Eric turned three on April Fool's Day. My younger child is now three. Three! Where does the time go? (Oh, wait, I know... into sleepless nights, dirty diapers, potty training, cleaning up Legos and Hot Wheels and Chuggers, playing in sandboxes, endless bottles and sippy cups... but it's all worth it.) I asked him what he wanted to bring for a treat into his classroom birthday party. He chose Twinkies.
Twinkies? Really? Where the hell did that kid ever have a Twinkie? Haven't they been extinct most of his life?
As luck would have it, I recently received a copy Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats, by Casey Barber, published by Ulysses Press. It's filled to the brim with delicious recipes for junk-food favorites, like Mallomars, Cheez-Its, Corn Nuts, Klondike Bars, and Jalapeno Poppers. Because the recipes are all made from scratch, I feel not quite as bad about eating the end-product.
So I made Twinkies. I was surprised how easy it was. A lot of steps and kind of "involved," but nothing hard, I would say. I didn't have a specific Twinkie-pan (Barber calls is a "canoe" pan), so I used my mini-loaf pans. A sheet pan or 13"x 9" would would find - just cut into rectangles. You can also use a muffin tin. The basics of the recipe follow, but go out and pick-up the book for full instructions and notes (believe me, this is one book you'll want to own).
Twinkies (from Classic Snacks Made From Scratch)
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spritz the pan(s) well with baking spray (I would suggest butter and flour, just to ensure a good release).
2. Separate the eggs whites and yolks into two large bowls.
3. Pour the sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 to 20 seconds, until finely ground. Transfer to a medium bowl.
4. Using an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the egg yolks on medium speed for about 20 to 30 seconds, until they start to froth, thicken, and lighten in color. Slowly add the ground sugar mixture and the vanilla, and continue to beat until the eggs are very thick and pale - almost off-white and creamy in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and stir in the flour. Set aside.
5. Using an electric hand mixer on high speed or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium-high, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. Stir about a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the batter to loosen it up, then gently fold in the remaining whites in two or three batches, working slowly to incorporate them without destroying their fluffiness.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; if using a canoe pan or muffin tin, fill each well two-thirds full. Save any remaining batter for a second batch.
7. Bake until the cakes are puffy and golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Timing may vary, so watch carefully, but will be 8 to 10 minutes for canoe shapes, 13 to 15 minutes for cupcakes or mini loaf pans, and 18 to 20 minutes for 8-inch square metal baking pans or hot dog pans.
8. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack; they will shrink and pull away from the pan sides. Then line the wire rack with waxed paper and spritz the paper lightly with baking spray. Invert the pan to turn the cakes out onto the rack. Cool completely before cutting into Twinkie shapes (if using a loaf or hot dog pan) and filling.
For the Filling:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Stir the sugar, corn syrup, and water together in a small, high-sided saucepan over medium low heat just until the sugar is fully dissolved and the liquid no longer feels granular. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the liquid to a boil without stirring. Continue to heat until the sugar syrup reaches 235-240 degrees Fahrenheit (soft-ball stage).
2. Meanwhile, using the stand mixer fitting with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed just until soft peaks form. Just before the sugar syrup reaches soft-ball stage, restart the mixer on low speed. When the syrup is at temperature, carefully drizzle it into the egg whites.
3. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip for five to seven minutes, until the filling is thick, shiny, and white, forming stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and stir for another 15 seconds to incorporate.
1. Fill a pastry or gallon-size zip-top bag with the filling.
2. Use a sharp paring knife to cut small holes in the cake bottoms (a single hole in the cake bottoms for cupcakes, three holes for other sizes). Insert the pastry tip into each hole and squeeze gently to fill. The cakes will swell slightly as the holes fill up.
3. Store the filled cakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week; as with most sponge cakes, they really do taste better after resting overnight than if eaten fresh.