It seems like Z has recently been for ZERO cupcakes in production. Today Z is for Zero candy bar. Hershey’s website describes the Zero bar as a “unique combination of caramel, peanut and almond nougat covered in delicious white fudge”. The ingredient list is a bit longer: SUGAR; CORN SYRUP; VEGETABLE OIL (PALM KERNEL AND PALM OIL); NONFAT MILK; SOY PIECES; PEANUTS; CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: COCOA; MALTED MILK (BARLEY MALT EXTRACT; WHEAT FLOUR; MILK; SALT; SODIUM BICARBONATE ); PEANUTS; ALMONDS (ROASTED IN COCOA BUTTER AND/OR SUNFLOWER OIL); SALT; ARTIFICIAL COLOR; SORBITAN TRISTEARATE; EGG WHITES; SOY LECITHIN; HYDROLYZED SOY PROTEIN; ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR; MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES . I love me some glycerides. YUM!
It’s been decades since I had a Zero bar, so I thought I’d refresh myself on the flavor. Not as easy as you might think. Mr Shuck finally found one for me at a Rite Aid. I must say that it really wasn’t worth all the time it took to find. The flavor was what you’d expect from the ingredient list above. It was a little waxy and very sweet.
I thought these had whole almonds on top…apparently at one time they did, when they were produced by the Hollywood Candy Company. Now that they are produced by Hershey’s, they seem to just have some almond crumbs mixed in with the nougat. After looking at the ingredient list (which I did after making the cake balls), I wished that I had known about the malted milk soon enough to incorporate that into this somewhere. Oh, well!
I chose to make a cake ball for a couple of reasons: 1. It was fun last time. 2. We are hoping to put our house on the market soon, so I’ve put a bunch of stuff into storage. (To make my tiny house seem spacious and roomy.) Apparently cupcake wrappers are in a box somewhere… and I didn’t want to buy new ones…
The cake ball started with an almond cake recipe that I found on the Odense website. I had a tube of marzipan lying around and wanted to use it for something. The cake recipe called for almond paste, not marzipan, so I adjusted it a little. Marzipan has a lower percentage of almonds (28%) than almond paste (45%) so contains more sugar. I also knew that my nougat frosting was going to be incredibly sweet, so I wanted to use a bit less sugar. The only pan that I haven’t packed up was a rectangular spring form, so I used that instead of a tube pan and reduced the baking time. I replaced some of the flour with almond meal as well.
Ingredients for cake:
- 1 seven ounce tube of marzipan
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup almond meal, divided
- 2 sticks butter @ room temperature (I should have reduced this)
- 4 large eggs @ room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk (I used rice milk since that’s what I had on hand)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease the pan.
- Put the marzipan in the food processor with sugar and 1/2 of the almond meal and pulse. Add the eggs and pulse until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.
- Transfer the mixture from the food processor into a large bowl and add half of the flour mixture. Stir just until combined, then add milk. Stir just until combined, then add the rest of the flour.
- Bake for around 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and top bounces back when pressed.
- Allow to cool for around 10 minutes in pan, then un-mold.
I found a recipe for nougat icing at FoodTV.com and altered it only slightly by using 1/2 almond butter and 1/2 peanut butter. I bought smooth butters and decided that crunchy would be better, so I smashed up some sliced almonds and added them in also.
Combine 1 large (16 oz) jar of marshmallow creme or fluff with 1/8 cup peanut butter and 1/8 cup almond butter and beat with electric mixer until combined. Mix in about 1/4 cup crushed almonds.
Assembly of cake balls: Wearing disposable gloves, I broke up the cake into crumbs then worked the icing into the crumbs. (FYI: marshmallow fluff is VERY STICKY. See Yam Casserole post.) Form mixture into balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. (I placed these in the freezer, but would just refrigerate them if I were to do it again…keep reading…)
While the cake balls were solidifying in the freezer, I attempted to make caramel. I have made caramel a few times before using sugar, water, cream and butter, but I saw a recipe that called for sweetened condensed milk which said it was faster. I should always do what I know….
A couple of days later when I had another day off, I made caramel candy using the recipe I was used to.
I combined 3 tablespoons water with 1/4 cup corn syrup and 1 cup of sugar in a pan over medium heat. While I was bringing it to a boil, I warmed 3/4 cup cream and 1/4 cup butter in the microwave. When the sugar mixture reached 320 degrees, I slowly added the cream mixture. You have to be really careful with this as the mixture will SERIOUSLY bubble over. I returned the mixture to 240 degrees, then removed it from heat and put the pan in a bowl of water to cool it off a bit. I think my thermometer may be a bit off as the sugar syrup was a bit too light when I added the cream.
I don’t know the best method to recommend for coating the cake balls with the caramel. I tried dunking them in, but that made a sticky mess. I dropped one in and the cake ball got a bit too soft from the heat. Since the cake balls were frozen, the caramel solidified too quickly and didn’t want to stick. I ended up putting the tray of cake balls in the oven to defrost for a few minutes, then spooned the caramel over them. These weren’t completely covered with caramel so were easier to move around. (All of this was way too sticky for me to photograph myself and Mr Shuck was at work, so no photos of the process.)
I put the caramel covered balls back into the freezer (as there is no room in my frig) while I melted some white chocolate bars for the coating. I chose to use commercial white chocolate bars because I thought straight white chocolate would be too soft for coating.
I broke the chocolate into squares and placed it in a medium metal mixing bowl that I placed over boiling water. (Actually boiling barley, which I was cooking to put into chili.) Again, I struggled with coating the balls with the melted chocolate. Dunking them completely looked nice at first, but then I had to get it off the skewer I was using and that made a mess. I tried just holding them with 2 fingers and covering them with chocolate with a spoon, but that was awkward as well when I tried to put them down on the cooling rack. (Cake pops would have been best, but those involved lollipop sticks which were packed up with the cupcake wrappers. Poor planning on my part.) Finally, I decided to just spoon the chocolate on top of the solidified caramel. I garnished them at first with multiple sliced almonds, but ended up just using one sliced almond on top. (Hershey’s has gotten rid of the almond on top altogether…)