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Top Pick Of The Week

April 4, 2006
Updated July 2009

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Peanut Butter Cups
Three of Flibbertigibbeit’s gourmet peanut butter cups: Flibber, Cookies and Cream, and at top, Traditional. There are also PB-free caramel cups and fudge cups. All photography by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.

WHAT IT IS: Specialty jumbo peanut butter cups from Flibbertigibet Chocolate Design.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Eight different flavors in both milk and dark chocolate.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Top-quality chocolate and peanut butter, jumbo-size (four-inch diameter). A PB cup-lover’s fantasy.


Flibbertigibbet Peanut Butter Cups: Our Cup Runneth Over

Alas, nothing is forever. When Flibbertigibet sold its business to Bacci in 2007, we were assured nothing would change. But recently, we tasted Bacci’s peanut butter cups, and were very saddened to find that they taste nothing like Flibbertigibet’s. Like so many American confections, in the Bacci products, the sugar overwhelms all the other flavors: They’re cloying, without character. We’ll have to keep looking for a great peanut butter cup. Use the Contact Us link on this page to send us your recommendations.

CAPSULE REPORT: If you sneak an occasional Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with a twinge of guilt, trade up to these superstar gourmet peanut butter cups. They’re not just delicious, they’re giant cups—more than twice the size of regular PB cups. But they’re totally guilt-free because of the high quality. They’re crafted of such fine ingredients that even the original Reese’s, made in 1923 (long before manufacturers started to substitute cheaper ingredients), could not have tasted this good. Eight flavors, including Caramel Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter and Jelly, add to the gourmet thrill. The original producer, we reviewed, Flibbertigibbet, sold the business in 2007 to a neighbor, Bacci Chocolate Design.

These are peanut butter cups for people who know fine food...and for any young palates-in-training you elect to share them with. Read the full review below.

  • For more of our favorite candies reviewed in THE NIBBLE online magazine, click here.
  • For the table of contents of the April issue of THE NIBBLE, plus the back issues archive and our most popular articles, click here.

Sweet Reference & Recipes

Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook Candy: The Sweet History The Art of Chocolate
Peanut Butter & Co. Cookbook, by Lee Zalben. Try your hand at over 80 recipes from desserts like Four-Layer Peanut Butter–Honey Cake or entrées like Peanut Butter Pad Thai. Click here for more information. If you’re in New York City, visit their Greenwich Village cafe and store. Candy: The Sweet History, by Beth Kimmerle. If your sweet-tooth craves more than peanut butter, you’ll enjoy learning about the artistry of candy from packaging to making old-fashioned Candied Grapefruit Peel and Thirty-Minute Caramels. Click here for more information. The Art of Chocolate, by Elaine Gonzalez. Try your hand at making luscious chocolate confections, including half-a-dozen different truffle creations. Test your skills at making chocolate leaves, flowers, cups and even baskets. Click here for more information.

Peanut Butter Cups From Flibbertigibet: Our Cup Runneth Over

INDEX

 

We have been on a search for the best peanut butter cup in America (do they make them anywhere else?). We have found a few noteworthy ones—for example, Michael Recchiuti’s Peanut Butter Hockey Pucks in San Francisco, a tad more haute on the chocolate front, but not as ebullient. Linda Grishman’s tasty Peanut Butter Pigouts from Vermont have lots of fans, but ditto. We reviewed Jer’s Gourmet Peanut Butter Balls, which may be the best kosher combo. And there are more out there.

But right now, we’re totally taken by the large and showy collection from Flibbertigibet, a candy company outside of Boston that makes a jumbo (four-inch diameter!) peanut butter cup that’s absolutely wonderful, in its original “Traditional” form or gussied up.

Peanut Butter Cup Flavors

PBCLs (peanut butter cup lovers) can revel in cups with PB plus:

  • Caramel
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Cookies & Cream
  • Crispy
  • Marshmallow
  • Flibbers
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Or simply enjoy the Traditional Peanut Butter Cup—
    just chocolate and PB

All are available in either milk or dark chocolate, but we highly recommend the dark. The beautiful cacao flavor notes of the semisweet chocolate elevate these peanut butter cups from good to great. Flibbertigibet uses couverture from Merckens, one of America’s finest producers of chocolate for the trade only (it is now owned by Archer Daniels Midland Corporation). Unlike Guittard and Scharffen Berger, two well-known American producers of fine couverture who make consumer products as well, Merckens is a name known to few people outside of the trade (or outside the vicinity of its Mansfield, Massachusetts production facility).

The milk chocolate is Merckens Marquis 34% cacao, which has a natural hint of cinnamon—it’s from the cocoa beans themselves, no spice is added. It’s an extra dimension of flavor and charm, but the chocolate, like many milk chocolates, is just too sweet for us.

When chocolate is 34% cacao, it means that roughly 66% is sugar (some, but not much, weight is taken by emulsifier and vanilla). Thus, not surprisingly, the tastebuds may first taste sugar, then any other flavor notes follow. The dark chocolate is Merckens Bordeaux, 50% cacao. It delivers a whole lot more excitement on the palate. You taste the rich chocolate you are expecting—and the Merckens has such fine flavor that even those who typically enjoy a 70% bar should like this.

