I am what you might call a recovering junk food addict—and one that had an especially strong penchant for candy.
And while I’ve managed to get my sweet tooth under control in recent years, I still have quite a weakness for homemade versions of classic treats.
Being able to create them without preservatives or strange ingredients makes this a justifiable weakness, I’d dare say.
Peanut butter cups are one of the simplest sweets to make. There’s no need to fuss with tempering chocolate or tentatively hovering over a pan of scary-hot sugar. All you need is a handful of ingredients (most of which you probably already have in your pantry), some mini cupcake wrappers, a stove (or microwave), and a fridge. Dangerously easy, folks.
You can customize your peanut butter cups in a number of ways: Use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate; sprinkle the tops with a little sea salt or cayenne; or make them vegan by using dairy-free chocolate, vegan sugar, and, instead of butter, coconut oil.
I opted for a combination of dark and milk chocolate here, and chose an unsalted peanut butter so I could flavor them with Sichuan sea salt. The result: one heck of a peanut butter cup.
The dark chocolate and the floral Sichuan spice give them a hint of sophistication, and make for an all-around delicious treat.
More: Pick up some Sichuan peppercorns and you, too, will feel sophisticated.
Makes around 4 dozen
1 cup of creamy unsalted peanut butter
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or more, to taste; I used Sichuan salt)
32 ounces high-quality chocolate (use milk chocolate if you really want to mimic the classic flavor)
Mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, and salt in a bowl. Taste, then add more salt if needed.
Roughly chop chocolate, then melt it in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat on the stove top (or in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring in between) until smooth. Transfer half to a heatproof measuring cup.
Arrange mini cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet. Pour just enough chocolate in to fill the bottom of the wrapper about 1/8 inch high. Gently lift and drop the tray once or twice to flatten out the chocolate, then place in the fridge for 10 minutes.
While the chocolate is chilling, begin shaping heaping teaspoons of peanut butter filling into discs about the diameter of a quarter and setting them aside on parchment paper.
Remove the chilled chocolate from the fridge, then place each peanut butter disc into a cupcake wrapper.
Transfer the remaining chocolate to your heatproof measuring cup. (If it isn’t as warm or pourable as you’d like, reheat it for a moment or two on the stove top, or for 10 to 15 seconds in the microwave.)
Pour into cupcake wrappers until peanut butter discs are just covered. Once you’ve covered all of them, gently lift and drop the tray again to even out the chocolate, then add more to the wrappers as needed.
Sprinkle the tops with a little extra coarse sea salt if you like, then place the tray in the fridge for 30 minutes. Eat them straight from the fridge (if you’re a chilled chocolate guy or gal, like me), or let them soften for about 5 minutes at room temperature.
Photos by Carey Nershi