Now, I don’t like to think of myself as fussy, but sometimes one detail being out of place will cause me to not do a recipe for you. Case in point, several years ago, my friend Kim sent me a ridiculously easy and delicious recipe for peanut butter and chocolate candy. I believe she, in turn, got it from a neighbor. I have made it 5 times and devoured it each time. It TASTES like a dream. Here’s the problem.
Each time I make it I run into this issue: “Well what if I…1) made the peanut butter from scratch; 2) bought fancy chocolate and tempered it for a perfect top; 3) rolled little balls of peanut butter and made pop-able bites…etc. etc. Every time, I basically ruin its absolute simple perfection. So, instead of kicking this can down the street any more, as I am wont to do with certain recipe with which I like to tinker, I’m just going to give it to you the way Kim gave it to me, albeit with one or two tiny tweaks. This is a perfect little treat and a wonderful cure for a sweet tooth.. It is an easy treat to make for a gathering It is practically a “throw-down” and it is good. You can experiment with milk chocolate or with nice chocolate bars. But whatever you do, enjoy!
Just make sure you have a lot of people coming around. Do not make it when you are alone and planning, for instance, to sit on the couch watching Terms of Endearment by yourself one evening…not that I would ever do such a thing. You could, hypothetically, eat the whole tray by yourself. This is not a capital idea, in theory. Not that I would know.
1 cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter, softened
¾ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar
1¾ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon unsalted butter (for pan)
1 (12 ounce) bag of semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth. Finally mix in the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth. You can do all of this by hand in a pinch but it takes a lot of mashing and mixing.
2. Prepare a 9 inch spring-form pan by lining the bottom with parchment paper and buttering the edges. You may also make this in any roundish dish that is approximately 8 to 9 inches across. This will change the thickness of the candy, but it is not a deal-killer. Press the peanut butter mixture into the bottom of the pan. If it is too sticky to handle, use a spatula to press it down. You can cover this with plastic and place it in the refrigerator while you prepare the chocolate.
[Bottom Right: To easily score the chocolate, place a long ruler over the pan, and run a knife, toothpick, or a skewer across the chocolate to draw straight lines. Turn the ruler 90 degrees and score in the other direction to create squares.]
3. Melt the chocolate chips, either by microwaving them for 30 second bursts at 50% power, and stirring between bursts. Or, you can melt them in a double boiler, stirring continuously. When the chocolate is melted, pour it out on top of the peanut butter and smooth it with a clean, dry spatula. Set the pan aside for 15 minutes.
4. When the chocolate is beginning to set, you can take a toothpick and “score” the top into squares, which will make it easier to cut when it is completely hardened. Also, run the toothpick or stick around the edge of the pan. If you do this too early, the chocolate folds back in on itself, which is pretty but will not help as much when you cut it later. Let it set for about 15 minutes and check it with the toothpick to make sure that the lines will hold. If it is still too “wet” allow it to harden a bit more before scoring. Place the pan in the refrigerator for an hour to allow the peanut butter and chocolate to harden completely. Or simply leave it on the counter to harden.
5. When the chocolate has hardened, gently unlock the pan and remove the sides. You can now slide the chocolate treat onto a serving platter, trimming the parchment close to the edge. You can serve it whole and allow folks to cut off bits with a knife, or you can carefully cut off squares to serve.
[I like the way that the chocolate bends on the lines when you score the chocolate when it has yet to become too stiff. However, for easiest serving, it is best for the chocolate to be slightly more hardened than in the left hand photo. You have to guess a bit. The outside edges will become hardened sooner than the middle. Either way, the scoring...when gloopy or hardened, helps a great deal with cutting the pieces.]
Dish Choices: The spring-form pan makes it easier to cut the bites. If you make it in a dish or some sort, you will have to carefully scoop out the first couple of bites to get it started. A fork works great if you are not a stickler for appearances. This is why I score the top before it sets completely, too. It leaves easy cutting lines for cutting. If you don’t score the top, the hardened chocolate can squash the peanut butter layer a bit.
A word on chocolate: Chocolate can be a pain. God knows I adore it, but if you don’t know what you are doing it will turn on you. Have you ever had perfectly melted chocolate seize on you when you were trying to stir something into it? It is awful. It turns gloopy, or hard, and generally unusable for the purpose at hand. A mere drop of water can cause the whole batch of chocolate to seize. That is why I don’t add anything to the chocolate here. Many people use corn syrup or butter to make the chocolate a bit shinier. But, I don’t. Someday, I will actually take the time to temper chocolate and make very professional looking little chocolates, but today is not that day, and this is not that candy. If you use a double boiler, make sure you don’t get it to a frothy boil or even the steam can make your chocolate seize. I boil the water and then turn off the stove, and then add the top full of chocolate. It is slower, but it is safer. The very easiest method is to microwave it in 30 second bursts at 50% power. Stir each time and then repeat until the chocolate is almost fully melted. The residual heat in the chocolate will cause the chocolate to melt completely within moments. This, and softening butter, are the only reasons I miss having a microwave.
Many thanks to my friend, and fellow Old High alumnus, Kim Johnson Puricelli for this wonderful treat.