George is like a character you'd find in a fiction novel. He has the quirks of someone made up, except I work with him at Trader Joes demo station in my non-fiction life. He has a curly ponytail, thick glasses, wears shorts year-round, loves beer, does not own a car, cell phone or computer, speaks of the internet like it's something from space. He prefers people at work (both customers and employees) to call him "The Sheriff" and when the song Wild Wild West comes on in the store, he does a little dance complete with his fingers shaped like guns drawn from his make believe holsters, and boogies around the sample station. I can't make this stuff up. If you're not familiar, Trader Joes has a sample station where people come to try a product, and I work the morning shifts after George has worked there the night before. He likes to chat, and to encourage the company of other employees to come talk, he always opens a box of the dark chocolate peanut butter cups. It's like pigeons and breadcrumbs - he opens those up and people flock. When I follow his shift the next morning, there are usually a couple left for me. I've gotten so used to it now that I get sad when there aren't any left under the table. The more people catch on to his secret stash, the less there are to feed my habit at 7 a.m. This is probably a good problem, but I set out to make my own anyway. As far as candy goes, I knew I could make them a little more virtuous at home.
Hugh and I are coming out of a hot cocoa and whipping cream phase and now these almond butter cups are the treat of choice. They are the perfect amount of sweet and rich with the dark chocolate, while the salt on top brightens up the morsel just right. If you're still looking for a Valentine's Day gift or treat to share, these honestly could not be simpler to make and they taste charmingly homemade.
DARK CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER CUPS // Makes 12-14 minis or 6 full sized cups
I fiddled around with this recipe based on a current affinity for the dark chocolate PB cups at Trader Joes and applied some tips from Alana Chernila of The Homemade Pantry. You could use any nut butter you choose, but note that the amount of natural oil will vary by type and brand. The honey and powdered sugar help the nut butter sieze up, so use your judgement and add a bit more if needed. It should be firm enough to roll in a ball, press down and easily hold that shape. Because I know someone will ask, I suppose you could use all honey and no powdered sugar, just expect a more tender center.I use these muffin liners. They look nice and peel away beautifully from the candy.
- 7 oz. dark chocolate (not to exceed 70%)
- 1/2 cup natural almond butter
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. fine grain salt
- sea salt flakes for topping
Break up the chocolate and melt in a double boiler (a pot of simmering water with a bowl resting on top). Stir to make sure it is perfectly smooth.
Set out the liners in a mini muffin tin, this helps them hold shape. Spoon about a teaspoon of the chocolate into the bottom. Tilt and twist it around so the chocolate coats the side of the liner and rest it back in the tin. Repeat with remaining papers. Mix the almond butter, honey, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt together until smooth to make the filling. Scoop out a tsp. of the almond butter filling and gently roll it into a ball between your palms. Give it a press down and center it on top of the thin chocolate puddle. Repeat. Spoon chocolate, about another tsp., on top of each almond butter ball to cover completely. You may need to add a few drops more to get the chocolate to level above the bump of the almond butter. Sprinkle a teensy pinch of flaked sea salt on each one and chill in the fridge to set.
They can be kept in a covered container at room temperature or fridge.