Unless you live in a cave, you know that Hostess Brands has closed, and in the process Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and other popular Frankenfoods have crossed the rainbow bridge. As a kid, I sampled the occasional Twinkie, but even then, my reaction was “meh!”
So the recent frenzy about the death of the day-glow-yellow snack-cake fascinated me. Many Americans were so panic-stricken that they actually took to hoarding Twinkies. Really? Were Twinkies that good? Or were they simply a metaphor drowning in high fructose corn syrup and preservatives – a sugar-induced nostalgia for a more innocent time?
My impetus in veganizing Twinkies is not to immortalize the forlorn lunchbox treats, but rather to celebrate their passing and exhaustive, unpronounceable ingredient list. We can return to innocence, by making snacks from scratch using real foods that we pronounce. By sharing them with family and family at a table, with home-brewed coffee, and not in front of our computer while shopping on Amazon.
Original Twinkie Ingredients list:
Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable and/or animal shortening – containing one or more of partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and canola oil, and beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup, solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavors, caramel color, yellow #5, red #40.]
- 1½ cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 T baking powder
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp nutritional yeast (To boost yellow color. I swear you cannot even taste it!)
- Pinch turmeric (To boost yellow color)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 T neutral oil (Eg, canola or coconut)
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
I’ve seen special Twinkie pans for sale at Williams-Sonoma, but since I’m not the kind of girl to drop $50 on a gadget she’ll only use once a year, I improvised a recyclable DIY Twinkie molds from aluminum foil and parchment paper.
Cut 8 approximate 4 x 6-inch squares of aluminum foil . Cut 8 approximate 3 x 4-inch pieces of parchment paper. Place a piece of parchment on top of a foil piece and shape around a spice jar . The parchment will not only prevent sticking but will also make your Twinkies look smoother. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. Place these in a baking pan, loaf pan or any other high-sided baking vessel.
Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. About ¼ cup at a time, add wet ingredients to dry, mixing at medium speed until perfectly smooth, about 5 minutes. To make pouring the batter easier, transfer batter to a Pyrex cup.
Pour into molds, filling about 2/3. Bake 350 oven for 30-35 minutes or until tops are golden and a cake tester comes out clean. (Baking time will depend on the size of your Twinkies.) Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer Twinkies, still in their aluminum molds, to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Make crème filling:
- 1½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 T cornstarch
- 2 T non-dairy milk
- ¼ cup non-hydrogenated vegan shortening
- ¼ cup non-hydrogenated vegan cream cheese
- ¼ tsp salt
Place everything into a large bowl. Using a mixer, blend until smooth. Refrigerate for an hour before using to fill your Twinkies. (Can also be used to ice cupcakes.)
When the cakes are completely cool, gently remove the molds and parchment paper. Using a fat chopstick, impale each end of the Twinkie so you have a ¼-inch opening.
Use a serrated knife or bread knife to trim cakes into even rectangles.
Fill a pastry bag with about ¼ cup of the cream and fill each Twinkie—half from one side and half from the other. Refill the pastry bag as needed. (Alternatively, you can just slice the cakes in half lengthwise, spread each size with the crème and sandwich back together.) Chill for about 1 hour before serving.
Dynise Balcavage blogs at urbanvegan.net. Her third cookbook, Pies and Tarts with Heart, hits the stores in 2013.