Thursday, December 19, 2013

Last-Minute Gift Idea: Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

It's like Portlandia's put a bird on it: "Put it in a mason jar!" Honestly, even the homeliest thing--spelt, dirt, slug and snail poison--as soon as it's in a mason jar, it's just quaint as can be.
If you are Birdy’s teachers, stop reading right now! Kidding. I know you’re not surfing blogs, because you’re too busy teaching our kids about long division and integrity and the ancient Mayans. And we are so grateful. So grateful that we made you these lumpy, misshapen peanut butter cups.

(I am reminded of Billy Collins’s poem “The Lanyard.” This is part of it:

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard

or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,

but that did not keep me from crossing

strand over strand again and again

until I had made a boxy

red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,

and I gave her a lanyard.

She nursed me in many a sick room,

lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,

laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,

and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,

and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.

Here are thousands of meals, she said,

and here is clothing and a good education.

And here is your lanyard, I replied,

which I made with a little help from a counselor.)

Anyhoo, this is our lanyard for you, dear teachers, who sacrifice sleep and sanity so that our children can rise to their bright and shining potential. Our edible, holiday lanyard. Had they not turned out so ugly, though, the peanut butter cups might have verged on the magnificent, so tasty are they, so salty and true to the Reese’s genre, and yet some how more cleanly peanutty. Delicious.
Maybe they came out nice. I really can't even tell anymore. We picked out the best ones for the teachers. If they are allergic to peanuts, I hope they will not mention that fact to me.
However, we used the wrong size of wrapper, and so the candies went epically wrong, in so far as something utterly meaningless and with more or less nonexistently low stakes can go epically wrong. And I’ve said it before, but, sheesh. That Birdy is a peach. Because I’d cut too big a whole in the Ziploc bag, and because it had somehow failed to seal properly along the zipper, there was chocolate everywhere, and I was in my full-on holiday binge of cursing. (“Fuck. Don’t step there. There’s chocolate on the floor. Fucking FUCK!”)
Birdy had so much chocolate on her hands that I started to suspect her of having more than the average number of fingers.
And Birdy just laughed and laughed, problem-solving like the engineering superstar that she is. (“I’m tearing the filling in half, and that’s making more or less the perfect size. They’re going to taste good, we know that, and that’s really the main thing!”)
This picture perfectly illustrates a) how ugly these are but also, if you meet them halfway with your imagination here, b) how delicious.
If we don't connect again before the holidays, I hope yours are joyful in every way.

xo Catherine

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
Makes around 4 dozen (or, if you do it wrong, 6 or even 8 dozen)

This is adapted from the Homemade Peanut Butter Cups recipe on Food52. Actually, it is barely adapted, except for the adding of vanilla and the using of the wrong size of wrappers, thereby screwing up the entire recipe. Also, we only needed 2 (rather than 3) bags of chocolate, but that, also, is likely a result of our negligence re. wrapper size. I would really like to make these with a pinch of cayenne in the filling, but this is not a popular idea around here.

cup unsalted peanut butter (we used the kind you grind fresh out of a nozzle at Whole Foods, which was something we’d always wanted to try)
tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (I used salted. I know.)
 cup light brown sugar
 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
teaspoon kosher salt
ounces (2 bags) milk chocolate chips (use dark if you prefer)

Arrange mini cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet. Mini cupcake wrappers are not the same as foil candy wrappers, which are much smaller. You can use either, but they require different sizes of filling discs, depending. We learned this the hard way.

Mix together peanut butter, butter, sugars, vanilla and salt in a bowl. Taste, then add more salt if it needs a little punch. Make 1-teaspoon balls of the mixture, then flatten these slightly into disks. Again, if you are using candy wrappers by mistake, you will need balls that are about half this size. Sigh.

Melt the chocolate. I did this in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, but a double boiler works well too. Transfer the melted chocolate to a Ziploc freezer bag (this is a two person job), then snip a tiny corner off the bag. Tiny. Unless you want to get chocolate all the fuck over the place and then, by all means, snip off a nice big corner.

Squeeze out just enough chocolate in to fill the bottom of the wrapper (I squeezed blobs, and Birdy sort of swirled them flat with her finger). At this point, you are supposed to refrigerate until firm, but we did not.

Arrange the filling disks on top of the chocolate, then squeeze more chocolate on top to cover the peanut butter filling and to fill in the wrapper (again, we found the finger-swirling method handy here). This is not a tidy process, just FYI.

