Friday, June 8, 2018

Edible Slimy Worms: Part 2

Today boys and girls we will be learning how to slime our caramel worms
This episode is brought to you by the letters "S" and "W" and by the number "13".

Does anyone remember the adorable worm, Slimey?
The truest test of a grouch's character is how he treats his worm.

Worms breathe through their skin which needs to be kept moist and that's why they are coated in slime. And now you can eat that slime. I modified a basic Edible Slime recipe from or at least I thought I did until I realized their recipe says teaspoons, not tablespoons of tapioca starch. Oops. Oh well, I love the way my mistake turned out and it actually tastes pretty good.

Tasty Worm Slime

1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon tapioca starch (same thing as tapioca flour)
1/4 cup sugar (finely ground will dissolve faster)
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine water, sugar and tapioca in small saucepan, stir until combined. Cook over medium-high heat while constantly stirring. It's done when it starts to thicken and turns from opaque to clear. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Transfer to small bowl and let cool. It will thicken as it cools. Cover, refrigerate and use within 3 days for best results. 

I think the flavor and consistency improved after sitting overnight, so I would recommend making it a day in advance. At the very least it should be completely cooled before dipping any worms.

This will produce a slime that is very close in consistency to what I've observed on real actual earthworms. If you want a slime that's a little more substantial doubling the starch to 2 tablespoons will give you a more jelly-like thickness.

A few notes for people who cook as badly as I do:

Stir constantly. Not stir, go do something "real quick" and then stir some more. I'm awful about that, I get sooo bored mindlessly stirring. You just have to suck it up and stay focused. You can do this, it's only for a few minutes. At least that's what I kept telling myself.  Otherwise it gets clumpy and nobody wants clumpy slime.

I always get confused with starch puddings and such that say to constantly stir, and cook for a certain amount of time after it starts to boil. If you are constantly stirring, you stir away the telltale bubbles that indicate it's boiling before they get a chance to form, so how can you tell if it's boiling unless you stop stirring? Which is why I didn't put any of that nonsense in my recipe.

This slime took a total of 8 minutes to cook. After 5 minutes steam was rising up from the pan and it was just starting to turning clear. 2 minutes later it was clear and then I cooked it one minute more, just because. My daughter said it looked like egg whites and it had that same thick but runny consistency. When it cools it will be very stretchy, shown below in Zombie Victim Red.

I think opaque is in the eye of the beholder. To me, once it becomes clear it still looks a little opaque when it's all in the bottom of the pan. Take your spoon or my favorite tool, the spoonula and lift some up out of the pan, you'll see it is indeed transparent.

If you're thinking well I have cornstarch I'll just use that. Tapioca starch produces a clearer slime. I did read that cornstarch is more stable, but I didn't do a side by side comparison. I can say that this slime only keeps for a few days. I kept some on the counter at room temp and some in the refrigerator, both lost their elasticity by the fourth day.

The next part is sliming up the worms. This proved to be more challenging than I expected. The moisture from the slime will break down the caramel. The first few worms I slimed and then put in air tight containers got really mushy. It doesn't affect the flavor, but I thought the texture was off-putting. The outside of the worm was the consistency and flavor of caramel sauce and the center still firm and chewy. Maybe that doesn't sound terribly horrible, but it was. Also the segment details were lost.

If you remember Shanes Killer Cupcakes, she used a thin glaze to make her worms look wet.  Depending on how you want to use your worms, that might be a better option for you.  But the challenge here was to make slimy worms, so...

...I did a little experimenting. I won't bore you with all the details, just the important stuff:

- For instructional purposes a "lightly" slimed worm is one that is dipped in slime on a fork and then the fork is tapped over the bowl to let the excess slime drip off.
- A "moderately" slimed worm is removed by fork but the excess is not tapped off.
- A "heavily" slimed worm is one that is completely submerged in slime.  That will quickly result in worm soup and is not recommended unless you actually want worm soup.
- It's easier to slime the worms with room temperature slime.
- Do not keep the worms in an enclosed container. In an open container the slime will eventually, hours later, dry out. A lightly slimed worm will dry to a tacky sheen. A moderately slimed worm will be tacky on top, laying on a thin sticky layer of it's own caramel goo.
- For the first hour there isn't much change whether the slimed worms are refrigerated or sitting out, in fact it isn't until about the third hour that the refrigerated worms are noticeably less deteriorated than room temperature worms.

