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The Snickers Bar has always been one of Aki's favorite things. She prefers the small ones straight out of the freezer. It seemed like the perfect topic for this series, an iconic sweet that could inspire something new and delicious. We wanted to take all the elements of the original bar: chocolate, caramel, nougat, and peanuts and make something new to us. We decided to make it a frozen dessert because frozen Snickers bars taste better than room temperature ones and we decided to go with a pie because it gave us an opportunity to play with several different textures and ways to amplify flavor.
A chocolate pie crust seemed like a no-brainer. After all, a chocolate bar is coated in chocolate and we could do no less with our interpretation. We used a flavorful cocoa to add chocolate flavor to a classic all-butter pie crust. It gave us a crisp texture and deep chocolate foundation on which to build our pie.
To build in some flaky layers, we also incorporated a technique called fraisage. By placing the pebbly butter-flour-cocoa mixture on a countertop and smearing it with the heel of our hands, we could create alternating layers of fat and flour that separate into flakes as the crust bakes.
The Ice Cream
We knew that we were making a complicated dessert here with so many distinct elements, so we decided to keep things simple with the caramelized condensed milk ice cream we had planned. Rather than make a traditional ice cream base that requires tempering eggs, precise temperature control, and a long chilling period before churning in an ice cream machine, we employed the ingenious no-churn ice cream method.*
*You can read up on the science of churn-free ice cream in this Food Lab article.
At its core, the recipe is nothing more than condensed milk combined with heavy cream, whipped until stiff, then frozen solid. The sugar in the condensed milk along with the extra air and fat incorporated with the whipped cream creates a frozen mousse with the melting qualities of ice cream.
To capture a bit more of that Snickers flavor in ours, we decided to caramelize the condensed milk into a dulce de leche by cooking it directly in the can inside a pressure cooker (you can also just boil the can in a pot of water for 3 hours if you don't have a pressure cooker).
Once cooled, the caramel goes into a mixer with cold heavy cream for a spin until it's ready to freeze.
Of course we needed something chewy. We are huge fans of hot fudge and caramel sauce. Alex often puts them both on his ice cream sundaes. Since a Snickers bar has both chocolate and caramel, it made sense for us to combine the flavors in a chocolate caramel topping for the pie. Its versatility allows us to line the pie crust with the sauce before filling it and then coat the top of the frozen pie with a thick layer.
We make our caramel sauce the classic way: sugar, water, and corn syrup cooked in a saucepan until it reaches a light amber color, then heavy cream stirred into it off heat.
To this, we add chocolate and salt and stir it all together until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
Over the ice cream, it acts as a pliable frosting, mimicking the wonderful chewy elements of hot fudge and caramel sauce. Against the pie crust it keeps the flaky layers crisp, insulating the pastry from the ice cream while giving the latter something to stick to.
The peanuts are an integral part of the Snickers bar. We wanted a bold peanut accent in the ice cream filling for our pie. Peanut butter by itself never seems to do the job to our satisfaction. We thought about a peanut ganache. But dark chocolate would over-power the peanut butter. White chocolate, on the other hand, would lend a creamy sweetness that would accent the flavor of the peanut butter. The question was how to bring them together?
In the past we've found that heating peanut butter in low liquid environments results in a clumpy, grainy mess. As we mulled this over we remembered Alton Brown's cool technique of melting chocolate by pureeing it in a food processor. As the chocolate gets bashed around, friction causes it to warm up, until it reaches perfect ganache temperature and texture.
We tried the same thing with our white chocolate and peanut butter.
It started out chunky and rough. But as the mixture slowly heated, it formed a smooth ganache.
It worked like a charm. For that essential crunchy peanut texture and an additional peanut punch, we folded in salt-roasted peanuts. It was something we never would have thought of without this kind of challenge.
Finally we froze the peanut butter to see what the texture would be like in the pie. Alex actually ate a fair amount straight from the freezer. It literally melts in your mouth, coating your tongue with its rich nuttiness.
To incorporate it into the pie, rather than a solid layer, we chopped it up into a sandy, streusel-like texture.
We sprinkled some into the base of the pie crust.
We also folded some directly into our whipped caramelized condensed milk mixture before piling it into the empty pie shell and sticking it in the freezer.
Once it comes out, it got another layer of chocolate-caramel sauce, followed by a sprinkling of crushed salted peanuts.
In the end we created an ice cream pie to satisfy anyone who loves a frozen Snickers bar. While all of the elements are good on their own, together they create something truly special and satisfying.
Would anyone like a slice of candy bar for dessert after their meal? (And don't worry, it really satisfies.)