November 6, 2012
Perhaps it is obvious that someone who writes about food and making things enjoys sharing the things that she makes. Of course I enjoy sharing them here, but it isn't often enough that I get to share them with people outside of my home and blog. Last week as part of a course on cultivating courage, I gave myself the challenge of sharing a homemade treat with my neighbors. I live in a building with six units, but rarely see or interact with the people who share the same walls. I guess living in a building full of quiet people who keep to themselves could be worse, but I want to do more to connect with my neighbors.
I love the idea of baking and cooking and spontaneously sharing with friends and neighbors and I'm determined to have more of it. One of my favorite special treats that I make no more than once a year are peanut butter cups. Chocolate pairs well with so many flavors but peanut butter is a classic than never lets me down. I'm sure I'm not the only one who enjoys the combination but when it comes to giving things I make to others I start to worry. What if people don't like dark chocolate, or they are allergic to peanuts or they hate sugar or? I did my best to put aside the silly worries that crop up when I challenge myself in a new way. Although I would never expect my neighbors to leave a little bag of treats in my mailbox, I know would be nothing but touched and grateful that they wanted to share.
These peanut butter cups are not too hard to make and they give me the chance to feel a bit like Willy Wonka, without the oompaloompas or golden tickets, of course. Stirring a bowl of silky melted chocolate, dabbing dollops of peanut butter filling make for a not too intricate and satisfying process. A homemade candy like this should certainly be shared, if only because it is more fun when others can taste the joy, too.
Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Adapted from Gilt Taste
These can be more or less complicated, depending on how involved you want to get. The recipe starts with creating a version of peanut brittle which is then chopped into a peanut candy powder in the food processor. It's not a fussy candy and it adds texture and substance to the peanut butter filling. There is no need to temper the chocolate, but if you want to try it this is a simple tutorial. I used small fluted paper cups and therefore used less chocolate than the recipe calls for but the original recipe suggests you use paper muffin tin liners and only fill them part of the way full. If you have a kitchen scale it is easiest to just measure everything in ounces.
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) water
3 ounces sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) honey
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (I scraped out one vanilla bean instead)
3 ounces unsalted peanuts
6 ounces peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
15-20 ounces dark or milk chocolate (the amount of chocolate depends on the size of the paper liners you are using)
Combine the water, sugar, honey and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve and then let simmer gently until it turns a dark amber color (if you want to use a thermometer it should get to 340 degrees F). While you are watching the pot and stirring occasionally, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. When the water and sugars have cooked to the right color/temperature, remove from heat and stir in the peanuts. Spread out evenly on the lined sheet pan and let cool completely. When the brittle is cool, chop it into smaller pieces. Place them in the bowl of a food processor and process until they are ground almost as finely as sand. Add the peanut butter and salt and process until it becomes a thick paste.
Melt or temper the chocolate. Line up your muffin tin liners or small fluted cups and fill them with about 1/2 ounce of chocolate (if you are using smaller fluted paper cups, fill them just under half way with chocolate). Using a pastry bag or a spoon, pipe or spoon a blob (about 3/4 ounce) of peanut filling into the middle of each cup. Using a clean damp finger, gently pat down each peanut butter blob. Cover the peanut butter with another 1/2 ounce of chocolate (or fill the small paper cups). Let cool completely before eating and sharing.
Makes 16-20 peanut butter cups.