Treats Without Tricks

To the sugar-crazed youth of America, Halloween must be one of the most highly anticipated days of the year. After all, what could be better than dressing in some crazy garb, going out in the dark of night (or mid-afternoon), and getting free candy from any house you stop at? Kids have all the luck on this one magical evening, and the world is their oyster… But once you hit a certain age, this sort of parading about becomes unacceptable, and you are forced to hang up your treat bag for good. I for one am particularly nostalgic about the ritual of trick-or-treating, but now that I am past that age and also unable to eat 95% of the dairy- and egg-laden morsels that are bound to be collected, there’s simply no turning back.

However, even in my prime as an avid candy hunter, there was something about this whole trick-or-treating business that just didn’t sit right with me. After all, who made these rules about only using hermetically sealed, vacuum packed treats made from giant machines that ended up being about as tasty as chemically-treated plastic? Wouldn’t it be even better if these treats were actually… Well… A treat to receive, not just another brand name product found in every supermarket and gas station around? How I begged to hand out homemade candy to the youngsters in costumes in later years, watching them come and go while I remained home. But no, that simply wouldn’t be safe; We all know about the “dangers” of adulterated Halloween candy already, so attempting to pass out something homemade, with real ingredients?! Simply reprehensible!

So perhaps it’s the trick-or-treaters who are missing out, because I’ve decided that I’ll still make my own simple sweets this year, but I’ll only be treating my friends- You know, for the sake of “safety.” And the labor involved in making them is certainly nothing to fear, as these chocolate morsels are so quick and easy, you could decide to make them only an hour before guests arrive for a Halloween soirée.

Who doesn’t love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate? A great classic, based on a classic candy but reinvented with quality ingredients. Besides, when you make them yourself, they can be dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. Don’t feel you need to stop there though, because any sort of nut butter would work just as well and perhaps even raise the bar in terms of sophistication. Think of almonds, hazelnuts, or pistachios instead, and this childhood favorite can morph into grown-up indulgence. But let’s say you have some picky guests coming over, or have to cater to someone with severe nut allergies. Never fear, because there are other options…

Simply rework the filling and you’ve got yourself a peppermint patty instead, containing absolutely no common allergens! An intensely minty center enrobed in a dark, decadent chocolate shell should satisfy even the most discerning chocolate or candy connoisseur.  But if chocolate’s not your thing for one reason or another, no need to fret- You can also substitute carob chips instead!

This recipe will make one dozen peppermint patties and one dozen peanut butter cups, so if you only want one of the two for your party, go ahead and double the recipe for that filling.

Chocolate Candy Cups

1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Peanut Butter:
1/2 Cup Creamy Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
Splash Vanilla Extract

Peppermint:
1/3 Cup Vegetable Shortening
2/3 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/2 – 3/4 Teaspoon Peppermint Extract (depending on desired intensity)
Splash Vanilla Extract

For both treats, begin by melting you chocolate in the microwave 30 – 60 seconds at a time, and stir thoroughly until completely smooth. Use a spoon, thin spatula, or paint brush to brush the melted chocolate over the insides of paper mini muffin cups, making sure to leave no holes and spread it as evenly as possible. No need to go crazy though, because even if the walls are too thin and break when removed from the wrapper, I doubt anyone will mind after they take a bite! You will only use about 1/2 – 3/4 of the chocolate, so set the rest aside for later. Place the chocolate-covered papers into mini muffin tins so that they retain their shape, and let them cool and set completely. You can speed up this process by placing the tins in your refrigerator (or on the windowsill like I did- It suddenly got cold out!)

To make the peanut butter filling, just stir together the peanut butter, sugar, and vanilla until completely homogeneous and toss the mixture into the microwave for 30 – 45, just to warm it through and liquefy slightly. Give it another good stir to combine everything again, and drop dollops of the filling into your prepared chocolate cups. Be careful not to rub the sides too much so as not to melt the chocolate, and fill each up to about 2 – 3 mm from the top. Let the filling cool completely.

To make the peppermint filling, place the shortening into a bowl and microwave it briefly until just melted. Add in the sugar and both extracts and stir everything together until smooth. Drop the mixture into the cups as described above for the peanut butter cups, and let cool.

Finally, take out the remaining chocolate and melt it back down into a liquid state. Spoon the chocolate onto each of the filled cups and spread it out to the edges to fill in any gaps. Let it cool once again until set, and enjoy your ghoulish goodies with friends!

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