The statistics are staggering. Sixteen million Americans eat five or more Reese’s peanut butter cups per year. That’s 80 million peanut butter cups! And this doesn’t include the number of peanut butter cups consumed throughout the world. Why just in France alone, many of the more chic groceries and supermarkets have a little section of “foreign foods” where Reese’s Peanut Butter cups take center state.
Did Mr. H.B. Reese know his iconic candy, first made in his basement with a “secret” blend of peanut butter filling and milk chocolate coating, would rise to such popularity? He must have. A dairy man who worked for The Hershey Company, Mr. Reese started tinkering with his own candies using Hershey’s chocolate as a base. He created the H.B. Reese Candy Company and released the first peanut butter cups in 1928. They were called “Penny Cups” then because they sold for a penny apiece.
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The success of the peanut butter cup allowed Mr. Reese to quit his job at The Hershey Company to focus full-time on his own candies. While he had success with others, it was the peanut butter cup that sustained the company. The rest is pretty much history. In the 1960’s, The Hershey Company bought the company from the Reese family because of the peanut butter cups’ popularity, and since then have spun off countless versions (including a “healthy” breakfast cereal) of this popular confection.
Special Way to Eat a Peanut Butter Cup
The peanut butter cup was my favorite candy as a child. There was a particular way to eat one: nibble off the chocolate around the edge, then dive into the center, now a sandwich of milk chocolate, peanut butter, and whatever the secret Reese’s ingredient was (sugar? Vanilla? Powdered milk?). When we lived in Europe, we couldn’t get Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and I would die for them until we returned.
The idea of the Reese’s Peanut Butter cup is still dear to me, though I’ve noticed over the years that either my palate or the composition of the peanut butter cup has changed and they aren’t as satisfying as they once were.
Decided to Make My Own
The change in quality of the peanut butter cup was a minor event in my life but it nonetheless worked on me, so I decided to make my own. There were many attempts to get that perfect filling texture – a little crumbly, a lot peanutty – and I gradually succeeded to my own satisfaction. It turns out they please others, too, and I’ve learned that people will genuflect and promise fealty (even if you don’t ask for it), at the promise of a homemade peanut butter cup.
Peanut Butter Cup Fealty
So I make them every year at the holidays. And every year I am astounded anew at how many people love them. There is no class nor age distinction, nor it turns out, any cultural one either. French, American, Brazilian, Finnish, Senegalese, Swedish, Czech…the list goes on of those who love the peanut butter cup.
Just for You
I leave it to the big guns – The Hershey Company – to tempt the world. Here, I tempt only you. Make these for your peanut loving friends. And as you savor them I have a fun fact for you – it appears the peanut is from South American and that the Incas may have been the first people to make peanut butter. They also had chocolate on their hands. So, we think Mr. Reese was the creator of the peanut butter cup, but who really knows for certain?!
Peanut Butter Cups
- 12 ounces (340g) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 3 ounces (90g) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (125g) salted peanut butter
- 5 to 6 tablespoons (53 to 60g) confectioners’ sugar or to taste
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or to taste
- Set 30 small paper cups (that measure about 4.5 x 3 cm; 1.75 x 1.25 inch) on a baking sheet.
- In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolates until smooth stirring from time to time. When the chocolates are melted, remove from the heat.
- Pour the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle, and keep the bottle in hot – not boiling - water.
- Squeeze enough chocolate into the bottom of each cup to cover the bottom by about 1/8-inch. Place the cups in the fridge until the chocolate is firm, then remove from the fridge.
- While the chocolate is chilling, mix the peanut butter, about 5 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, and a dash of vanilla extract until smooth. Taste for seasoning; if you want more sugar, add more sugar, ibid for the vanilla. If the mixture is VERY dry, you can add a touch of unsalted butter to make it slightly more smooth.
- Roll out the filling into ½-inch (1.25cm) logs. Cut the logs into about ½-inch (1.25cm) lengths.
- When the chocolate is hardened, place a peanut butter “log” into each cup. You can flatten them slightly if you like.
- Squeeze enough chocolate into each cup to completely cover the peanut filling, making sure that it seeps around the sides. You can smooth out the chocolate using a small spoon or chopstick, if you want to, but generally they manage to settle in well on their own. If you need more chocolate, simply melt more.
- Let the peanut butter cups sit in a cool place, to harden. You can put them in the fridge, but they don’t need refrigeration.