The Butterfinger is so ubiquitous on the shelves of grocery store checkouts and mixed bags of sweets around Halloween that it’s easy to write-off the peanut butter-flavored candy as just another chocolate covered bar. But the reality of making this perfectly engineered mix of sweet, salty, crispy bliss is more complicated than it might appear. Monica Greer learned this lesson quickly as she set out to recreate the bars earlier this year for chef Kate Williams’ cocktail lounge, Candy Bar.
Greer, the pastry chef at Lady of the House, is charged with making Williams’ ideas for desserts come to life. A graduate of Johnson & Wales University in Miami, Greer joining the Corktown restaurant’s team late last year. During her tenure at Lady, Greer has helped develop some of the restaurant’s most popular pastries and sweets including the foie gras cinnamon roll and a raw brownie batter dessert. Coming from a fine-dining background, Greer says she enjoys working with Williams because the chef challenges Greer to push beyond her training and use her memories to create refined, nostalgic treats. “It take me out of my element and makes me think outside of the box,” she says. “It makes me work harder. She wants more rustic desserts that remind you of your childhood.”
When Williams approached her in February about developing a rendition of one of her favorite candy bars, Greer assumed it would also end up on Lady’s menu. Instead it turned out to be the signature sweet at Williams’ other then-top secret cocktail project at the Siren Hotel in downtown Detroit. “I didn’t even realize that it was for Candy Bar,” Greer recalls. “It was hush hush. She hadn’t told us about it yet.”
Greer started off with a recipe for candy corn — something Williams mentioned one of her previous restaurants had used in the past to make Butterfingers-style sweets — but the texture was all off. Instead of thin shards of crunchy peanut candy, “it just turned into toffee, essentially,” Greer says. Next she reached out to her pastry instructor in Miami, who suggested trying leaf croquant — a French confection with a similar texture to a Butterfinger. Williams and Greer agreed that the batches were closer to the mark, but far too expensive and labor intensive to reproduce regularly. Two weeks and 14 trials later, Greer worked out the right recipe.
Unlike the leaf croquant, which requires repetitive lamination of sugar to achieve the right consistency, Greer’s approach to the candy bar recipe requires just a handful of ingredients, a few tools, and some patience. Greer starts by heating smooth peanut butter over an induction burner over low heat. On another burner she mixes together a ratio of corn syrup, water, and sugar and carefully monitors the temperature with a candy thermometer. When the peanut butter is warmed to the point where it’s pourable, she mixes it until not-quite-combined with the sugar mixture. “If I mixed it to the point where it was completely incorporated with the sugar, it wouldn’t get that flaky texture like a Butterfinger,” she explains. “It would just be peanut butter toffee.”
From there, Greer pours the peanut candy mixture evenly into several silicone molds and allows them to cool and harden for a few hours. They’re then removed from the molds and the bottoms are dipped into warm milk chocolate. Greer allows those to sit on a baking sheet while the chocolate cools and then gently ladles more chocolate over the bars one-by-one with a spatula. Greer presses a three-pronged utensil into the warm chocolate coating in order to create the familiar ripple effect on the top of each candy bar and finishes them off with a few flakes of Maldon sea salt. Greer allows the bars to sit and cure for 24 hours before packaging and sending them off to the cocktail bar.
The bars, which sell for $6 each at Candy Bar, finally landed on the menu for the first time on June 16 and are accompanied by another flavor that will rotate regularly. Eater accompanied Greer into the kitchen at Lady of the House to see just what it takes to creating the homemade treats. Take a peek at the process captured by photographers Michelle and Chris Gerard in the gallery below.
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