Well, these aren't technically cups, per se, more like little peanut butter, eh, squares, but they taste so much like Reese's Cups that I simply cannot refrain from calling them by the same name.
Our family has hewn to a commercial-free approach to Valentine's Day for the past couple years. I think we said something out loud the first time, something along the lines of, "Let's cease wasting money on greeting cards that don't say anything worthwhile," but our high ground may owe more to pure laziness than to a moral imperative. We've been married for nearly 10 years now, and we know where we stand. Shopping for a way to prove it just seems rather silly, after all.
That said, we have these two hilarious children to think about, and while I do not want to raise them to think every little holiday needs to be commercialized and that we need to run to the inner circle of Hell to purchase the socially-required accompaniments, I also would rather not take all the fun out of everything for them.
Finding that sacred middle ground is an ongoing process. See, I don't really get into cutting out paper hearts and gluing glitter on construction paper and that sort of thing, but cooking is a craft I can really get behind. So last weekend, while we were all sitting around the table together eating lunch, I approached the subject of Valentine's Day and suggested we do 'something special' to celebrate.
"Like get some new toys?" The Boy Wonder asked excitedly. "Um, no," I responded, "Like make a special treat for each other," at which point I explained that Valentine's Day is about showing your family how much you love them, and what better way would there be for us to show love than to get into the kitchen together and play with some chocolate...
I mean, right? What would you rather receive for a V-Day present, a stuffed animal or a homemade dessert? A goofy five-dollar greeting card or a piece of hand-formed candy?
So that is how the kids and I found ourselves in the kitchen on Valentine's afternoon, rifling through cookbooks and stacking up measuring cups. Of course, there was the small stipulation that we would need to bake with whatever ingredients we had on hand. A trip to the store, even for a raw material, would negate the Commercial-Free Valentine's Day Celebration, so it is rather fortuitous that I keep a lifetime supply of dessert ingredients in the pantry (a home is not a home without vanilla extract and sugar).
A peanut butter dessert seemed to be our best bet for Valentine's Day, that being one of The Carnivore's favorite things in the world and he, after all, being my true valentine, so when I fell across an easy-looking recipe in The Silver Palate Cookbook (thank you, Becky, you dear, wonderful kindred spirit for this lovely book) for Chocolate Peanut Butter Bites, I halted the search immediately and started gathering ingredients. I was a trifle nervous, not an unusual state of being for me when armed with a new recipe, and not least because there was neither a photo of the recipe nor any descriptives whatsoever.
But like I said, it looked easy, not even requiring the use of the mixer or the oven, and the list of ingredients was so small and pure (butter, sugar, peanut butter, chocolate chips) that it just had to be good, especially considering the source.
There is little suspense to offer here though, because, obviously, these were a complete and utter hit. And I swear, I'm not exaggerating when I say it tastes just like a Reese's peanut butter cup (only better and without the preservatives and the excess packaging). There are two layers, the bottom one being the tender peanut butter 'filling' and the top being an absolute Godsend of thick, hard chocolate coating. And since I was out of peanuts, and substituted chocolate chips into the peanut butter layer, well, the texture is a revelation, with the firm bits of chocolate in the filling providing a welcome foil to the soft peanut butter. Perhaps just as important as the luscious flavor though, is the fact that this makes a nice, giant pan of treats. There were enough to share with my mother and grandparents, and still plenty left over to last us all week long.
THIS is what Valentine's Day is all about: love for our new favorite dessert (and, ahem, for each other, of course).
CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BITES (adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook), makes 50
Note: the original recipe calls for 1 cup of peanuts to be stirred into the peanut butter mixture, instead of the 1 cup of chocolate chips that I used. Do with this information what you will.
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar
- 1 stick PLUS 1 Tbs salted butter, divided
- 2 cups crunchy peanut butter (natural peanut butter works great in this recipe)
- 1 cup PLUS 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips, divided
- Mix brown sugar, confectioners' sugar, 1 stick melted butter, peanut butter, and one cup of the chocolate chips together.
- Pat mixture into an ungreased jelly-roll pan (or cookie sheet), about 15x10 inches.
- Melt remaining 1 Tbs butter and 12 oz chocolate chips, either in a microwave or a double-boiler, and spread melted chocolate mixture onto peanut butter mixture.
- Cut into bite-size squares (about 1-inch x 1-inch) and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
- Serve chilled.