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I love anything made with the classic chocolate-peanut butter flavor combo. Anything. But because I avoid eating processed foods, I’m constantly trying to recreate the joy that is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
In my kitchen, I’ve tooled around with frozen chocolate-peanut butter ice cream sandwiches, chocolate-peanut butter cupcakes filled with Nutella, a chocolate-peanut butter pudding pie made with a salted pretzel crust, chocolate-peanut butter smoothies with a banana thrown in for a “measure” of nutrition, chocolate-peanut butter brownies with peanut butter chips and warm chocolate ganache frosting, chocolate-peanut butter cutout Christmas cookies, a malted chocolate-peanut butter soda, chocolate-peanut butter mousse cake garnished with chocolate-dipped bacon cracklins, chocolate-peanut butter pot balls and even my signature Dinner Belle recipe for chocolate-peanut butter truffles topped with a sprinkling of snowflake shaped fleur de sel. When I get desperate, I just break off a piece of the darkest dark chocolate I inevitably have stashed away in my cupboards, and dunk it into a jar of peanut butter. Delish! And yet, somehow, unfulfilling. None of this has ever quite satisfied my nostalgic craving for that mouth-watering, milk chocolate-peanut butter dreck, swathed in the orange and brown plastic wrapper, which taunts me at every drugstore checkout aisle I’ve ever passed through.
Which is why, last Christmas Eve, I was tempted yet again to test run another chocolate-peanut butter recipe to abide my ferocious CPB yearning, when I stumbled into a luscious crowd pleaser (if not an adequate Reese’s substitute) for Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pudding Cups. Having just read a Bon Appétit recipe for peanut butter pudding, and remembering Ina Garten’s simple solution to her double dark chocolate version of the same, I decided to combine the two in a brandy snifter topped with a cloud of whipped cream and crumbled pecan praline. Indeed, these swanky pudding snifters were yummy, easy, and refrigerated well so I didn’t have to spend my entire holiday slaving over the stove, but alas, the peanut butter cups of my youth they were not.
Everyone sitting around the tree claimed to be too full for the likes of dessert when I first passed round these suckers; then twenty minutes later, everyone in the room had emptied their glass. The recipe was a surefire holiday hit, a knockout actually, but I wasn’t content until I found a Christmas tree-shaped Reese’s treat in my stocking the next morning!
As I’ve admitted to before, I don’t purchase processed foods. I don’t support the corporate food giants who are poisoning our bodies, economies and ecology with their cheap alternatives to real food. But, in an effort to be nice and sensitive when presented with an imitation food product (coupled with an underlying desire to be naughty and salacious when I find myself seduced by the likes of Duncan Hines or Peter Pan), should someone offer me a culturally appalling, palette appealing, milk chocolate-peanut butter cup, who am I blow against the wind?
Santa, take that as a hint!
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pudding Cups (serves 8)
Your favorite Dark Chocolate Pudding recipe. Ina’s is mine.
Bon Appétit’s Peanut Butter Pudding recipe.
• 1 cup cold Heavy Cream
• 1 TB Powdered Sugar
• 1 cup Light Brown Sugar
• ½ cup Granulated Sugar
• 1/3 cup Half and Half
• 1 ½ TB Unsalted Butter
• 1 T Vanilla Extract
• 1 hefty dash Sea Salt
• 6 oz Pecan Halves
You can make the praline weeks in advance as long as it’s stored in an airtight container. Just grease a baking sheet with butter or cooking spray (or use a Silpat), and bring both sugars and the half and half to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Heavy metal pans always work best when caramelizing, so use the heaviest pan you’ve got, even if it’s bigger than medium, but adjust the heat accordingly so as not to burn your sugar. Whisk constantly till sugar dissolves. Continuing to whisk, turn down the heat and allow the caramel to simmer for 5 minutes. Then add the butter, vanilla and salt. I use high quality fleur de sel, and truth be told, I add more than a dash…I love the savory-sweet combo of salted caramel almost as much as chocolate-peanut butter, so I amp up my salt quantities to something closer to a ½ teaspoon.
After adding the butter, vanilla and salt, stop whisking and attach a candy thermometer to your pot. When it reaches 260 degrees (about 8 minutes later), remove from heat and immediately mix in pecans. Pour them out onto your greased baking sheet, spreading into a single layer, and allow them to cool completely. When the praline is hard, crumble it into bite-size pieces and store.
Follow instructions for your chosen peanut butter pudding recipe. Remove pudding from heat and evenly distribute among 8 small to medium sized brandy snifters. Refrigerate the snifters uncovered while making the chocolate pudding of your choice. After allowing the chocolate pudding to cool for about 5 minutes, retrieve the snifters from the fridge and spoon the chocolate pudding atop the peanut butter layer, once again being sure to evenly distribute the pudding. Return the uncovered snifters to the fridge until completely cooled (about 2 hours), after which, you can cover with saran wrap and continue to chill until ready to serve, for up to 3 days in advance.
When it’s time to dine, whip your cream à la minute, or right before serving. Simply combine the cold heavy cream with the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Using a pastry bag, pipe this topping into your snifters and garnish with crumbled pecan praline. Your holidays will be the happier for having done so!