Many people believe that peanut butter and chocolate make the perfect pair, and my mother is among them; so for Mother’s Day I decided to make chocolate peanut butter cups. They say homemade gifts are the most heartfelt, after all, and you control the ingredients of homemade candies. This is good, but making peanut butter cups is, though rewarding, not always as easy as it sounds. The recipe I chose involved no baking, but it was my first experience making candy, so it was a bit daunting. Though no thermometer was needed, it did demand more attention to temperature than most of the dishes I’d made before.
I started by melting coconut oil in a saucepan, amazed how much like water it looks in its liquid state. I added cocoa powder, honey and vanilla, and under my whisk, while squares of light danced on its surface, it turned to such a deep, rich brown it was almost burgundy, or black. And it smelled lovely. I sampled. It tasted like burned plastic. Plan B. More honey. Also, salt. The next time I tried it, it only tasted like pond scum. Okay, good. That was a step in the right direction.
With my mother’s help, I managed to salt the chocolate enough, but I don’t think I ever really sweetened it properly. No matter how many times we poured honey into the saucepan, though we must have tripled the amount called for in the recipe, it seemed to make no difference. Eventually I decided to just move to the next step. I had already filled a muffin tin with cupcake liners, so my next job was to cover their bottoms with the chocolate syrup and press it up the sides. The chocolate was far too liquid for this at first, so I put it in the fridge, but then it hardened so much that it stuck to the cupcake liners and got nothing done; so I warmed it back up and carried on.
While the chocolate dried on the cups, I was supposed to prepare the peanut butter for the centers. This required another saucepan. I melted more coconut oil, then added peanut butter, honey, salt and vanilla and tasted. Ohhh, that was perfect: salty and sweet and the essence of peanut butter. I love peanut butter the way other women love chocolate. I poured the peanut butter into the cupcake liners, added a final glazing of chocolate over the tops, and stuck the whole thing in the freezer. When my mother and I finally tasted the cups—she started first, as they were her present—they had been in the freezer so long that they were a bit hard, but it wasn’t an unpleasant texture. They were satisfying, and the peanut butter was excellent. The biggest problem was that the chocolate was not sweet enough for our taste: The honey had gotten rather lost among the other flavors. Next time, we’re trying maple syrup.
I made some alterations to the recipe as necessary, and now it’s here, for your and your mother’s tasting pleasure. My mother agrees that it makes a wonderful Mother’s Day present.
Altered from Cooking Traditional Food’s Menu Mailer, Volume 3 Week 44.
1 ¼ cup coconut oil
¾ cup cocoa powder
4 tbsp maple syrup (or honey if you dislike maple syrup)
3 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup nut butter (we used peanut butter)
salt to taste
Line a muffin tin or mini-muffin tin with paper cupcake liners and set aside. In a saucepan, heat 1 cup of coconut oil over low heat until melted. Add cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon honey and 2 tsp vanilla and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust sweetness as you prefer. Coat the bottom of each cupcake liner with a thin layer of chocolate mixture and coat cups’ sides. Set the remaining chocolate aside.
In a second saucepan, heat the remaining ¼ cup of the coconut oil over low heat until melted. Whisk in the nut butter, 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla extract and salt until smooth. Spoon a small amount of nut butter over the chocolate layer in each muffin cup.
Pour a thin layer of the chocolate over the nut butter layer until it is completely covered. Place in freezer until solid. Store the cups in the freezer when not eating them.
Photos courtesy of my mother, Wendy.