(Read more about cacao percentages and types of chocolate in our Chocolate Glossary.)

Marshmallow and Traditional
On top, Traditional Peanut Butter Cup in dark chocolate, “the best thing to happen to the
peanut butter cup since
it was invented.” On
the bottom, Marshmallow Peanut Butter Cup
in milk chocolate.

Into the chocolate shell Flibbertigibet adds their own peanut butter, a very creamy, smooth recipe which has evolved over four years to the perfect counterpoint—not too sweet, not too moist, not too dry. True artisans, they make their own marshmallow and caramel—the latter also very creamy and smooth and available in turtles as well as cups. In fact, six years ago the business started with homemade turtles, and when they created a peanut butter-topped turtle, customers began to ask if they also made peanut butter cups. To those customers we say: Thank you!

What We Liked Best

You’d think that tasting all eight flavors at once might challenge the palate, but stick with the dark chocolate and you’ll find that these cups have balance and finesse—words that one might not normally confer upon a peanut butter cup. Neither chocolate nor peanut butter (or the accent flavor, for that matter) is overwhelming or cloying. To paraphrase Mozart in “Amadeus,” there is neither too little nor too much of anything: there is exactly what there needs to be.

People always ask which flavor we liked best. Honestly, we would gladly eat all of them. It’s such an individual choice—if we went out for ice cream together, we would likely select different flavors, and the same applies here. But we don’t evade questions, so here’s our answer:

  • If we had to choose for ourselves: Traditional, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Caramel, Flibbers—all dark chocolate.
  • If we were choosing for a child: Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, Flibbers, Peanut Butter & Jelly.
  • We’d give the children dark chocolate, too: there’s no excuse for training young palates to like that cloying sugar flavor. The fact people have learned to like it is why manufacturers keep producing it.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Peanut Butter and Jelly–a crowd-pleaser.

In the spirit of gastronomic adventure, the easiest thing to do is order one of each, divide them into wedges, and invite friends over to taste. Put on the tea kettle or coffee pot, or get some Boylan’s Diet Sodas (Diet Black Cherry, Diet Cane Cola, Diet Creme, Diet Root Beer—the best things ever to happen to diet sodas, and ditto for their regular old-fashioned line of sodas). Discuss the flavors of the chocolate and the fillings, and if you come up with other interesting uses for them, share them with us!

Our tasting notes:

  • Caramel. We know delicious, creamy caramel is a wonderful match with chocolate. This proves how perfectly it goes with peanut butter too.
  • Chocolate Chip. A jumbo semisweet chip sits on top of the cup, and regular chips are sprinkled through the PB. What’s not to like?
  • Cookies & Cream. The miniature Oreo on top portends good things to come: lots of miniature Oreos stuffed into the peanut butter center. Reaction: “How cute.” Like the espresso beans and M&Ms, they add crunch, too.
  • Marshmallow. We are so used to encountering artificial marshmallow that this elegant, homemade variety seems almost too subtle. It is the texture of marshmallow creme without the cloying sweetness.
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly. Our favorite of the “accent flavors,” and we’re not surprised. As much as we like all the others, we can’t think of the last time we had a fluffernutter sandwich, e.g., whereas PB&J is one of our standby comfort foods.
  • Flibbers. You might think that adding more chocolate (M&Ms) on top of the chocolate cup is overkill (and that was before we tasted Chocolate Fudge). But the bright colors and crunchy shells add visual, textural, and flavor delights.
  • Traditional. Have the dark chocolate version and you will find the best thing to happen to the Peanut Butter cup since its invention by Harry Reese 80 years ago.

The History of the Peanut Butter Cup

Harry Burnett Reese, a former dairy employee of Milton S. Hershey, was so inspired by Mr. Hershey that he left to start his own candy business. The H.B. Reese Candy Company had some success with Johnny Bars and Lizzie Bars (caramel-like molasses and coconut candy) and also had its share of adversity. By the mid-1920s, it was manufacturing a product made with specially-processed peanut butter and chocolate from the local Hershey Chocolate Company. Introduced simply as peanut butter cups, as its popularity grew the candy became known as Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Fast-forward to 1963: the H.B. Reese Candy Company, Inc. was sold for $23.5 million to its large chocolate-making neighbor, the Hershey Chocolate Company, then known as Hershey Foods Corporation. Today, the original peanut butter cup has spawned more than two dozen variations including Big Cup, Caramel, Crunchy Cookie, Dark Chocolate, Fudge, Honey Roasted, With Nuts, and White Chocolate, as well as E.T.’s favorite, Reese’s Pieces.

The History of Peanut Butter

Ever since there were peanuts, cultures have been cooking with them, whole or chopped, in savory and sweet preparations. But smooth, spreadable peanut butter as we know it was invented in 1890 by a St. Louis physician who sought a high-protein food substitute for people with poor teeth and a resulting difficulty of chewing meat. It was made by a local food producer, George A. Bayle Jr., and sold from barrels by the pound at grocery stores (as were most products of the day).