Sprinkle the tops with a little extra coarse sea salt if you like, then refrigerate the candies or, if your house is inexplicably freezing, just leave them out on the counter.

Because we ended up with leftover filling discs, we dipped these in melted chocolate, and they came out quite lovely. Like. . . what are those called? Buckeyes? Flat buckeyes.


  1. Anonymous6:07 PM

    I heard Billy read this poem on NPR several years ago. When you listen to him read it, it's even funnier. Thanks for including it in your post.

  2. YUM!!! Must try these. And I think "by all means, snip off a nice big corner" may become a new family saying! Your recipes are so much more enjoyable to read than anyone else's recipes! Mostly because of the swearing and reality!

  3. Oh my, I'm laughing out loud and loving this post. These look wonderful. I make toffee, caramels, and sour cream sugar cookies every year...there is always room in the repertoire for one more. Thanks for another great start to my morning. Happy holidays to you and your family.

  4. Keryn9:13 AM

    Awww I love you! Happy holidays to y'all!

  5. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I had to go beg my IT guy to take the filter off your site so I could read it, and explain that yes, it is a cooking blog but sometimes there are "a few" swear words that will trip the filter (seriously?) but those only enhance the awesomeness of your postings! It caused a mini office-riot as we all stood around reading your blog and laughing! Thank you for your excellent you-ness!

  6. Favorite part: I was in my full-on holiday binge of cursing.

  7. Love the Portlandia reference! :)

  8. So yeah...that perfect photo of the kids on our holiday cards? The kids have the biggest smiles because they just heard Mommy say "Oh just fuck it."

  9. Aargh, I have been in full on holiday swearing mode, too! I made this dumb fudge recipe that I've made so many times before and it totally seized up or something and was too awful for me to give out. I instead sneaked pieces of it all week long. My list of people I want to give something to always grows and grows as I approach the holidays, and then I get right down to it, realize I have no time left, screw up the recipes anyway and wind up buying a few bottles of local honey or something. I should just buy the honey in the first place and save myself the grief. Thanks for the inspiration though to try homemade again.

  10. dale in denver3:50 PM

    If you haven't "liked" Thug Kitchen on facebook yet, do. You won't be disappointed.

  11. Anonymous12:39 PM

    I didn't have the right papers either, but halved the reciepe and used full sized cupcake wrappers for 11 FULL SIZED PEANUT BUTTER CUPS! Then you can just use a small spoon and bloop the chocolate in rather than risk plastic-bag-hole-size complications. Also, you get to eat full sized peanut butter cups. I did anyway, because I wasn't giving these to anyone :) Thanks and Happy Holidays!

  12. Best post ever. Merry Christmas!

  13. Heather7:52 PM

    So glad for the reminder that I am not the only mama swearing at dough, the rolling pin and butter that is too hard this holiday season. A bit of a peanut butter cup addict - we may have to make these - right after we make fondue.

  14. We have a really easy PB cup recipe we've used for the past 10 years or so. We use those same small candy cups and it usually makes about 70 of them. Heat 9 oz white chocolate chips (Ghiradelli works great) with 3/4 C PB over low heat. When melted, mix till smooth. Spoon into candy cups. Chill for 10 minutes. Heat 8 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (again Ghiradelli works well) with 3/4 C PB over low heat. When melted, mix till smooth. Spoon into candy cups on top of chilled mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Store candy in airtight container for up to two weeks or in freezer for up to a month. YUM!

  15. KyCat3:24 PM

    Our family finished playing our first game of Ticket to Ride last night and it was a huge hit! One of the kids just made long tracks while others tried to fulfill their destination cards but a good time was had by all. Thank you for the awesome recs!

  16. Just made these tonight - delicious! Such a great plan right after our nonstop 2-week binge of eating holiday treats. Hmmm.
    But my pb mixture was too runny--I think it was the new peanut butter just stirred? So the filling discs were more like blobs but still yummy! I was very tempted to tempt fate and snip off a nice big corner of the bag, though!

  17. My kids and I made these a couple days ago - amazing! And so much fun. We also used the wrong size cupcake liners - but went the opposite direction and used the full-size ones. This is a mistake I highly recommend making. Our pb mixture was also runny, like the commenter above, but worked great anyways.

  18. I always say I'm going to make my own, but for some reason I never do. They are so easy and they look delicious, I AM going to make them!