I started making homemade pasta when I was eight. My parents kindly complimenting my bowls of mush while eating soppy noodles with much oohing and ahhing. I’ve since improved my pasta making skills.
The moment I realized I could make my own butter I was out of my seat and shaking a jar of cream. As time allows I make my own puff pastry, soft cheeses, mayonnaise, marshmallows, dressings, etc. And even though our garden is quite meager, I get giddy when I am able to feed my family from the tiny seeds I planted just weeks prior.
As we are so often surrounded by pre-made products I am incredibly satisfied when I am able to fulfill a need using raw materials readily found in my kitchen. Most often it is things like pulling warm homemade bread out of the oven or sewing an airy summer dress for my daughter that calls upon these emotions and connects me to the generations prior for which this was their normal.
For some reason it is those classic childhood flavors in the form of sugary candy that I rarely think to recreate at home. I find such mystery in their creation, quite possibly because I don’t recognize a single ingredient found on the back of their colorful exterior. I, in a more-frequent-than-should-be moment, enjoy the familiarity of their flavor and move on never stopping for a moment to think, I could make this. In fact it could quite possibly even be better.
Their cloyingly sweet flavors could be made less harsh through the use of less refined ingredients. The familiar waxy melt of their chocolate that contains little to none of the ingredients found in those football shaped cacao pods could be replaced with bittersweet chocolate that puddles and melts against the heat of the tongue.
Such a revelation occurred when I happened upon a recipe for homemade peanut butter finger candy. As a child I adored the odd orange candy that shattered under the weight of my young, eager bite. Strangely enough I don’t think I realized that peanut butter was the main ingredient for this candy until recently. In my young mind it was just something crunchy, sweet, and there was chocolate – no further thinking needed. Even more alluring was the memory of these candies crushed into bits and stirred into creamy vanilla flavored soft serve. Yes, that’s right – a Butterfinger blizzard. So cold it makes your head hurt but so satisfying that you don’t care.
The trick in recreating flavors you’ve enjoyed all throughout your life is getting them to satisfy you in the same way they did in your memory. You want them to be better than the store-bought version but not so much so that they no longer resemble what you were originally trying to create. It’s a fine balance and I am thrilled to report that this recipe has achieved such convenient-store-candy-recreating success. And you must, for the love of a Blizzard, stir these sugary crumbs into ice cream.
Continue for the recipe..
Homemade Peanut Butter Finger Candy
adapted from “The Ultimate Candy Book” by Bruce Weinstein
Candy making can be intimidating but the result is well worth the headache. A candy thermometer is crucial in beginning to make candy. Pull the sugar as soon as it reaches 290* and work quickly. Be so very careful when working with hot sugar as its burn hurts more than any other. Have I scared you? NO? Good. Yes? Sorry. Again, I assure you with a little patience and persistence you will soon have homemade butter fingers. Now get going.
*In the comments someone just asked a great question. “What candy thermometer do you recommend?” I use the Taylor Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer. I like the easy to read digital face. It does not, however, clip to the side. If you do it will melt – speaking from experience. But I’ve made candy so often I can tell when the sugar is getting close to done, then I insert the thermometer just to be sure. This thermometer measures quickly and again it’s easy to read so you don’t have to hold it there forever. The classic Candy & Deep Fry Thermometer is nice because it can stick to the side of the pan but I find it hard to read accurately and in candy making, accuracy is very critical.
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt (kosher, fleur de sel, Maldon)
½ vanilla bean, seeds removed (optional)
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
¾ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine too)
Butter an 8-inch square pan then set aside. In a small, microwave-safe bowl (if you don’t have a microwave you can use a double boiler) combine the peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Set that aside.
In a very clean medium saucepan combine the vanilla seeds (if using), sugar, corn syrup and water. Using clean hands combine those ingredients and remove any grains of sugar left on the sides of the pan with your fingers and a bit more water. I use my hands for this because I can be certain to feel if any gritty grains remain on the side and the sugar in the bottom of the pan is lump-free. You may also use a pastry brush to wet down the sides of the pan if you prefer.
On medium-high heat cook the sugar until it reaches 290*, just under hard crack. While the sugar cooks warm the peanut butter mixture in the microwave for 30 seconds. Keep warm. Once the sugar has reached 290* quickly add the peanut butter mixture and stir to combine. The mixture thickens quickly so once combined immediately put the mixture in the buttered pan. Let cool for about 7 minutes on a wire rack. While it is still warm carefully scatter your chocolate on top. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Using an offset spatula spread the chocolate evening over the peanut butter candy. Place in the fridge to set for about 30 minutes.
Once the candy has set run a knife or the edge of an offset spatula around the edge of the pan then invert. The candy should pop out but if it doesn’t insert your knife into the corner and pry it up until it pops out.
Cut the candy into desired shapes. I like to keep my stash in a ziploc bag in the freezer. I love the texture of this candy when it’s frozen and then it’s always ready to be added to vanilla ice cream.
Peanut Butter Finger Ice Cream
serves 2, generously
2 cups vanilla ice cream
⅓ cup (more is okay too) homemade peanut butter candy pieces
Place your candy in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to break into smaller pieces. They don’t need to be uniform, in fact it’s better if they aren’t.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment add the ice cream and mix until it is the texture of soft serve. Add the candy pieces and mix just to combine. Serve immediately.