After my experiments I took my two control worms that hadn't yet been slimed. The one on the left was then lightly slimed, the one of the right moderately slimed and laid on cookie crumbles to simulate possibly one day performing in a Broadway production of "Dirt 'n Worms". 

After the worms started to break down I added a tiny bit of raspberry to spots with oozing caramel just for fun. That was taking it too far. It looked way too much like worm guts squishing out.  

Seriously, I had to take a deep breath, and mentally prepare myself to eat them. Texture wise they weren't bad. The lightly slimed one was firmer, but even the moderately slimed one wasn't terribly mushy. I think the cookie crumbs absorbed some of the moisture.

I didn't have high expectations for the combination of cookie crumb and slime. It was edible, but I didn't like the two textures together. While the slimed worms were fun, for Dirt 'n Worms, I will use plain caramel worms. I think the slimed worms would make a nice garnish, maybe resting on some lettuce leaves. Throw in a few edible flower accents and you would have quite the Martha Stewart array.

I didn't care for the hint of raspberry with the caramel either. A bit food coloring might work better, but I would not suggest trying.  *Don't make edible worms with their guts oozing out, it looks way too disgusting.* The only reason to do this would be for a short film or photo op or to eat in front of someone just to gross them out. Like take them to work and eat them for lunch on April Fools Day. Or if you really like caramel and don't want anyone else to eat them, then by all means go nuts on the guts. 

The bottom line is if you are having a fancy dinner party and want to serve a plate of slimy worms for hors d'oeuvres, you should make the slime a day in advance, but not more than two days, bring it to room temperature before using and then wait until right before serving to slime and plate the worms. If you have to make them in advance, refrigerate them uncovered.

[Update] I had an epiphany in the shower.  That's where get a lot of ideas, the one place I can't write them down.  I suppose that's alright, the lesser ones wash away down the drain forever forgotten, but the ones that survive are usually keepers.  It occurred to me that you could just serve the slime separately, like a dipping sauce, in tiny containers with a couple of worms on the side.  I think the under 12 crowd, would probably be your target group for this method.  Also I'd probably serve them outside, because I see this getting messy.  Fun, but messy.

All this worm testing reminded me of How To Eat Fried Worms , a book I thoroughly enjoyed as a child. It's about boy who has to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days to win a bet. When it starts to look like he just might do it, the losing side starts to play dirty and shenanigans ensue.

In middle school I read Squirm, a very different sort of book and instead of eating worms, the worms eat you. It was years later that I stumbled on the movie that the book is based on. The movie is pretty cheesy, although at the time I thought they used earthworms.  I had no idea the actors were working with fanged venomous worms, which makes the movie a lot more horrifying.  Here's the abridged MST3K version, which if your squeamish doesn't show the scenes using thousands of Glycera Worms [This link on the other hand does have a short video showing one of these worms baring it's fanged proboscis].

If you make enough worms, you can make words. Worm words.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Edible Slimy Worms: Part 1

So...after I posted about Dirt 'n Worms and complained about the worms, because gummy stuff is gross and super gross when mixed with chocolate, Lady M suggested we should figure out how to make slimy worm candy.  I decided to tackle it before I forgot and found myself on the cusp of yet another Mother's Day with nothing to show for it but a lousy bag of store bought gummy worms.

I found many wonderful things on the internet, none of them quite what I wanted, but still very inspiring.

In the best looking worms category I give you: Shane's Killer Cupcakes - Maggot & Worm Cupcakes.  By far the best looking worms, but alas they are made of fondant, which is icky.  I do wonder if the Scuptable Frosting that I used for my Krampus and Zombie cupcakes would work if you added a bit of cocoa powder for coloring.  Cocoa powder might even cut the sweetness back a little.

In the categories of best tasting and easiest to make, check out: Good To Know - Halloween Worm Cupcakes.  Rolling out caramels and making a few indents is about as easy as it gets and they look pretty good.  It goes without saying that the flavor would marry nicely with chocolate.

Honorable mention goes to this cake just for looking awesome: A Little Piece of Cake - Worm & Maggot Fear Factor Cake. This uses modeling chocolate for the worms.  I haven't used modeling chocolate, which is a bit of misnomer since most of the recipes I found use corn syrup and candy melts, no actual chocolate.  Sugar Geek Show does provide recipes for both the candy melt and a chocolate version in this post, but most of the information and pictures (Go look at the pictures, she does amazing things with this stuff.) seem to be using the candy melt one.  

