Vanessa Chang
(A Glutton with Brains)


a glutton with brains

Miss V's Ghetto-fabulous Peanut Butter Cups


There are days where I am tired of being a grown up. Strike that. There are days where I am tired of trying to be a grown up.

I've always believed that despite whatever academic transcipts show and the boastings of once-proud parents, I've been quite retarded in my growth when it came to confidence.  People are often disturbed when I tell them that I wet through my teenage years as a pessimistic 20-something. Under the wing of a loving but a nerve-wrecked mother, my M.O. has always been to anticipate the worst from the get-go. Whatever doesn't happen then is a godsend.


Don't believe me? Take an average conversation with my mother. Whether in person or over the phone she manages to turneven the happiest of scenarios into well-springs of worry.

"How's the writing going? They're not going to fire you, are they?"

Variations include: "Hi honey, have you gotten fired yet?" "Be good. Don't lose your job." "Will you ever go to grad school?" "When are you going to buy a house?" "Have you and Andy broken up?"

And so on. I was weaned on this sort of thinking and as a consequence stayed on a safe road of doing whatever someone else says. I still retained a bit of sass with a veneer of mock confidence as well as a significant amount of body mass since my mother and I seemed to agree that feeding insecurity to be a good thing.

But it all crumbled when I turned 22 and realized that everything I wanted to do in life had nothing to do with the past years I spent studying or were things that did not make themselves obvious. I had no idea what to do. No one told me that growing up was going to be this demoralizing.

Then one day, the most obvious of things presented itself. The late night I made strawberry mint custard tarts for a friend, the moments I insisted we cook massive amounts of comfort food during snow days, even the solitary meals I cooked for my unemployed ass in my early 20s came together into an idea, still loose, but appealing.

Then writing popped its head up from the messy realm of possibilities. And suddenly it all made a little more sense. But again, no one told me that growing up would entail fighting the same battles with insecurity -- in every sense -- with yourself and with others who insist you build a better life for yourself on their terms.

With my ample childhood training, I take the chorus to heart. Anticipating the worst, why wouldn't I buy a house? Why wouldn't I give up on writing, on food, on any whisper of a dream or goal I had?

It's as if the volume has been turned up in my head and even two ideas are overwhelming. I soak in the residual stress. I contemplate possibilities and options. I pace. I lose sleep. I fester.

Then, finally, I cook. For no one else but me, however delicately or messily I want to execute it. It started with a handful of Valrhona feves (not the literal translation of "seeds," but thin ovals of single-origin chocolate) and an exasperated reach for a jar of peanut butter. I dipped the chocolate as if it were a tortilla chip in salsa. As a testament to me being an emotional eater, each bite calmed me alarmingly so, that eventually, I gave it up and decided to make something of the moment.

So, I present here the most ghetto-fabulous, serpendipitous recipe for anyone seeking refuge in the kitchen. You can draw out the process as long as you need. Melt and chill the chocolate. Then the peanut butter. Then finally another bit of chocolate. But if you're mood is such that you need a flurry of activity, the freezer is perfect.

And yes, despite the name, these are suitable for those without said fatigue. Just be sure to use good ingredients. I've long given up trying to console myself with crap.


Peanut Butter Cups To Soothe Grown-Up Fatigue

1/4 cup dark brown sugar * 1 cups confectioners'/powdered sugar * scant 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened * 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (please please please please NO corn syrup or hydrogenated fats in this one, it's supposed to taste like peanuts, remember?) * About 1 cup of milk chocolate pieces (Valrhona Tanariva is great) * 1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces (Valrhona Tropilia is decent, Caraibe is better) * 2 tablespoons of butter * muffin tin and liners

Melt together both chocolates and butter in a double boiler. Let it cool slightly before spooning 1 tablespoon's worth into each lined muffin tin. Let set in the fridge or in the freezer.

Meanwhile, iIn a stand mixer, with a hand mixer or a good old-fashioned wooden spoon, cream together the suars, the peanut butter and butter. It'll seem stiff at first, but be persistent. It'll yield into a smooth, velvety, uniform mass.

Remove the muffin from the fridge or freezer and dollop spoonfuls atop the chocolate layer. Use the spoon or your fingers to spread it around. If you're feeling really ambitious, wet your hands and roll the PB into a little marble and flatt it down slightly and place these gingerly over the set chocolate. Either way, just get the PB there.

Spoon the remaining chocolate over the peanut butter, so that you have an even layer. Depending on your PB distribution, some might be thicker than others. But who cares? They'll still be accepted graciously by you and lucky recipient. Just make them without the worry. Place back into the fridge or freezer to set.

To serve, place one on the counter to come to room temperature or if you're a fan of frozen peanut butter cups, go for it straight from the freezer. Peel back the muffin liner. Admire the marvel of chocolate. Bite down through the chocolate - thick or thin - and let it break and melt on your tongue. Make sure you have peanut butter in your mouth as well. Savor. Repeat.