Temptation Peanut Butter Cups
I had a request for this recipe, and since I was typing it, I thought I might as well type it into a journal entry. These are "cookies" I make with some regularity at Christmas, though they are by no means a Christmas-like cookie. That’s just when the spirit of frenzied baking seems to hit me, and that’s when they happen. Below is the official recipe.
by Ann (Sporleder) Jackson
found in Memories from Immanuel Lutheran Church, Lidderdale, Iowa, 125th Anniversary/Fundraiser edition
1/2 c. oleo
1/2 peanut butter
1/2 white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 c flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 bag mini Reese’s peanut butter cups
Mix all ingredients, except peanut butter cups . Roll into 1 inch balls. Place in ungreased miniature muffin tins. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Take from oven and press peanut butter cups into middle until top shows. Let cool before removing from muffin tin. Cool on wire racks. Makes about four dozen.
These freeze well.
The above is the unadulterated recipe, but stay tuned for my notes and modifications. First, though, I must wax briefly over my love of church and local community cookbooks. These are what I was taught to cook from, and I love them because of the culture they carry, because of their simplicity and practicality, and sometimes because they are dated and/or impenetrable. My favorites are the ones with no real measurements or things that say, "Bake in hot oven until done." Some are very, very old, translated (or not) from pioneer great-great grandmothers. Some are cringe-worthy artifacts of Campbell’s soup ad campaigns to turn simple dishes into preservative and fat-laden monstrosities. Some are so strange only a starving farmer would eat them. But some are gems, the sorts of things you could only find in small town cookbooks.
I love this one because it is a marriage of everything. It is simple and adaptable and not really fancy, but the fussiness of the baking tins and the unwrapping of the peanut butter cups seems to fit Christmas. (I can’t bear to make them any other time because they are work and fancy, and I was raised that This Was Not Done. Now, if someone special were coming, that would be different. But for everyday? NEVER.) Of course, they really aren’t fancy, unless you are from small Germanic towns in eastern Iowa. But I digress.
My first modification on this one is that I use salted butter instead of "oleo." I’m not sure how far out in culinary culture "oleo" translates: my grandmother taught me at the age of five that "oleo" was margarine and/or Crisco. In the 80s butter was old-fashioned and bad for you, so we used the other. My grandmother to this day favors a mix of Crisco and margarine sticks. Personally, I always use butter. There’s less bizarre stuff in it, and the "oleo" is no better for you. I like the flavor and the richness of butter, and if you’re eating a cookie, you’re already going to hell. Go in a Cadillac.
You can probably use unsalted butter, and I’m sure there are solid culinary reasons for this. For some reason unsalted butter feels too posh for me. I already feel like I’m being flash by using butter. Besides, I like salt. So in it goes.
The other thing I do is that I chill the dough. I just realize now for the first time that you don’t have to, according to the recipe, but I have always done so, as far as I remember. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I prep dough one day and bake when I can work it in. Also, I only own one mini muffin tin, and have to do this in three batches, including cooling time. (Owning more than one mini-muffin tin for cookies I only make once a year, again, feels too posh.)
So, I start this gig by mixing the dough and chilling it for an hour or so at least, but I’ve left it in the fridge cumulatively for three or four days and it’s been fine. When I’m ready to bake, I heat the oven and start prepping the pan. I spray the thing with cooking spray because I don’t trust my muffin tin, or the cookies. I roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and drop them in, and when the oven’s ready, in they go. While it’s baking, I unwrap twelve cups and have them on standby. (Tip–be damn sure you have all the papers off, including the bonus ones the factory sometimes puts on them. There’s nothing worse than a Reese’s cookie with a bunch of paper between you and the melty-chocolate.) The cookies need to be done, but not brown. They fluff up a bit, turning into lovely little poochy-things in the oven, but don’t let them brown. I like to wait until they aren’t shiny, and then out they come. IMMEDIATELY press the cups into the center until the whole business is roughly level with the surface of the tin.
The recipe says both "let cool before removing from muffin tin" and "cool on wire racks." Forget the racks. Put the thing somewhere out of the way, somewhere cool/cold if you can manage it, and walk away for hours. In winter mine go on our screen-in porch on the picnic table hibernating there for the winter, and usually I can retrieve them in an hour or so, depending on how cold it is here. If it’s not cold, you’re just going to have to be patient. So if you are comfortable with posh, two and maybe even three muffin tins will be required, either that or a lot of advance planning, because these take awhile.
Once they’re cool–as in, the chocolate is completely reformed and solid–use a knife to loose then cups and shimmy them out. This is where you realize your walnuts need to be more conservative than generous, because if you have excess cookie dough in the tin, it’s going to crumble now. Resign yourself in advance to having a few unsightly cookies that are either lopsided or break upon removal. (These generally go to my husband, who is only too happy to dispose of them.)
I have never in my life had these make a full four dozen, but then, I’ve never met a recipe that didn’t either lie or beg to be modified.
And thus endeth the tale of Temptation Peanut Butter Cups. May you bake and eat them in good health (though if you eat them too often, your health, alas, will not last.)