I went the easy route and used caramels. I also think the flavor will go well with the dirt 'n worms. I borrowed from Shane's worms and made the signature band (clitellum) around the worm.  Did you know that the band indicates a sexually mature earthworm? Now you do.  It is also generally located about a third of the way down the worm's body if you are wondering about placement.

For more worm info this is an interesting read. If you just want a worm fact quick fix try this FAQ. I was surprised to learn a few years back that earthworms are not native to Wisconsin, and are actually bad for the forests. I still love seeing big adorable earthworms in my garden.  Thankfully I haven't seen the super invasive Jumping Worms.   For a visual on why they are called Jumping Worms check out this quick video.  This video is a short claymation film that shows just why they are so destructive.

Ok class time is over, on to making worms.  I tried both Werther's and Kraft caramel's.  Oddly despite the fact that the Werther's where harder to roll out, they didn't keep their shape and spread out over time.  Just to make sure it wasn't because of my manhandling I unwrapped a Werther's and set it out.  Sure enough even without me doing anything, the caramel slowly spread. It's a shame because I think the Werther's tasted better, and I was excited about having two different colored worms.

Caramel Leeches?
The Kraft caramels are much easier to roll and keep their shape, so that's a win, win as far as I'm concerned. The lesson here is that whatever the brand you use, leave a piece sit out unwrapped for a few hours and see what it does.  It would be a shame to make twenty worms and have them all flatten out before your eyes.  Should you not heed my warning and your worms spread, maybe you could call them leeches.

Making worms is super easy.  Start to roll each caramel into a log shape. Cut off a little piece and set aside. Continue rolling out your log until desired length and width and make sure the ends are smooth.

Now press the little piece you set aside into a small ribbon, make sure it's long enough to wrap around the worm.  Remember this will be placed about a third of the way down.

To make the segment indents use the dull side of a vary thin paring blade.  If you push gently you can roll the worm with the back of blade as you make the indents, thus getting your lines to go all, or at least almost all of the way around.  If you don't worry about perfection it goes really quick. If the worms are too soft to roll nicely, refrigerate for a few minutes to firm them up.

These are the types of knives I'm talking about. I have those exact ones in fact and wouldn't recommend getting that brand. I've had two handles break, more like disintegrate, in my hand.  I lost my good ones and I can't remember where I got them.

Add the clitellum.  Place the worms with the clitellum seam side down.   

I think the worms look really good, maybe even a little too good.  It took some convincing to get my son to try them, after which he pleasantly surprised.  No amount of coaxing, begging or "Look your brother likes them." will get my daughter to eat one.  She says they look too gross.  My kids are teenagers.  I  think younger kids, at least the twisted ones, would gleefully enjoy the gross out factor.

Stay tuned until next time when we get to our slime on.

One last thing, a word of warning.  Searching for pictures using variations of "chocolate", "caramel" and "worms" is not for the faint of heart.  Once I eliminated "gummy" from the search I had to wade through a lot of pictures of larvae infested confections.

Not quite as prevalent, but just as graphic, are candies made with real insects and larvae.  I realize that they are not only a viable food source, but a healthy one at that.  Marcus Leach has an interesting read on eating insects along with recipes.  The Mealworm Fudge doesn't look half bad, but I think I'll cling to my vegetarianism. Which is really just an illusion, insects and larvae are probably the least disgusting things that I am already unwittingly ingesting.

From the FDA Defect Levels Handbook:

Chocolate and Chocolate Liquor

Insect filth
(AOAC 965.38)

Average is 60 or more insect fragments per 100 grams when 6 100-gram subsamples are examined
Any 1 subsample contains 90 or more insect fragments

Rodent filth
(AOAC 965.38)

Average is 1 or more rodent hairs per 100 grams in 6 100-gram subsamples examined
Any 1 subsample contains 3 or more rodent hairs

(AOAC 968.10-970.23)

For chocolate liquor, if the shell is in excess of 2% calculated on the basis of alkali-free nibs

DEFECT SOURCE:  Insect fragments - post harvest and/or processing insect infestation, Rodent hair - post harvest and/or processing contamination with animal hair or excreta, Shell - processing contamination
Significance: Aesthetic





Feel free to peruse the rest of the handbook later, maybe if you have free time during lunch. It's always nice to keep up on your egg, larve, filth, excreta, rot and mold consumption.

I do have a box of spicy larve, because I think it looks cool. I've offered to share but oddly no one has been tempted to try them.