Peanut butter cups and a ganache-trophe

I’ve been making a mess of something easy in the kitchen just for a change.  I had a go at peanut butter cups and inadvertently provided an opportunity to test my ability to act fast.  This was hard, it’s not something that comes naturally to me.  If there’s one thing I can always rely on to cause me a little bit of trouble in the kitchen it’s a ganache.  Especially when I don’t realise that’s what I’m making until it’s way too late. 

I was planning to make peanut butter cups but for one reason or another they ended up being twice as big as they should have, so they came out more like mugs.  I’ll get back to that but first let’s talk ganache.  If you’re reading this thinking ‘what the blinking heck is ganache?’ then let me tell you.  Ganache is usually a mixture of chocolate and cream, butter or cocoa butter (or in my case cocoa powder and coconut oil) and is used to make truffles and icing and to fill and cover cakes.  It’s simple to make (or so I’m led to believe) but what most recipes don’t tell you is what can go wrong and how you can fix it.  But don’t let that put you off.  It’s not put me off and it goes wrong for me ALL the time.  Here’s a good summary of what you can do with ganache and how it works:

This is the story of my journey to a ganache-trophe.  First of all, for all my planning and organising, I didn’t have enough cocoa powder for the recipe I was using (plus the extra I inevitably needed: see second point).  And so, rather than going to buy some more, I made do with hot chocolate I had in the cupboard.  It worked in principle but probably made the PB cups much sweeter than they were supposed to be because hot chocolate has sugar added……

Second, I forgot to reserve some of the ganache for creating the second layer of chocolate.  The anatomy of a peanut butter cup is usually as follows: a layer of chocolate followed by a blob of peanut butter with a chocolate layer on the top.  My inner monologue went like this: ‘Wow! I seem to have loads of chocolate left.  Well, ok, lets just put a bit more in each cup.  Oh, Ok, go on then, a bit more.  That is a lot left over. Ok I’ll make 10 instead of 9’.  It was only when I’d blobbed the peanut butter in the cups that I realised my catastrophic error.  I admit, there was some mild panic before I decided to make another batch of ganache.  This is the reason my peanut butter cups turned into mugs, which also resulted in me rushing (impatience, speed and rough handling do not make for a good ganache), which contributed to the ganache splitting which leads nicely onto…….

Third, the ganache.  I don’t really know where to start with this one.  I’ve never made a successful ganache on the first go.  There is so much that can go wrong and I know this because something, everything always goes wrong.  I’m not claiming to be an expert (have you read the title of this post?!) but I’ve had plenty of opportunity to hone my ganache fixing skills.  I won’t go into it here but if you want some info on what can go wrong and how to fix it then check out Harold McGee on Food and Cooking, The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook and the Culinary Institute of America Chocolates and Confections.  These are the sources I turn to in my hour of need and that’s just for starters!

The recipe I used required the use of cocoa powder and coconut oil rather than chocolate and cream.  It didn’t really occur to me at the time but the coconut oil brings it’s own flavour to the mix.  Since my attempt, I had a look through some other PB cup recipes to compare and found that others use single cream and chocolate (familiar territory – I would have known I was making ganache had the recipe required cream and chocolate).  And one recipe doesn’t use any fat at all; just chocolate and peanut butter.  There’s lots of recipes out there and, as with my meringue attempt (Meringues: not so challenging? It turned out that yes they are challenging) I’m reluctant to provide the recipe I used because mine didn’t quite work out how I wanted.  The first layer of chocolate was firm with little bubbles in it but I don’t think it was supposed to have bubbles.  And the second chocolate layer, because I had to fix it (which required hob time) had a chewy soft caramel like texture.  All delicious and all perfectly edible just not what I was hoping for.  Back to the drawing board!

If you have a fail-safe idiot proof ganache recipe or any tips then please do let me know because I need all the help I can get with this one. Thanks!


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