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Making the Most of the Filling

Holiday Reese's Cups are always better than the classic because the differentiated shapes leave room for more filling - they are creamier and packed with even more of the nostalgic sweet peanut butter flavor I have come to know and love. I almost never eat peanut butter if it is not mixed with chocolate and in a bright orange wrapper. The nut on its own is always too bitter, but in candy form like this, I just cannot resist it. Fortunately, there are many holidays with, dare I say, logos of which to take advantage, so I have numerous opportunities to indulge in this guilty pleasure - Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. Therefore, from October through April, more than half the year, I have immediate access to the speediest way to liven my spirits when I am down. For the other five months of the year, let's just hope I stocked up on all the deals the day after the holiday (secret shopping special - now you won't be able to pay the expensive, full price for themed candy again either!) so that I would never be without my favorite candy.

Sadly, I did not have a stash lying around this year, and for all of quarantine, I have been without my beloved Reese's and having major withdrawal. Which is why I decided to fashion my own Reese's-inspired snack in preparation for Halloween this week - I just could not wait anymore! But before I got started, I remembered that I am trying to be more mindful about my unhealthy eating habits, and candy definitely falls into this category with all of its refined sugar. When there is a will there is a way though, and after a little bit of thinking, I came up with a strategy that would not include bad ingredients and yet would even incorporate more of my favorite elements of chocolate candy, really making this treat as fulfilling as I hoped it would be.

Of course, I started with the peanut butter filling. I added some salt, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice for the fall and sweetened it with just a touch of maple syrup because I also was going to include raspberry preserves. The natural sweetness from the raspberries would add the extra punch I craved, along with another layer of fruitiness to add more depth, balance, and texture (having never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before, I now realize why people like them so much!). But I desired even more texture - I am a huge fan of feuilletine and treats filled with Rice Crispies - and for that matter, Reese's Cups filled with Reese's Pieces. I am a huge fan of a soft crunch in desserts, so I wanted to reflect that here as well. For this, I turned to my trusty challah. I have a few small loaves in the freezer for moments like this, so I cut some thin slices and toasted them until they were golden brown. Then, I crushed them into small flakes to resemble feuilletine and mixed them in with the peanut butter. And that was it! This filling was quite simple to put together and required minimal steps and ingredients, but that did not mean it still wouldn't blow me away and have the potential to replace my Reese's Cups when enrobed in chocolate and eaten in its final form.

As I am not a chocolatier, putting everything together took a couple of tries, but that just meant that I would have more opportunities to taste all of the different components. Once I realized I needed more chocolate to seal in the raspberry, I was good to go - I filled the molds with the crunchy and spiced peanut butter, then the raspberry, then some spiced chocolate for a little more autumn essence, then let it set in the freezer, and lastly poured over a marbled ruby, white, and dark chocolate shell to finish (an abstract spiderweb design for the upcoming festivities?!). While this is not at all a traditional Reese's Cup, this certainly did remind me of it with its nutty sweetness, decadence, and massive amount of filing. And the crunch quickly captivated me and then just melted into the peanut butter, offering that little something extra to turn this snack into a real treat without eliminating the signature cloud-likeness of the original. Even after eating all the scraps, I could not help myself from devouring them in full - probably not a smart idea to make dessert on an empty stomach!

I highly recommend trying this out, even with a different bread and especially since you do not need any fancy tools. I wanted mine to be more than just a circle so I used a silicone mold, but using a ring cutter or a knife to shape the filling into squares or rectangles works great too. You can even use muffin cups to truly resemble the Reese's Cup! Be careful not to overload the filling with too much crispiness so it holds together well once frozen. The chocolate shell is the most difficult part - you can drizzle some over if you like more of the 'naked cake' approach to this treat, you can pour it over (just make sure to pour melted chocolate on top of the raspberry to create a shell while it sets so that you have a solid bottom, or you can just dip it in the chocolate to coat it completely in one try; for a marbled effect, don't mix the melted chocolate too much so the colors do not blend together, and for any of the above, let the chocolates sit on a rack so the excess can drip down - keep something underneath so you can catch it for a snack later. After all those steps are done (trust me - they go by rapidly) and you have mustered up enough courage to be patient until they are solid, your chocolates will be ready! And once you take your first bite, you will understand why it was worth the wait! Now you don't have to hold until November 1st for your first round of chocolate and peanut butter gratification for the season!

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