October 30, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups, two ways

Just look at that layer of chocolate!

These take a bit of effort to make, especially when making the graham cracker crumbs from scratch like I did, but are so, so good, it's worth a bit of extra time.
I actually put off making these for so long because I just never got around to making a batch of graham crackers and the store-bought ones just don't cut it. The good news is, you don't have to use graham cracker crumbs! Pecan meal is the perfect substitute for them, according to The Wheat Belly Cookbook. I sure wish I'd known that before the first batch - we would have been eating homemade peanut butter cups much sooner!  However, I'm glad to have tried both ways... both variations are equally delicious. The graham crackers, rich with honey and tangy molasses, add a depth to the flavor. The pecan meal has a pure, deeply nutty taste, really addicting. So... 
Between the wickedly decadent topping and the rich, nutty bottom, the overall richness and the sweet-salty combo, these won't last long.

Did I mention these are good for you ?! 

Completely clean ingredients - no animal products whatsoever, and none of the freaky chemicals of store-bought,
 + mineral- and protein-rich nuts and dark chocolate means eating these are a guiltless pleasure.
Resistance.  is.  futile. 

The recipe comes by way of the excellent The Kind Life by Alicia Silverstone. The book is filled with amazing, satisfying vegan food and gorgeous photos, too.

This lends itself to endless variation; the peanut butter could be replaced with any number of other nut butters to create a different flavor profile; almond, cashew, hazelnut, or even sunflower seed butter would all be delicious.
 The sugar can be switched for date or coconut as well.
 The chocolate can be varied to preferred strength - white chocolate would be good, too.
The milk can be varied; any nut milk works well. Almond gives an excellent flavor, where coconut makes the topping incredibly velvety.

 The final topping of nuts is essential to balance the chocolate. Any nut could be used (Alicia suggests peanuts, pecans or almonds), but extra-crunchy blister peanuts, lightly salted, put these over the top.        

make the graham crackers, if using (see recipe variation, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cups, below)

Graham Crackers
1 1/4 cups spelt flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup red palm shortening
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Combine dry ingredients in large bowl.
In medium pan, warm oil, honey, molasses, and coconut milk just enough to combine. Add the vanilla.
Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir briefly; dough will form into a ball.
Knead dough briefly in bowl to thoroughly combine.
Turn out onto a large piece of waxed paper.
Roll or pat dough out with lightly floured hands to a thickness of 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch (thinner dough will yield crisper crackers, while thicker will be more cookie-like).
Cut in strips about 2x3-inches and place on parchment-lined baking sheets and bake up to 15 minutes, until golden and toasty. These are delicious when still-warm from the oven. 
Cool completely on wire rack before using for crumbs or storing.
These can also be cut with cookie cutters.      

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
1/2 cup red palm oil
3/4 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (see recipe above)
1/4 cup maple sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips
1/4 cup coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Handful salted blister peanuts, whole or roughly chopped
(or nut of your choice), for topping

Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
Melt oil over medium heat and stir in the peanut butter, crumbs, the pinch of salt, and the sugar; stir well to incorporate; remove from heat. Devide mixture evenly among the muffin cups; set aside.
Combine the chocolate and milk and heat over medium-low, stirring until chocolate is melted. Stir in the vanilla. Spoon this mixture evenly over the devided peanut mixture in the muffin tin.
Top with the nuts, lightly pressing into the chocolate layer to adhere.
Chill until set, a couple hours at least.  

adapted from The Kind Life by Alicia Silverstone  

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cups:
Replace the graham cracker crumbs with an equal measure of pecan meal (finely-ground pecans). This gives the candies an even nuttier flavor! 
A batch made this way - using almond milk instead of coconut, along with almond extract in place of vanilla and date sugar in place of the maple sugar - was even more-loved than the original!

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