Birthdays and holidays are tough for kids with food allergies and intolerances. For my kids, whose birthdays both fall around the holidays, it’s even tougher.
One of my children has no memory of ever having dairy, therefore he has no idea what the majority of the chocolate-containing candy on the market tastes like. He’ll be fourteen right after Thanksgiving, and he complained to me a lot around Halloween that he couldn’t try any of that candy even though he loves chocolate. That, combined with me having already started my holiday baking and treat making, got my wheels turning.
I had planned to make and freeze nougat this past week for Christmas, why couldn’t I just combine it with dairy-free caramel and make a chocolate coating like a Snickers? This would solve two problems. It would allow him to try what he most wanted to try, a Snickers bar, and it would give us some treats to have at his birthday and again at Christmas.
I have previous made caramel and nougat for the blog or the menu mailer, so combining the two wasn’t a problem. I did a little adjusting and this was the outcome.
He was thrilled with the results!
If you are new to working with sugar, I have done an audio file to do a question and answer session about getting started with sugar work. These are the most common problems and mistakes and how to avoid them, along with safety precautions in working with sugar to avoid burns.
Dairy-Free Snickers Copycat
Two heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepans with tight fitting lids
Double boiler or a large, heavy-duty, heat-resistant glass bowl that fits over a 4-quart saucepan
For the nougat:
2 large egg whites, at room temperature (allergic to eggs? See note)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar) (allergic to nuts? See note)
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup or homemade corn syrup replacement
1/2 cup water
For the caramel:
1-1/2 cups roasted salted peanuts (allergic to nuts? See note)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs coconut milk– use the solid portion at the top of a can of coconut milk
3/4 cup light corn syrup or homemade corn syrup replacement
3 Tbs butter or dairy-free butter replacement such as Earth Balance, or coconut oil (coconut oil has less flavor)
Scant 1/4 tsp salt
Scant 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Make the corn syrup replacement, if needed:
First, make your corn syrup replacement if you don’t want to purchase commercial corn syrup. I prefer to avoid it as it gives my family some symptoms.
Make a 6x batch of this recipe to make enough corn syrup replacement for this recipe.
To make the nougat:
Prep a 9×13 pan by spraying it liberally with cooking spray and lining it with parchment. Give enough parchment overhang that you can use it as handles to lift the candy out of the pan later.
Place the two eggwhites in the bottom of a stand mixer bowl fitted with a whisk attachment. Place the salt and the peanut butter nearby so they are ready when needed. Spray the rubber spatula liberally with cooking spray and place near the mixer.
Place the sugar, corn syrup replacement and water into a 4-qt or larger, heavy-bottom saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, then place the lid on the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes. This washes down the sides of the pan to catch any stray sugar crystals, which can destroy the nougat if left unmelted.
Uncover the saucepan and clip a candy thermometer onto the side, making sure that the tip of the thermometer is in the middle of the pan and not touching the bottom. Increase heat to medium and cook until the mixture is at 250 degrees.
Once the sugar mixture has reached 250 degrees, add the salt to the eggwhites and turn on the stand mixer onto high speed and whip the egg whites to stiff peaks while the sugar mixture continues to cook. Turn off once it has reached stiff peaks and wait for the sugar to come to temperature.
Once the sugar mixture reaches 275 degrees, immediately pull it from the heat. Turn the stand mixer back onto high speed and drizzle the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the mixing bowl, being careful to avoid the whisk, until it is completely blended into the egg whites. Keep adding one tablespoon of the mixture at a time until all has been incorporated into the nougat.
Continue mixing until the nougat pulls away from the side of the bowl, 1-2 minutes.
Turn off the mixer and using the greased spatula, fold in the peanut butter until smooth. Spread into the prepared 9×13 pan using your oiled spatula or greased hands and allow to cool, uncovered, before placing the caramel layer on top.
To make the caramel:
Oil a rubber spatula and set it aside.
Pulse the two cups of peanuts in a food processor to break them up into large, even chunks. Set aside.
In a clean, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the white sugar, coconut milk, corn syrup replacement, butter and salt. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to ensure no undissolved crystals of sugar remain.
Bring to a boil, clip your candy thermometer into the center of the pan, not touching the sides or bottom of the pan, reduce the heat and cook at a medium boil until the mixture reaches 245 degrees.
Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the peanuts and vanilla extract. Pour over the nougat mixture and use the oiled spatula to spread it to the edges and get it level.
Cool at room temperature for an hour and a half, then lift the candy from the pan using the parchment as handles and transfer to a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet to the refrigerator to harden the candy.
After about twenty minutes, the candy is hard enough to cut. Flip the candy so that it is caramel-side down onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper. Cut the candy in 24 bars.
Storage of the candy centers:
Place the bars in a single layer in a rigid container, caramel side down, to freeze. I do not recommend stacking them in layers, as the nougat will stick to the wax paper, and it will be difficult to separate to dip them. You can see in the pic below that I stacked them and it was difficult to separate them to dip them, as nougat stays soft when frozen and will stick to whatever is touching them.
You can freeze them and dip same day, or you can freeze them for later use. The candy centers can be made up to two months ahead and frozen.
If you wish to finish them at this point, you can proceed as long as they are frozen solid. The bars do need to be frozen before dipping as the nougat can melt if left in the chocolate too long while dipping.
In the top of a double boiler, melt together the shortening and chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth. To do this, put an inch of water into your saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and put the double boiler on top. You don’t want the water in the pan touching the double boiler, as this can cause the chocolate to heat too quickly and burn. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the double boiler, to keep the chocolate from burning. Once the chocolate is completely melted, turn the heat off and begin dipping the chocolate.
Using a dipping tool or two forks crossed to make a ‘V’ pointing away from you, gently but quickly coat each piece of candy in the melted chocolate, drip off excess, clean the bottom. I prefer to put the candy in the chocolate, caramel side down, coat the caramel and the sides, then flip to coat the nougat, then immediately pull, drip off, use a small, thin spatula to wipe the excess chocolate from the bottom, then place onto the tray to cool. Work quickly because the nougat will melt in the hot chocolate.
Reheat the chocolate as needed to keep it liquid. Place them on a silpat or sheet of parchment and transfer to the refrigerator until firm, about 30 minutes.
Storage of the finished bars:
This should keep for two months, frozen in a rigid container, with parchment or wax paper separating the layers.
NOTE: While I have not tried it, there are many recipes online that replace egg whites with aquafaba (the liquid off of cooked chickpeas) to make an egg-free nougat. I looked through several vegan Facebook groups and blogs and noticed this version holds up to candy-making. If you are egg-free, you could try using aquafaba whipped to stiff peaks in place of the egg whites. If you try this, please leave a comment to let us know how it goes!
To make this nut-free, omit the roasted peanuts and use a seed butter, such as sunflower seed butter, to make these safe for you.