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Hostess Isn't The Mostest: Make Your Own Sno Balls At Home

Jennifer Steinhauer's version of the Sno Ball moves the marshmallow inside and skips the pink food coloring. (Courtesy of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC)

When Hostess Brands announced it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012, there was a lot of anguish on the Internet about the death of Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Donettes and the like.

And it got Jennifer Steinhauer, a New York Times reporter and food writer, wondering why anyone would even want a Twinkie in adulthood?

"Well, maybe we all want a Twinkie or have access to a Twinkie because it's not just that you're losing a snack food you don't eat any more — you're kind of losing your childhood," she says.

Steinhauer usually covers Congress, but the possibility of a snack food apocalypse sent her to the kitchen for a solution. For a year she made Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Mallomars and even Fritos from scratch. She compiled her recipes for homemade junk food in a cookbook, Treat Yourself.

Among the foods she tackled was a little pink treat she had absolutely no respect for — the Sno Ball. She shared a recipe for All Things Considered's series, Found Recipes.

"The Sno Ball is the pastel cousin to everybody else. It's showing off. It's saying, 'Look at me, I'm bizarre, don't you want to take part in this?' " she says. "It's bright pink. It's not anything that you've seen in nature or food. It's kind of a holiday, but it's March and it's still there."

For Steinhauer, the Sno Ball was "a bridge too far." But she thought about how she could translate the coconut, marshmallow and frosting-coated treat into something more palatable.

Visually, she knew it had to be something that reminded Sno Ball lovers of the treat they had growing up. So she started with the shape — round — and decided to base it on a doughnut hole.

Then she took the marshmallow from the outside and turned it into a filling so the taster would get a mouth of marshmallow but "not a face of marshmallow," she says. She also pared back the coconut and made an executive decision to skip the pink food coloring.

When she brought the re-imagined Sno Balls to a school party, they were a hit with kids and teachers alike, even those who claimed to not like coconut.

"It's not an overwhelming, gross-sized treat," she says. "It's a little pop, a little fun thing."

Even though Hostess products are now back in production, Steinhauer is sure there's no comparison.


Recipe: Sno Balls

Makes approximately 40 small cake bites
Hands-on time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

For the cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup whole milk

40 mini marshmallows

For the topping

2 1/2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

For the frosting

11/2 cups marshmallow fluff

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

Note: I use a donut hole cake pan in making these — it's inexpensive and is very fun to own. You can purchase one at many baking and cooking retailers online.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a donut hole pan (see Note) with unsalted butter.

Make the cake batter: In a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream the stick of butter and the granulated sugar together on medium speed just until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the egg and mix just until combined. Stir the cocoa and 1/3 cup hot water together until smooth. With the mixer on low speed, add the cocoa mixture to the butter mixture, stirring for an additional 10 seconds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in batches alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and beating after each addition until the ingredients are just blended.

Scoop a heaping tablespoon of batter into each donut hole cavity. Place a marshmallow into the center of each scoop of batter and cover the marshmallow with batter, ensuring that each marshmallow is completely coated. The pan hole should be two-thirds full. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cakes are set, Remove the pan from the oven, but keep the oven on to toast your coconut. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently lift the cakes from the pan, placing them back on the wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Toast the coconut: Place the coconut flakes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the flakes starts to turn golden brown, but no darker.

Make the frosting: With a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the marshmallow fluff, the 3/4 cup of butter, and the powdered sugar for 1 minute at medium speed until light and fluffy. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag.

Frost the cakes: Place the cooled cakes, spaced generously apart, on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking pan. Starting at the base of each cake, pipe a spiraling circle of frosting around the cake, ensuring that it is completely covered in frosting. (You can use your damp fingers to smooth frosting over any gaps.)

Use your paws to lightly pack each cake in toasted coconut so that each entire cake is covered completely in coconut. (Don't just roll the cakes, or the coconut won't quite stick.) Use the rimmed baking sheet to catch any coconut flakes that fall through the wire rack, which can be applied to any semi-naked cakes.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Reprinted from Treat Yourself. Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Steinhauer. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House LLC.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today's Found Recipe starts with a panic over baked goods.

JENNIFER STEINHAUER: When Hostess announced that it was filing for Chapter 11, I saw a lot of weeping on the Internet about, how will I ever get a Twinkie again?

CORNISH: And that got Jennifer Steinhauer thinking, would you even want a Twinkie again and why?

STEINHAUER: Well, maybe we all want a Twinkie or have access to a Twinkie because it's not just that you're losing a snack food you may not eat anymore, you're kind of losing your childhood.

CORNISH: Jennifer Steinhauer covers Congress for The New York Times. She's a busy woman. Yet the possibility of a snack food apocalypse sent her to the kitchen for a solution. For a year from scratch, she made Twinkies, Devil Dogs, Mallomars, Fritos - yes, you can do it yourself, homemade junk food. Steinhauer even tackled that little pink treat she had zero respect for - Sno Balls. And that is today's Found Recipe.

STEINHAUER: So you're walking down the grocery aisle and you're walking past your Twinkies, and you're walking past your Ho Hos, and you're walking past your Donettes, and there is the Sno Ball. The Sno Ball is the pastel cousin to everybody else. It's showing off. It's saying, look at me, I'm bizarre, don't you want to take part in this? It's bright pink. It's not anything that you've seen in nature or food. It's kind of a holiday, but it's March and it's still there. You can tell it's going to be cloyingly sweet and you pull back the cellophane and you bite in, and it's a mouthful of coconut, marshmallow, a frosting thing - a sort of overly-sweet cake batter. It's a mouth of sugar and probably an instant sugar high.

For me, the Sno Ball was a bridge too far. And so I thought it through and I thought, OK, how can I make this Sno Ball be something visually that will remind the Sno Ball lover of their favorite treat, but actually make them something that I want to eat and that maybe others who were not fans of Sno Ball would enjoy? So first I started with idea of the shape, the round. What's round? A doughnut hole is round. A doughnut hole is also delicious. Guess what else? You can buy a doughnut hole pan. And then I think about the marshmallow and how I don't like that marshmallow on the outside sticking to me and I don't like the way it feels, you know, all over my face or it's just kind of gross. And I think, let's get the marshmallow - let's pop it inside the doughnut. We're going to get a mouth of marshmallow, but we're not going to get a face of marshmallow. And we're going to do the coconut, like a nice little frosting with it. And we'll roll it in that coconut, but we won't go crazy. And let's not maybe make it bright pink. We can - we can do that, or we don't even have to.

So I had an event at school, there was a school party. And I brought those Sno Balls to school and there was some skepticism including from teachers who said, I don't like coconut. And I have to say, there was something about that texture and the flavor of that doughnut itself kids loved. They were smaller in scale too, than the Sno Ball. I think that's important. It's not an overwhelming, gross-sized treat. It's a little pop, a little fun thing. I think, in a funny way, it's sort of a deconstructed cake pop at this point.

CORNISH: Jennifer Steinhauer. Her snack food recipes are in the cookbook "Treat Yourself." We've posted her revamp of that classic snack cake the Sno Ball on our Found Recipes page at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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