Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grown-up Peanut Butter Cups topped with Smoked Sea Salt

Every Halloween swarms of trick-or-treaters descend on our neighborhood like a plague of locusts. We stockpile gobs of candy to pass out to the hordes but it's never enough- we always run out. Mostly because the number of kiddos arriving in droves on our doorstep seems to increase exponentially each year but also because Eric or I usually wind up pilfering a candy bag or two before the big day arrives.

This year I made a deal with myself that I wasn't going to touch the Halloween candy I purchased for the little ghouls and goblins that overrun the 'hood.

I know what you're thinking, and secretly, I too thought I'd break down and get into the candy. But people, I dipped into some reserve of willpower I didn't even know I had.

I resisted temptation and actually made good on the deal!  

So I left the store-bought, processed crap to the kiddos. Instead, as a reward to myself, I ate almost a dozen of these amazing homemade peanut butter cups. (I did let Eric sample a few just to confirm they're as good as I thought.)

These “grown-up” peanut butter cups feature a filling made with a caramelized honey peanut brittle that is seasoned with smoked sea salt. Never one to leave well enough alone, I couldn’t resist sprinkling a little extra smoked sea salt on top of the peanut butter cups. That way, when biting into a cup, the aroma of the smoked sea salt hits your nose and enhances the flavor in the filling.

Do I even have to tell you that these cups put Reese’s to shame?

Now that I know how easy it is to surpass Hershey's products, I'm thinking about taking on Willy Wonka too.   

Next year, I just might make homemade Nerds. 

Grown-up Peanut Butter Cups
adapted from Stella Parks recipe featured on Gilt Taste

Note that the chocolate coating on these cups doesn't have to be tempered. Simply melting the chocolate to coat the cups is fine but you'll need to store them in the refrigerator. Also, I wanted to use my set of pretty, colorful silicon mini muffin cups so I halved the ingredient quantities listed below. The recipe as written should make 20 peanut butter cups if using standard size cupcake liners.

1 ½ ounces water (3 tablespoons)
3 ½ ounces sugar
2 ounces honey (approximately ¼ cup)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3 ounces unsalted peanuts
6 ounces unsalted, natural peanut butter (if using commercial peanut butter, use half of the called for quantity of salt initially and add more to taste)
½ teaspoon smoked salt
approximately 1 ounce peanut oil (2-3 tablespoons)
20 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
20 cupcake liners

1. Pour a tablespoon of peanut oil on a baking sheet and use your hands or a paper towel to spread the oil to coat the sheet. Set aside.
2. Add the water, sugar, honey, and vanilla bean paste (if using vanilla bean seeds, add later with the peanuts) to a heavy gauge sauce pan and place over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar until the liquid starts to bubble up. When it reaches a boil, cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns a deep caramel brown. If using a candy thermometer, the temperature should reach approximately 340° Fahrenheit.
3. Once the mixture reaches the desired color, remove from heat and stir in the peanuts to make a brittle. Pour out onto the greased baking sheet. Spread the brittle mixture with a heat proof spatula and then set  aside to cool.
5. Once the brittle has cooled, use your hands to break it off the baking sheet and put the brittle pieces in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to break the brittle into small pieces and then allow the processor to run until a rough, slightly dry paste forms.
6. Add the peanut butter and salt to the brittle paste and pulse to combine. Let the processor run while slowly pouring in one tablespoon of peanut oil. Check the consistency and add more peanut oil, a little at a time, if the paste is too thick.
7. Scoop the peanut butter filling into a large pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip or a gallon sized ziploc bag with a corner snipped off. Set aside.
8. Melt or temper the chocolate according to your preferred method. Since I halved the ingredient quantities listed above to make a smaller batch of peanut butter cups and used less than a pound of chocolate, I followed The Kitchn’s technique on tempering small amounts of chocolate in the microwave.
9. Arrange the cupcake liners on a baking sheet and ladle, using a tablespoon (1 tablespoon = ½ ounce), melted or tempered chocolate into each of the liners. Next pipe a dollop of peanut butter filling into the center of the chocolate filled cup. Top each peanut butter mound with another tablespoon of melted or tempered chocolate. When all cups have been filled, gently rap the baking sheet on the counter to level the chocolate in the cups and to pop any trapped air bubbles. Set the cups aside until they have set up and then peel off the cupcake liners before serving.


  1. Do you know how much I would like these little lovelies? The brittle and sea salt sound divine. These could put Hershey's and Willy Wonka out of business.

  2. Good Lord woman! These little devils look delicious! And how cute are your little baking cups?!!!

  3. Okay, Shelley, I just have to make these because Reese's peanut butter cups are my FAVORITE candy and yes, I pilfered all the Reese's from our candy bags that were meant for the little goblins. It's a yearly ritual of mine. Seriously though, these look awesome!

  4. That's amazing: you at almost a dozen in one sitting and lived to tell the tale ;) I can hardly blame you as they look and sound spectacular. So when are your starting your mail-order business?

  5. How interesting these peanut butter cups, peanut butter and brittle paste...I am sure that after these you would not want to have the Reese's anymore :-)
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Shelley!

  6. I have that recipe in my bookmarks, so I am so glad to hear you say that they are as yummy as I'd imagined. Beautiful job daaahling :D.
    *kisses* HH

  7. These look delicious. I think the mini size is ideal, although I love peanut butter cups a standard size hit of all that sweetness might be too much even for me!! Great idea to add the smoked salt. We have a vanilla infused salt here which would be good too. GG

  8. Yeah, I would give up Hersey's for these. I love the cups.
    I bought only one big bag of candy this year and turned off the light as soon as it was done. The kids were pretty well-mannered this time though. Everyone took only one candy, not a handful. I was surprised.