Weekend Project: How to Make Homemade Chocolate Nut Butter Cups
“It’s one of the easiest, sort of classic candies that you can make at home.”
Chocolate peanut butter cups might just be the best Halloween candy, but with the holiday pretty much cancelled this year, there isn’t really any reason to buy bags upon bags of candy. Instead, for a fun and safe Halloween activity, make your own nut butter cups at home. It’s easy, completely customizable, and might give Reese’s a run for their money.
First off, I’ve never made nut butter chocolate cups at home; tempering chocolate always seemed too intimidating and a peanut butter cup was always a short walk away from the local grocery store. But upon speaking with Katy Radtke, the product development manager at Theo, my hesitation loosened. Making nut butter cups, it turns out, can be really fun and also a perfect creative outlet.
“It’s one of the easiest, sort of classic candies that you can make at home which is awesome. And there are tons of variations you can do on them to really customize them to what you love,” Radtke explained. She should know -- as a product developer, she’s the person who has her hands in the kitchen crafting new recipes for Theo Chocolate before scaling her creations for nationwide launches. She’s worked on a lot of chocolate goodies. Though it’s fairly simple, Radtke does have a couple tips for candy makers at home.
Like I mentioned, working with chocolate usually means tempering it in some way. Radtke says you don’t have to do this step, but if you want that glossy finish and the nice snap you usually get from your favorite chocolate bars, then you should try it.
“There’s a method that you can do called the seeding method where you basically take a pound of chocolate and take 2/3s of that chocolate and melt it in the microwave or on a double boiler, get it all melted. Then you take the remaining third, chop it up into fine pieces, and gradually stir that into the melted chocolate,” Radtke said. “That helps to create the right structure until you hit the magic temperature -- which tends to be for our chocolate around 87 degrees.”
Tempering will help to avoid what is known as blooming in chocolate. If you’ve ever unwrapped a piece of chocolate and noticed a white film over it, that’s blooming. It’s completely safe to eat -- it just means that either the structure of the fat or sugar in the chocolate has been altered and the texture may not be as spot on.
Once the chocolate is silky and well-tempered, you’re going to want to start building your cups. You can use regular-sized cupcake wrappers or mini ones if you can find them. Spoon chocolate into the cups and spread the melted chocolate up the sides in an even layer to form the base of the shell.
“Another way you could do it is fill the cup all the way and then tip them over so it drains the excess out,” Radtke suggested. Silicon muffin wrappers tend to have better grip and structure, though the paper ones will work just as effectively.
Deciding on a filling
Once the chocolate shell has been set, it’s time to make your filling. If you’re going the classic peanut butter route, Radtke suggested sweetening your peanut butter. To do this, either mix the peanut butter with powdered sugar, honey, or your preferred liquid sweetener -- just avoid granulated or rock sugars, which will leave a gritty texture. And don’t forget: “Salt is really important. If you have the classic Reese’s peanut butter cup, they’re actually pretty salty. So make sure you put some salt in there,” Radtke said.
The great thing about making your own nut butter cups at home is how easily you can customize them. If you’re allergic to peanuts and have avoided classic Reese’s peanut butter cups, this is the perfect alternative. Fill your chocolate cups of choice with almond, sunflower, or any nut butter of preference. Better yet, get creative with your chocolates: infuse white chocolate with ground tea leaves or freezer-dried fruit -- everything is fair game, as long as you don’t mix a high-moisture ingredient with your chocolate, as that will cause it to seize.
“You can make whatever you want in terms of flavor. You can put cinnamon in there, you can make them as sweet or as savory as you want. I’ve seen savory nut butter cups which is a really fun concept,” Radtke said.
Once you’ve settled on a filling, either spoon your nut butter into the cups or fill a small ziploc bag, cut the corner, and gently pipe the filling. To finish it off, top your filling with more chocolate and allow your customized cup to set (use the fridge to expedite this last step).
Making my own nut butter cup
After talking with Radtke, I had visions of matcha-flavored chocolate with red bean filling, white chocolate with lemon curd, dark chocolate mixed with instant espresso powder and stuffed with almond butter. Unfortunately, my pantry was not conducive to these recipes, so I settled on a dark chocolate cup with honeyed peanut butter and strawberry-peach jam filling.