Because of its nutritional appeal, it became adapted by health spas and known to wealthy people who frequented them. Recipes for early 20th century tea sandwiches included peanut butter. Companies began selling peanut butter as a mainstream product, targeting their promotions to the upper classes. When this market became saturated, the manufacturers began to add sugar to give peanut butter appeal to children. That’s when PB took off to become the popular product it is today—and ironically, on a trajectory from the tea salons of the upper classes to a budget staple of the far-from-upperclass.

Some notable dates in peanut butterdom:

  • 1904: C.H. Sumner is the first to introduce peanut butter to the masses at the Universal Exposition in St. Louis.
  • 1908: Krema Products Company of Columbus, Ohio begins selling peanut butter, and remains the oldest peanut butter company still in operation today.
  • 1922: Joseph L. Rosefield of California begins to sell a smooth-churned peanut butter that differs from the other, gritty, peanut butters. He soon receives the first patent for a shelf-stable peanut butter which will stay fresh for up to a year because the oil doesn’t separate out. One of the first companies to adopt this new process is Swift & Company for its E.K. Pond peanut butter.
  • 1928: E.K. Pond peanut butter is renamed Peter Pan.
  • 1932: Following a dispute with Peter Pan, Rosefield begins producing peanut butter under the Skippy label.
  • 1934: Rosefield creates the first crunchy-style peanut butter by adding chopped peanuts into creamy peanut butter at the end of the manufacturing process.
  • 1955: Procter & Gamble acquires W.T. Young Foods of Lexington, Kentucky, makers of Big Top Peanut Butter.
  • 1958: Procter & Gamble introduces Jif (and now operates the world’s largest peanut butter plant, producing 250,000 jars daily).

The candymaker also specializes in large turtles, filled with the same creamy caramel with four crunchy “feet” of almond, cashew or pecan halves.

One small frustration: the website doesn’t have a lot of functionality. There’s no e-commerce, and much of the information promised on the navigation, including the virtual factory tour for those who can’t get to Lawrence, Massachusetts for the in-person tour, isn’t there. They have a shop in Middleton, Massachusetts and a factory store in Lawrence, plus a wholesale business. They’re busy artisans who haven’t had extra time to spend time on their website. So we’ve provided a URL, but don’t expect too much when you get there. You can phone or fax your order.

Aside from making very a exciting addition to the Easter basket (so much more special than yet another egg), trick-or-treat surprise, stocking stuffer, goodie bag addition, place-card setting and party favor (add a name tag to the ribbon and it serves as both), we keep a big box of these on hand as little gifties. For less than the price of a cappuccino, you make someone very happy.

—Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves peanut butter, peanut butter cups, or wants to keep a cache of impressive, inexpensive treats.

Flibbertigibet CHOCOLATE DESIGN

PEANUT BUTTER CUPS: Caramel, Caramel & Pecan, Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Cream, Crispy, Flibbers, Marshmallow, M&M, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Traditional

Four-inch diameter cups weigh an average of 6 ounces, depending on filling:

  • Peanut Butter Cup (Any Flavor)
    $4.95

All cups are individually wrapped in a
cellophane bag.

SORRY, this company is no longer in business. It was purchased by Bacci Chocolate Design. In our opinion, the products are no longer of the same caliber.

Box of Peanut Butter Cups
Tied with cheerful bows, these delicious candy cups put a smile on your face before you even take a bite—and a much bigger one afterward.
Read about some of our other favorite
sweets:

Like peanut butter? Here’s another PB candy plus two amazing lines of PB with a dozen flavors you shouldn’t miss:

Books for PB- & Chocolate-Lovers

The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book Celebrate with Chocolate peanut butter cookbook
The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book, by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. Offering hundreds of recipes and variations for peanut butter uses, you can easily become a peanut butter expert with the help of this book. Click here for more information. Celebrate with Chocolate, by Marcel Desaulniers. With 20 pages of concise recipes and information on equipment, ingredients and techniques, you will soon be able to impress guests with the “over-the-top” Chocolate- and Walnut-Covered Coffee-Cocoa Marshmallow Squares. Click here for more information. Peanut Butter Cookbook, by G & R Publishing. With 101 recipes using America’s favorite peanut spread, you are bound to even impress guests who aren’t crazy about peanut butter. Click here for more information.

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, special offers, contests, opinion surveys, THE NIBBLE back issues archive, product gift-finder, links to our favorite food websites, and the ability to nominate YOUR favorite nibbles, visit the home page of TheNibble.com.

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ABOUT THE NIBBLE. THE NIBBLE, Great Food Finds™, is an online magazine about specialty foods and the gourmet life. It is the only consumer publication and website that focuses on reviewing the best specialty foods and beverages, in every category. The magazine also covers tabletop items, gourmet housewares, and other areas of interest to people who love fine food.

© Copyright 2004-2014 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All information contained herein is subject to change at any time without notice. All details must be directly confirmed with manufacturers, service establishments and other third parties. The material in this newsletter may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Lifestyle Direct, Inc.

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