Sometimes I think back to the bag lunch days, when I totally took my parents making my lunch for granted. Silly kid!
First of all, I hated leftovers. I don’t think we had microwaves in our school cafeteria to heat anything up, so I guess that makes it a bit more understandable. Or maybe we did and it was just uncool to use them? I do remember in high school that it was very uncool to bring lunch in any container that wasn’t disposable. And that was obviously super important. Tupperwares were OUT, brown paper bags were IN.
Second of all, I was really upset by the lack of variety in my school lunches. It was basically either a PB&J or a turkey, cheese and lettuce roll-up. Never mind the fact that my dad woke up early to make those lunches for years and was probably not feeling too creative at 6 am. Or that making only things that can travel in plastic wrap or a Ziploc bag is pretty restrictive. I think he just made whatever we complained about the least. Come to think of it, it’s amazing I had two options!
But my dad is a PB&J master. He made so many of those sandwiches that he didn’t just have it down to a science, he had it down to an art. He spread a thick layer of peanut butter on one side plus a thin sealant of peanut butter on the opposite side, so that the jam didn’t make the bread as soggy. Instead of spreading the jam evenly all over that side, he formed it into two pockets so that it didn’t ooze out when it was cut in half. He may have even scraped off a line of peanut butter where he was going to cut it in half. The man is a master! And an engineer… in case this paragraph didn’t give it away.
I’ve recently been pretty obsessed with the peanut butter and jelly combo. Not for lunch – I passed my lifetime quota of PB&J sandwiches way back when Dad was making them – but for breakfast and dessert! PB&J oatmeal is one of my favorites, and recently, so are these PB&J chocolate cups. For dessert… not breakfast. Although it’s always dessert time somewhere, right?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sneak a few out of the fridge after my run the other morning. #sorrynotsorry
Peanut butter & jelly are such a natural fit in these chocolate cups that I’m surprised I haven’t seen the combo more often. They were inspired by a Trader Joe’s chocolate bar that I (somehow) passed up in the checkout line. Who am I kidding, I ALWAYS have to go for the coconut caramel and sea salt there! But despite not buying the bar, I was intrigued, and decided I’d have to make my own version.
This is another one of those recipes that has been, ahem, thoroughly tested. So let me share my extremely scientific findings with you:
– Milk chocolate is better in this recipe than dark chocolate. Thanks to Reese’s peanut butter cups (my favorite childhood candy!), I think the milk chocolate and peanut butter candy combo is stored somewhere deep in the “what tastes good” area of my brain. I tried to do these with dark chocolate, but sometimes you just can’t mess with nostalgia. And between the PB&J and the milk chocolate and peanut butter cups, these guys are all kinds of nostalgic.
– Writing a recipe with peanut butter is one of the hardest things, because they are all SO different in terms of saltiness, sweetness, and texture. So use whatever peanut butter you have on hand, but just know that I used a coarsely ground peanut butter that started as just peanuts. If you’re using a “peanut butter spread,” you probably want to dial back or even totally eliminate the maple syrup and salt.
– Do you have to add the maple syrup if you’re using unsweetened PB? In my humble opinion… yes. I tried it without and… yes, yes you just do.
– Jam selection! Use whatever tastes the most like a PB&J to you. For me that’s raspberry all the way! I recommend a smooth jam over a chunky one. I tried these with a chunky apricot jam and they came out looking all kinds of lumpy.
– I recommend putting the layer of PB in first, then the jam. This helps the tops to look smoother.
– If the tops of your cups aren’t coming out smooth, heat your chocolate in the microwave for 10 more seconds, then give it a good stir. Also, knock the muffin tin against the counter or your hand to help flatten them out.
– I do recommend placing the mini cupcake liners in a muffin tin, rather than just on a plate. The cups hold their shape better this way, and it’s easy to knock them around to smooth them out, as described above. Much harder to do if you have a loose plate of them.
So much chocolate PB&J wisdom! Seriously though, I made many more batches of these than I ever planned on. The type of thing where you make a batch at night to photograph when it’s light out the next day… and then the next day you have to start from scratch again. Tell me I’m not alone?
On the plus side, all the
taste testing recipe testing was great for using up peanut butter. I’m now done to only 3 kinds! That’s down from 5… I have a problem.
The solution to that problem is probably PB&Js til I drop. Time to perfect Dad’s technique!
- 5-6 oz high quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (the kind with peanuts as the only ingredient)
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 3-4 Tbsp raspberry jam
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Line a mini cupcake tin with mini cupcake liners. Give each cup a little spray with baking spray.
- Microwave chopped chocolate in 30-second increments until melted, stirring in between. Scoop one teaspoon of melted chocolate into each cup.
- Stir together peanut butter, maple syrup, and salt. (I like to warm the peanut butter in the microwave to make this easier.) Taste and adjust - it should be pretty sweet.
- Using a 1/2 teaspoon, scoop little spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture into the center of each cup of chocolate. (Depending on the peanut butter you're using, the mixture may be smooth enough to drizzle.)
- Top each cup with a scant teaspoon of the raspberry jam. Place in the freezer to cool and harden for 5 minutes before continuing.
- If necessary, microwave the remaining chocolate again until smooth. Top up each cup with a teaspoon of chocolate. Jiggle the tin around to get the tops smooth and bang it against the counter a few times. Sprinkle with sea salt and return to the freezer to harden.
- Now time to sample! These cups are best enjoyed straight from the fridge.