We call these Betterfingers because we think anything you make at home is bound to be better. For one thing, it’s fresher; for another, you control the quality of the ingredients and choose the best you can afford, while manufacturers choose the cheapest they can get away with. So, how exactly do you make these Betterfingers? Read on.
We found this recipe in Field Guide to Candy, by Anita Chu, a small book loaded with recipes for various candies. To us, this was one of the top ones we wanted to try, with the hopes that these would, indeed, be better than the commercial version (we do note that they’re not called Betterfingers in the book; we made up that name). In the recipe below, we also provide weight measurements for the ingredients — it’s a lot easier to measure peanut butter by weight — plus, we add an extra touch at the end.
Confession: we tried using coating “chocolate” in place of tempering chocolate. As you may know, coating “chocolate” isn’t chocolate, as there’s no cocoa butter in it. Instead, it contains other fats that harden nicely at room temperature, so it doesn’t require tempering, making it easier to use for coating candies. We bought it so that we could see if the taste would be acceptable, but we’re really leaning away from using it in the future, and just going through the effort of tempering a really good chocolate. For the peanut butter, we used Trader Joe’s Organic Peanut Butter (the creamy unsalted version), not in an attempt to make these healthy, but to use peanut butter made from peanuts and only peanuts. We know people are trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup and we try to, also. We buy Karo brand corn syrup, which is plain corn syrup and some flavoring. If you’re wondering whether you can avoid the corn syrup completely, we suggest not. It’s there to prevent the sugar from crystallizing.
Procedure in detail:
Prepare pan. As you’d expect, making candy is a sticky business; you have to prepare everything so you don’t end up with all your candy stuck in the pan. To prevent that, line an 8×8 inch baking pan with aluminum foil and butter the foil. Set aside.
Combine sugars. In a medium saucepan, mix together sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water, and place over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
Cook to 300°F. Place a candy thermometer into the mixture and let cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 300°F. Immediately remove from the heat. Be very careful when working with the molten sugar, as it’s both very hot and very sticky. It’ll not feel good if it sticks to your skin. Trust us.
Stir in peanut butter. We measured our peanut butter by weight, so we placed the pan and hot pad on our scale, hit the tare button to zero it, and added peanut butter until we reached 260 grams (we got within a few grams). You have to be fast so the candy doesn’t cool too much, but you do have enough time to get this done without rushing like a maniac. Once added, use a wooden spoon to stir in the peanut butter.
Scrape into pan. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and use a silicone spatula to press it smooth. It shouldn’t stick to the spatula, so this isn’t too bad.
Salt. Here’s the secret, especially if you used a natural unsalted peanut butter. Sprinkle just a bit of kosher salt over the top of the candy; when you eat it, you’ll hit small bursts of salt. It’ll make it taste oh, so much better.
Score. Next, take a chef’s knife and deeply score the candy into 1-inch squares. We did this by dividing in two, then each half in two, and so on, until we had 8 strips in one direction. We repeated the process in the other direction to make 64 squares. You want to score deeply, as the candy will harden and become brittle, making it difficult to cut into squares later. The score marks will help, as the candy will tend to break along those lines.
Cool and cut. Let the candy cool completely, about 1-2 hours, then remove from the pan, pull off the foil, and place on a piece of waxed paper or parchment. Use your chef’s knife to cut along the score lines as best you can.
Melt (and temper) chocolate. If you’re using coating “chocolate,” melt according to the directions on the package. If you’re using real chocolate, you’ll need to temper it so that it hardens nicely. You can read a bit about that right here. Just make sure to temper about 12-16 ounces of chocolate.
Dip. Take each square, dip into the chocolate, shake off excess, and place on either parchment or a silicone baking mat to cool. To store, place in an airtight container. We placed ours in small plastic bags that we bought just for individual candies.
These really are better than Butterfinger® candy bars, although we have to say that the coating “chocolate,” while easier to use, doesn’t taste as good as real chocolate. It’s sweeter, and, well, not as chocolatey, which detracts a bit from the candies. But, as compared to many candies, these are pretty easy, and, even if you don’t coat the peanut butter brittle, you’ll still have a treat. Five stars.