate Coating: Place 6 oz semisweet chocolate, 6 oz milk chocolate, and 2 T coconut oil in a medium-sized, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30-second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each, until the chocolate is almost completely melted. Stir till completely melted and smooth.
Line your counter with clean parchment paper.
Gently press each cluster, marshmallow-side down, into the chocolate so that the chocolate coats the bottom. Allow the bottom of the cluster to gently graze the side of the bowl to remove excess chocolate as you transfer the cluster to the parchment paper to set.
Once set, transfer the clusters to a cooling rack and set the rack over the parchment paper.
Prepare remaining chocolate ingredients as before.
Spoon chocolate over each cluster, using the spoon to help you coat the top and sides, getting the chocolate into every nook and cranny. Let set.
Use an offset spatula or a wide, flat cheese tool to help you remove the fully set clusters from the cooling rack without cracking the chocolate.
Store clusters in a plastic zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Makes approximately 50 clusters.
Average Score on a scale of 0-5, 0 being "Never again. Need to set my mouth on fire to extinguish the memory" and 5 being "Woohoo! When can I eat that again?" 4
Comments: "Good." "Very satisfying!" "Too tasty."
This recipe was featured in a post called Music City in the Midwest for Foodbuzz.com's 24x24 event, for which 24 food bloggers from around the world are selected to host dinner parties within the same 24 hours and blog about them.
Thanks for Reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.