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Everything you want to know about chocolate
It's no secret that I have a serious chocolate-peanut butter obsession. When considering an ice cream sundae post, without hesitation I thought, "Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Sundae...of course!" If you've never had this classic Friendly's creation, it's a towering behemoth of ice cream, chopped Reese's peanut butter cups, hot fudge sauce, and warm peanut butter topping—all topped off with a peanut butter cup stuck on the top. I blame Friendly's for a lot in my life, and this sundae of theirs contributed its fair share of damage. I spooned down countless parfait glasses of this particular sundae on my server breaks and I refused to take responsibility for pushing the stretch in my polyester uniform to the limit. I just couldn't help it, the combination of gooey chocolate fudge and molten sweet/salty peanut butter was too good to resist. Damn them.
Since I had already developed a hot fudge recipe, recreating this sundae would be a cinch. All I had to do was to score some peanut butter cups here in Singapore (they're a new arrival from the U.S. so I totally lucked out), and whip up a peanut butter sauce as close to Friendly's version as I could. Though it's been a while since I've indulged in one of these glorious diet-busting monstrosities, I trusted my taste bud memory would steer me right.
It took a few runs to get the sauce just right. Simple recipes of just peanut butter, sugar, and water were cloying and flat on flavor. Recipes with condensed milk cooked up to a strange smooth consistency that wasn't at all like I remembered. (Perfect peanut butter sauce should be just ever-so-slightly grainy).
I finally found a promising recipe that included cream, butter, and sugar (all good) but the corn syrup also made it too smooth. Subbing out the corn syrup with just sugar and water finally created the grainy texture I was after. The only thing that needed tweaking was the peanut butter flavor. As soon as I stirred the peanut butter into the hot liquid, it turned dark and took on an unpleasant cooked taste. Not what I remembered at all. I figured out that the only way to solve this was to not let the peanut butter get too hot—let the syrup mixture cool then whisk in the peanut butter. The peanut butter tasted good and fresh, and it stayed a tad grainy. After adding a pinch of salt I realized that it tasted exactly like the filling in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. You can't get any closer than that.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.