I am a serious chocoholic. Most mornings I hunt for some sort of chocolate morsel to get me through the process of preparing breakfast—tedious procedure that pouring cereal into a bowl can be.
By mid-morning I’ll go looking for another dark brown nubbin of goodness, and some time before or after dinner the chocolate tanks will demand to be filled again.
One of my favorite treats to have on hand for chocolate emergencies is a batch of homemade nut-butter cups. With a shell of the dark chocolate I crave and a wholesome and filling nut-butter interior, one of these babies can transform an afternoon guilty pleasure into a legitimate, hunger-curbing snack.
Now make no mistake, if you’re looking for a Reese’s Cup copycat recipe, you won’t find that here. These cups have two ingredients: dark chocolate and nut butter. If you like things a little on the sweeter side, look for a dark chocolate with a lower cacao percentage (that translates to a higher percentage of sugar), and/or consider using a sweetened nut butter. Jiff Natural peanut butter works really well from both a texture and flavor standpoint (heads up: while it differs from the regular supermarket stuff in that it is free of trans-fats, it has been fortified with sugar, palm oil, salt, and molasses), but truly natural nut or seed butter of any variety can be sweetened with honey or your favorite natural sweetener to taste if desired.
My original method for creating homemade nut-butter cups was pretty involved, but this streamlined version works just as well with much less time and effort. Try layering a teaspoon each of sunflower-seed butter, macadamia butter, and peanut butter for my all-time favorite results. Yield 12 nut-butter cups.
6 oz good dark chocolate (I like Guittard Semisweet 64% Cacao Gourmet Baking Bars because they come three-two-ounce bars to a box, which comes in handy during the melting process; chocolate chips will not melt as well)
3/4 cup nut or seed butter
Place liners in all 12 cups of a standard-sized muffin tin. Set aside.
Finely chop 4 oz of the chocolate and place in a Pyrex measuring cup or microwave-safe bowl. Chop the remaining 2 oz of chocolate and set aside.
Microwave the first 4 oz of chocolate for 30 seconds and then stir it as well as possible. Place it back in the microwave for 20 seconds and then stir it until smooth. If pieces remain that will not melt after about 1 minute of stirring, place it back in the microwave for 10 seconds. Add the reserved 2 oz of chocolate and stir until completely smooth.
Use a pastry brush to paint the bottoms and about 1 inch up the sides of the muffin liners with the melted chocolate, making sure there are no gaps or holes. The remaining chocolate will be used momentarily.
If using a nut or seed butter that needs to be stirred, stir well before dolloping one tablespoon (or one teaspoon each of three different varieties) in each of the chocolate-painted cups. Use the back of the spoon to gently spread the nut or seed butter out in the cup. There should still be a small rim of chocolate peaking up around the edges.
Use a clean spoon (or the one used to stir the chocolate previously) to drizzle chocolate in a spiral over the tops of the nut butter, then use the back of the spoon to very gently spread out the chocolate without dragging the nut butter into the mix. If the chocolate becomes too cool and stiff to easily work with, microwave for 10 seconds and stir until completely smooth before continuing.
At cool room temperature, the chocolate should set within 30 minutes of sitting out. In warmer environments, it may be necessary to place the muffin pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden the chocolate. Store the nut-butter cups in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two days or in the fridge for up to one week (cups made with runnier nut butters should be kept in the fridge).
Note: I tried layering the nut butter over dried cherries, as seen here, but I think I prefer the pure butter-cup approach a little more.
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