Sunday, March 28, 2010

One of my MOST favorite things

So, you say you like peanut butter?

I don’t think it’s fair for me to say I like peanut butter. I love it. If I were stranded on a remote island, with three things, I might have to say a cashmere blanket, apples…and peanut butter.

Furthermore, I’m a bit of a peanut butter connoisseur. I have definitely tasted my way through various peanut butters (Teddy, Smuckers, Santa Cruz Organics, freshly-ground, freshly ground honey roasted), and have eaten my way through nearly each flavor of The Peanut Butter Company’s flavors (white chocolate, dark chocolate…and many, many containers of their cinnamon raisin). Nearly. I drew the line at their “The Heat Is On” flavor, with something spicy. Maybe for pad thai, but not on my toast!

I wish I could say I’m a peanut butter purist, too, but I’m guilty of mixing chocolate chips of all sorts with peanut butter and microwaving it. Til smooth. And eating it with a spoon. My favorite is Whole Foods’ 365 Organic brand. Chunky or smooth? Well, I can’t decide. Really! I split my toast in half – one usually with smooth pb and apple or pumpkin butter, and then the other half with chunky pb and my homemade raspberry jam.

About a month ago, while I was still in culinary school, our pastry chef asked us to bring in some petits fours ideas (and recipes) as we needed to create a large new batch for the special cookie plates we serve our VIP guests in L’Ecole. I’ve had a fair amount of petits fours (some call it mignardises) in my life, quite a few not up to snuff, but a couple truly outstanding ones. But never one I’d consider perfect – a homemade mini peanut butter cup!

After doing some research (yes, both sampling peanut butter cups – namely from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and Long Grove Confectioners' – and looking at recipes), I developed a tasty solution of my own. And the outcome? Amazing…

Homemade Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

3 cups dark chocolate, broken into pieces
2 cups peanut butter (I like using all natural. And you can use half chunky, if you wish!)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Salt to taste

Set out 4 dozen mini foil cups on two half sheet pans (like those Reese’s Mini PB Cups come in – try your local baking supply store). You can also use mini muffin tins or even regular muffin tins! I like metal more than the paper.

Melt the chocolate gently over hot water, stirring til all pieces are nearly melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir til all is melted. Brush the insides (bottom and sides) well with the melted chocolate in an even layer. Once all cups are coated, place in freezer until chocolate is hardened.

While the cups are chilling, mix together the peanut butter filling. I added most of each ingredient above, but depending on what kind of peanut butter you use (some have more sugar and/or salt than others), you may want to tweak the sugar and salt amounts). To aid in homogenizing the mixture, you can microwave the filling briefly until it is very soft and pipeable. Taste the filling for proper flavor, and then fill in pastry bag with tip (or ziplock!).

Take the chilled chocolate cups out of freezer and pipe filling into each, kind of forming a nice disk, as you will pipe more chocolate as a cap on top, but you want a nice, generous base of peanut butter. Places sheets back in freezer to chill before finishing with more chocolate.

Fill another pastry bag with the remaining warm chocolate, and pipe chocolate on top of chilled filled chocolates. Be sure that the chocolate top meets the chocolate sides, so that the peanut butter filling is completely enrobed. Again, place in freezer to harden.

I stored the chocolates in the refridgerator, but they are also safe to sit at room temperature.

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