I’ll admit it, I really haven’t been feeling much of the holiday spirit lately. We’re in the process of moving, renovating an old house, traveling, and I just finished a very rough first semester as an inner-city school teacher. While I love our new home I really wasn’t anticipating moving so soon after our last move (less than a year!) and I didn’t necessarily want to spend my vacation packing, changing toilet seats & utilities, and cleaning 2 homes. Plus, I’ve always been an A+ worry wart so maintaining an old home adds a stack of worry to my mind.
So … I’ve been a little grouchy and anxious, which in turn makes me feel bad because I know I am blessed to be able to buy a home and have a job in this economy. That’s where peanut butter cups come in! These are the first homemade desserts I began to make way back in high school and have continued to do so ever since. I only tried to make them back when I was a teen because I’ve always been slightly obsessed with chocolate and peanut butter, but now that I love to cook I find it a fun exercise because you can fill them with so much more than peanut butter. Although … let’s face it, peanut butter and chocolate (I like it dark!) is the killer combination. Even under a serious case of the blues, I can sink my teeth into a homemade peanut butter cup and the creamy peanut butter spills out, the chocolate snaps, and I feel oh so better.
You can use any variety (semi, milk, dark, etc) and either chips or blocks/bars. The only type I haven’t used is white chocolate so I can’t give any advice on that. I haven’t noticed any difference in using chips vs. chocolate blocks. In terms of brand my favorites are Hersey’s special dark and Ghirardelli’s double fudge chips (I’ve been able to find these in bulk). Milk chocolate is too sweet for me but I make them for others and I’ve used regular ol’ milk chocolate chips with much success.
In terms of portions, an estimate is that one 11.5 oz bag of chips or block of chocolate = about 2 dozen mini cups.
A note on muffin tins
This is not essential but I think it makes the job much easier so I’m mentioning it – if you have or can buy mini cupcake/muffin tins. I think it helps the cups keep their form and makes the process easier and cleaner. However, if you don’t have these you can simply line your cups on a rimmed baking sheet or cutting board.
In any event, you will need mini cupcake liners. Also, for a super gluttonous treat you can make these with regular cupcake liners for GIANT peanut butter cups. I usually make a few of those with every batch and you definitely need the tins to keep the shape of the liner.
The classic is peanut butter and there are two ways to go about it – creamy or smooth. For creamy, it’s quite simple – you add the peanut butter straight from the container to your chocolate shells. This is my favorite, it will stay creamy and spill out as you eat! If you want more of a smooth finish – much like a Reese’s peanut butter cup – you can take peanut butter (about 1/2 cup) and add a few tbsp. powder sugar. Mix until combined and you’ll have more of a paste.
Other options for fillings include nutella, marshmallow fluff and a bit of graham cracker, and dried fruit or nuts. You’ll still follow the same recipe unless you do the fruit/nut option. In that event, fill your cup with as much chocolate as you like and then place your fruit/nuts in the cup. The picture below shows dark chocolate cups filled with dried cherries.
How to make ’em
First, set up a double boiler with a medium saucepan and a heat resistant bowl atop (glass or stainless). Heat about an inch or two of water until boiling and reduce to simmering. Place your chocolate in the bowl (I suggest working in small batches until you get the hang of how fast you can work) and stir continously until smooth and melted.
Next, begin making your chocolate shell by using a small spoon to cover the inside of your paper cup.
As you finish, place in your muffin tin to hold their shape. I like to work with 2 batches of chocolate – I use all the heated chocolate for chocolate cups and then I heat my second batch for the topping.
Once you finish the chocolate cups, place in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes to harden. Next you will add your filling – peanut butter, nutella, jam, marshmallow, etc.
Finally, after you filled each cup, begin to cover completely with chocolate. Place in the fridge again to cool completely and then you can remove from the tin and store in an air-tight container for at least a week. They make great gifts but remember to store in the fridge so you don’t have any melting. To eat, simply peel away the paper liner! Enjoy!