meet me in purgatory strawberry buttercreams

It’s finally Spring, can you believe it? Yeah me neither. So long cold, dark and please don’t make me get out from under these nice warm covers days of Winter. Hello sunny, bright and full of possibility days of Spring. 

The past six months have been a whirlwind. I’ve been so busy with work, life and family that I haven’t been able to properly focus on blogging or even cooking for that matter, and that’s been a real disappointment to me. The older I get the more clearly I’ve come to realize that life is far too short to live in a state of disappointment. So… I‘ve decide to embrace the renewal, rebirth and revitalized spirit of Spring and to find time for the little things that bring me the greatest satisfaction. To get up a bit early just to have some quiet time to drink coffee on the deck, to putter around in the garden rather than spend the time straightening up the house and to cook (and blog) far more often. It won’t be easy but in my experience anything worth doing often requires a bit of extra effort. I’m approaching this venture determined to just stop and slow down. As I was making this personal declaration a friend happened to post this tweet: “People who insist on making homemade Easter candy will never be welcome in the kingdom of heaven.” After I finished laughing I decided to take this as a sign that the universe wanted me to make a little Easter candy. And so I did.

In my mind Easter is synonymous with chocolate. Not jelly beans, marshmallow chicks or cream eggs. Nope, for me its all about chocolate. In the past I’ve made peanut butter cups and chocolate almond bark. I’ve dipped fresh cherries and tangerine segments in dark chocolate and I’ve made simple chocolate lollipops. This time around I wanted to make something a bit more extravagant. This time I wanted to make something that tasted fresh like the season. This time I wanted candy so good it would redeem me from my months of lack luster cooking. So this time I made chocolates filled with homemade strawberry buttercream. And they were delicious— Kingdom of heaven be damned.

Strawberry Buttercream Chocolates
I used Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries for this recipe. They also sell freeze-dried blueberries and raspberries, which would no doubt also make a delicious filling.

strawberry creams

1  1.2 oz package freeze-dried strawberries
1 cup powered sugar
pinch salt
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp. heavy cream
3 4 oz. bars bittersweet or dark chocolate
special equipment: silicone candy mold

  1. Place the candy mold in the refrigerator to chill. Pour the strawberries into the bowl of a food processor (being sure to remove the silica packet) and process to a fine powder. Add the powdered sugar and pulse a few times before adding the salt, butter and cream. Turn the food processor on and allow to process until the mixture gathers into a loose ball, this takes a little time so be patient.
  2. Wrap the ball of filling in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill while you melt the chocolate.
  3. Break up the chocolate and use a double-boiler (or a glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water) to melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. When the chocolate is totally melted and smooth remove from heat.
  4. Remove the chilled mold from the refrigerator and fill each opening halfway with chocolate (I used a little paint brush to spread the chocolate up the sides.) Place the filled mold back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set.
  5. Remove the chocolate mold and the wrapped filling from the refrigerator. Pinch off a 1/2 teaspoon sized piece of filling, roll it into a ball and carefully press it into each of the set chocolates. Cover the filling with additional chocolate (you may need to warm it again) filling each mold to the top. Place the filled mold back in the fridge to chill until firm, about 1 hour.
  6. Carefully pop finished chocolates out of mold and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cups— Yum!

I grew up with a mother who was “crunchy and all natural” way before it was the thing to do. She frequented the local farm for fresh goats milk, would only buy whole wheat bread, plain yogurt and all natural peanut butter. And don’t even get me started on our summer of carob! My mother was the queen of healthy and homemade, for better or worse. She refused to buy junk food, but didn’t want to deny me the joys of childhood gluttony so she would make homemade devil dogs, whoopie pies and popcorn balls. My friends loved it. I on the other hand longed for nothing more than Wonder Bread, Skippy Peanut Butter and Lucky Charms. Seriously, if it was full of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and red dye no. 2 then it was for me!

So isn’t it ironic that I turned out to be the type of wife and mother who makes everything from scratch. Who has a running tab at Whole Foods and would sooner serve my kids sawdust than Skippy. (Yes, my mother is enjoying a nice chuckle over this.) Luckily, my family thinks it’s wonderful that I can make donuts, candy and various other treats that rival the mass-produced variety. But I’m sure my Lucky Charms Day will come!

Anyhow back to the point… My husband just recently celebrated his birthday. And while I made him a chocolate cream pie (that blog post will come later), we sang to him and he blew out the candles, the poor dear ended up being away for business on his actual birthday. I didn’t want him to feel like his birthday had passed unnoticed, so I decided to do something special for him upon his return. The question was what? Well, he happens to LOVE peanut butter cups, they’re his all time favorite candy. So there was my answer, I would make him homemade peanut butter cups. They can’t be the hard to recreate, right?!?

It turns out they’re not hard to make at all, they just take a little time. (And since I can’t be bothered to attempt anything that seems too easy, this wasn’t a problem for me.) The final product was really fantastic, way better than Hershey’s could ever make, and much loved and enjoyed by my whole family.

But the real question is: Would my juvenile self have approved of these homemade treats? It hard to say for sure, but they were so tasty that I imagine an 8-year-old me would gobble them up without complaint.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups
If you have a peanut butter and chocolate lover in your life you must try these!

For the chocolate shell:
8 oz. 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
a pinch of salt

For the peanut butter filling:
3/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
a pinch of salt

  1. Prepare a mini muffin tin with liners and set aside. Use a double-boiler (or a microwave) to melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. When the chocolate is totally melted and smooth remove from heat.
  2. Place 1 teaspoon of melted chocolate in each cupcake liner. Carefully spread it with a the back of a small measuring spoon around the liner and 3/4 of the way up the sides. Repeat with the remaining liners.
  3. Place the chocolate-covered liners into the freezer to firm up, for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the peanut butter filling: Stir together the peanut butter, sugar and salt.
  5. When the chocolate cups are firm, spoon 1 heaping half teaspoon of peanut butter paste into each chocolate cup.
  6. Top with 2 teaspoons melted chocolate, spreading carefully so that none of the peanut butter can be seen.
  7. Let the cups firm up in fridge for at least one hour before indulging. These babies soften up very quickly, so store any remaining peanut butter cups (and believe me, there won’t be many) in fridge.

*adapted from the sweetest kitchen