I used Radtke’s suggested seeding method, microwaving two-thirds of a bar of dark chocolate I’d been saving in my fridge and finely chopping the rest. The result was a fairly easy and glossy tempered chocolate.
From there, I spooned the dark chocolate into paper cupcake wrappers since I did not have mini or silicon ones. It was a bit tricky to maneuver, as the chocolate is sticky, so the bottom and walls of my cup weren’t the most even -- but it detracts nothing from the flavor, so I didn’t mind.
I let the shells chill in the fridge; as that was happening, I mixed peanut butter with honey until it was a perfect balance, to me, of sweet and nutty. With the bottoms of my peanut butter cups solidified, I gently dolloped the peanut butter mixture into each cup and topped the peanut butter with a thin layer of store-bought jam. To finish it off, I buried the fillings in more dark chocolate and let them harden in the fridge.
The result was a gooey, chocolatey, and nostalgic delight that took no more than 15 minutes to create from start to finish (though I only made 2 cups -- if you’re creating a whole tray, it will certainly take longer but the results will be well-worth the time spent). For future nut butter cups using my honey, peanut butter, and jam filling, I think I’ll add flaky salt to offset all the sweetness.
Regardless, this is a fun, creative project that left me with a sense of accomplishment and a perfect post-dinner treat. It’s the ideal weekend project to make leading up to Halloween with limitless possibilities. Craft these cups with your family, friends, or solo -- which just means more nut butter cups for you.
Peanut Butter & Jelly Cups
Makes ~24 Mini Cups
1. Place 24 paper or silicon mini muffin liners on a sheet tray. Set aside.
2. **Place chopped chocolate in a medium glass bowl. Gently melt the chocolate in the microwave (15 second spurts, stirring in between) or on a double boiler, heating just until the chocolate is evenly melted.
3. Drop approximately one teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of each muffin liner, and use the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate up the sides of each cup in an even, thin layer. Add more chocolate, if needed, to thoroughly coat the inside of each liner. Move the chocolate-lined cups to the refrigerator to set.
4. In the meantime, mix together the peanut butter and honey in a small bowl. Set aside.
5. Remove the chocolate-lined mini cups from the refrigerator. Drop approximately ¼ teaspoon of raspberry jam into the bottom of each cup. Tap the tray a few times to encourage the jam to spread evenly and to remove any air bubbles.
Top the jam layer with approximately 1 teaspoon of peanut butter filling, being careful that the filling does not rise higher than the edge of the muffin liner. Once again, tap the tray a few times to encourage the peanut butter to spread evenly and to remove any air bubbles.
6. Top each cup with remaining melted chocolate, making sure no pockets of peanut butter filling are visible. Sprinkle the top of each cup generously with sea salt.
7. Move cups to the refrigerator to set completely before enjoying. Mini peanut butter & jelly cups can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
** Want a shiny & snappy chocolate shell? See the chocolate tempering instructions below. You just need a digital thermometer and some arm strength.
1. Place 6oz of the chopped 45% milk chocolate in a medium glass bowl. Gently melt using a double boiler, heating just until the chocolate is evenly melted. Remove from the heat. At this point, you want your chocolate to be 105 degrees Fahrenheit. If too hot, stir gently until the target temperature is reached.
2. Add the remaining 3oz of chopped chocolate and stir until all chocolate pieces are evenly melted. At this point, you want the chocolate to be approximately 84 degrees Fahrenheit. If too cold, place the bowl over your simmering water, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is up to temperature and all the chopped chocolate has melted. If too hot, stir gently until the target temperature is reached. Your chocolate is now ready to use.
Notes: If the chocolate in your bowl starts to set up before you are finished making your cups, place the bowl over the double boiler once again, stirring gently to reheat. Make sure you do not bring the temperature past your 84F target, or your chocolate will no longer be in temper. Note that different chocolate types are in-temper at different temperatures. These instructions only apply to Theo 45% Milk Chocolate.