The Best Peanut Butter Cups
My Best Peanut Butter Cups recipe is based on the Gourmet Makes recipe from Bon Appetit. But, all due respect to Claire (whom I adore), I am not going to roast my own peanuts to make my own peanut butter. Or cut down my wrappers to the correct height, or blow torch the top of my cups to make them perfectly smooth. Nope. Not gonna happen.
But her recipe is otherwise sound. At least so I thought. The substitute of jarred peanut butter caused all kinds of problems with the recipe. Mostly, the peanut butter crumbled to dust when the sugar syrup was added. Not ideal when you need to have a layer of chocolate above and below a peanut butter center.
It’s all about the peanut butter
I went through a few different peanut butters to find the right one for the Peanut Butter Cups. My main criteria was that it contained only peanuts. I tried Crazy Richards Creamy Peanut Butter, Wild Friends Classic Creamy Peanut Butter, and Good & Gather Organic No-Stir Creamy Peanut Butter. The Wild Friends, to me was much too salty. Which I thought was interesting because it actually had less sodium than the peanut butter we normally eat on PB&J’s. So, that one was out because I wanted to control how much salt was added. The Crazy Richard’s was really tasty, but it kept turning to powder when I added the sugar syrup. That’s when I thought to try a peanut butter made with roasted peanuts. Which is how I landed on Good & Gather. It worked like a charm!
A little extra water goes a long way
The dry roasted peanuts got me about halfway to the texture I wanted. I realized one of the issues is with the sugar itself. Sugar is hygroscopic meaning that it likes to absorb water. Without enough water in the sugar syrup it was trying to leach it from the peanut butter thus creating a crumbly mess. I experimented with different amounts of water in the sugar syrup, first with two ounces and then with four ounces (simple syrup ratio). But there comes a point where there isn’t enough sugar in the water to allow it to boil above 212 degrees. Four ounces was just too much. But two ounces wasn’t quite enough.
I settled on two and a half ounces. It allowed the syrup to come up to temperature quickly but it still wasn’t quite enough. As I was mixing everything together, the peanut butter mixture became a bit dryer than I wanted. So, I added a tablespoon of warm water and it helped to bring it all back together.
A little bit fiddly
I will admit, these can be a bit fiddly. But that makes them perfect for little helpers. Once the peanut butter mixture is cooled, kids can help put everything together. They can help to cut out all of the peanut butter disks and divide up the chocolate and disks into the tins. And the best part is they get to be a little messy when making these. Because when working with melted chocolate you are bound to get messy. That’s just part of the fun!
Choosing your chocolate
When choosing your chocolate, do not use chocolate chips. Buy a bar or wafers of good quality chocolate. I really like Guittard 66% Cocoa Chocolate Wafers for this recipe. The reason I prefer wafers over bars: I am lazy. It’s that simple. If you buy a bar of chocolate you have to chop it into smaller pieces to make sure it melts evenly. But with wafers you just pour them to the correct measure.
Peanut Butter Cups
- Parchment Paper
- Cupcake tin
- Cupcake liners
- Stand Mixer
- 8 ounces peanut butter made with roasted or dry roasted peanuts
- 1 scant teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 ounces granulated sugar
- 2.5 ounces water plus 1 tablespoon
- 11 ounces chocolate (60-66% cocoa) melted
- Cut a piece of parchment paper approximately 13” x 18” and fold in half so you end up with a piece that is 9” x 13”. Open back up and let sit aside for later. Line a cupcake pan with liners, set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, measure out peanut butter, salt and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment until thoroughly incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl.
- In a small saucepan measure out granulated sugar and water. Place over medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Increase temperature to medium-high heat and continue to boil until the sugar syrup reaches 248 degrees (firm ball stage).
- With the stand mixer running on low, immediately pour the sugar syrup between the bowl and the paddle into the peanut butter mixture. As soon as you have added all of the sugar syrup add the additional 1 tablespoon of water. Continue mixing until everything is incorporated.
- Pour peanut butter mixture onto half of prepared parchment paper and fold parchment over mixture. Roll out mixture until it is approximately ¼ inch thick. Place on quarter sheet pan and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Once the mixture has firmed up, remove from fridge and use a biscuit cutter to cut out rounds that fit in the bottom of your cupcake tin.
- Melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat until fully melted. Pour 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate into one of the liners, smooth out chocolate while lightly pushing chocolate up the side of the line approximately ¼ of an inch. Press peanut butter round on top of smoothed out chocolate and top with 1 teaspoon of chocolate. Use measuring spoon to push chocolate out to edges of the cupcake liner. Repeat with remaining peanut butter cups.
- Let chocolate fully set, approximately 30 minutes, before enjoying.