“PB&J” Cookie Tart

As Amanda mentioned last week with her amazing Scallops with Strawberry Spinach Salad, we are big fans of Masterchef and Gordon Ramsay in general. For this date, we wanted to make something that would fit the “me-on-a-plate” guidance that the judges often give to competitors to inspire them to cook their very best that is close to their heart. I was a bit stumped on this one, but I knew that baking is my first love and it had to be a dessert.

Anyone who knows me knows that trying new food was a bit of a challenge for me for most of my life. Unfortunately do not have a classic, romantic story about how the perfect bouillabaisse in France touched my lips and changed my life, or how I’d grown up eating new flavors that inspired my love of cooking. There were a lot of chicken nuggets and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches in my life and I liked it that way just fine. There still are a lot but, you know,  I space it out now.

Instead I was always eager to whip up a batch of cookies or brownies, and dinner was just a formality to make it through to dessert. So, for this challenge, I wanted to bring the classic flavors any kid would love, that PB&J, and combine it with my love of baking into something remotely masterchef worthy.

Would Chef Ramsay throw it back in my face if he took a bite? Not sure…
Did it all disappear into our tummies by the end of the weekend because we thought it was so delicious? You know that’s right!

Almond Butter Cookie Crust

  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients until fully mixed.
  3. Press the dough into a 9-inch pie plate or spring-form pan in an even layer across the bottom and slightly up the sides if able.
  4. Bake for 15-17 minutes or until crust looks dry and has risen slightly.
  5. Remove from oven and using a heat resistant, flat bottomed cup, press gently into the center of the crust to flatten. Press against the sides to form the edges so that you have what resembles a tart crust.
  6. Allow to cool completely before removing from the pan, and save for assembly. Note: This crust is very chewy and delicate so it might help to chill in the fridge before removing from the pan. 

 

Strawberry Puree Whip

  • 1 Packet of gelatin
  • 3 Tbsp boiling water
  • 1 Pint strawberries, greens removed and roughly chopped (can also use frozen, but definitely get some fresh ones for garnish)
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3/4 Cup heavy cream

Instructions: 

  1. Bloom the gelatin in the boiling water and let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Over medium heat, heat the strawberries and sugar. Add the gelatin and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the strawberries release their moisture and become mushy.
  3. Strain the puree through a mesh sieve to filter out the seeds and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Reserve about 1/3 of the puree for assembly and chill.
  5. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the heavy cream and the remaining cooled puree. Whip the mixture until there are stiff peaks.
  6. Chill for at least 30 minutes until ready to use.

 

Almond Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 4 tbsp softened butter
  • 1 cup almond butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Instructions: 

  1. In a stand mixer, mix together all frosting ingredients until smooth.
  2. Chill until ready to use or you can use immediately. Transfer to a piping bag whenever ready for assembly.

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Assembly: 

  1. Make sure the crust is properly cooled before beginning assembly. Spread a thin layer of the reserved strawberry puree over the center of the cookie.
  2. Spread an even layer of the strawberry whip over the puree so that it is level and even with the sides of the crust.
  3. Pipe the almond butter frosting on top of the and top garnish with strawberries as desired.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours before enjoying.

Wine Pairing: You could go with a sweet dessert wine if you wanted, although that’s a bit too much for me. So I went for a Zinfandel. You still get that PB&J feel, but without wanting to brush your teeth right after!

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Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie

As Halloween is nearly upon us, we wanted to mix things up a bit with deviation from our traditional “dinner” dishes. With this holiday inspiring stores to construct aisles upon aisles of sweets for the grabbing, we wanted to share a few sweets of our own. We wanted to share a few dishes so sinfully indulgent (while still accessible, no one has time for a souffle), that even any lingering spirits on this All Hallows Eve might be envious. While Amanda shared her deliciously tempting, and grown up milkshake last week, I wanted to share a tribute to my favorite dessert combination: peanut butter and chocolate.

A week long children’s pie baking class at the local upscale grocery store was one of my first real cooking experiences. This class ignited my love of baking which has now expanded as I’ve grown older to learning as many new cooking skills as I can. Thus, pie has always been special to me whether it be fruit, vegetable or custard based. Chocolate pies in particular have always been a favorite of mine and peanut butter cups were always the Halloween haul top prize in my candy bucket. Naturally, since these flavors all bring happy feelings, why not combine them into one unbelievably tasty dessert?

While this pie does not require any actual baking, can be a bit time consuming as you wait for the steps to chill. If you need to break into that wine pairing while you’re waiting, I won’t tell.

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • 16 peanut butter sandwich cookies
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (could use the chocolate darkness you prefer)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 oz cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 tablespoon sugar*
  • Peanut Butter cups and melted chocolate for garnishing

*If you’re feeling lazy, frozen whipped topping will also work for this and might actually make for a more stable pie (because of processing). Remove these two ingredients in lieu of one 8 ounce tub; but if you walked past that aisle like me, we’ll make our own whipped cream below–and no hydrogenated oils here. 

Peanut Butter Cookie Crust:

  • Crush the peanut butter cookies into crumbs using either a food processor or putting the cookies in a zip top bag and going medieval on it with a meat tenderizer.
  • Dumb the crumbs into a 9″ pie pan and drizzle the melted butter over the crumbs. Mix with your hands to make sure the butter is incorporated (but, you know, don’t burn yourself so use a spoon if you prefer).
  • Press the crumbs into the sides and bottom of the pan to form a crust. I like to take a smaller pie pan and push it down on top for even coverage.
  • Chill the crust in the fridge while you make the ganache.
  • Also, I know this is a three step pie and if you don’t feel like doing this step and would prefer a store bought crumb crust, I’m not judging. However, I’m not sure if peanut butter cookie crusts are available so you might have to make some graham cracker or chocolate crumb compromises, but you do you–probably can’t go wrong with any kind of crumb crust.

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Chocolate Ganache

  • Heat the cream in a saucepan over medium heat until almost but not boiling.
  • Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and butter, stirring until the chocolate is melted and ingredients are well mixed.
  • Pour ganache into the bottom of the pie crust we made earlier and allow to chill in fridge for at least one hour.

Peanut Butter Pie Filling:

  • If you’re making your own whipped cream, you can make it before or after the rest of the ingredients are mixed together (I’ll let you decide on which logistics work for you). If you’re opting for store bought, skip this bullet and lets meet up in the next step. To make simple whipped cream: using a stand mixer bowl and the whisk attachment or a hand mixer and a large bowl, mix the sugar and heavy cream on medium to high speed for about 5-10 minutes until stiff peaks form. Make sure to not leave this unattended or you will quickly have butter on your hands instead of whipped cream. Set aside.
  • In a large stand mixer, mix together on low speed the peanut butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk until all is incorporated (you can also stir together with a wooden spoon instead if you’re feeling strong).
  • Using a spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture in 3-4 portions until incorporated, but be sure not to over mix and lose the lightness of the cream.
  • Gently spread the peanut butter filling over the top of the ganache and over the rest of the pie with the spatula.
  • Top with melted chocolate drizzled over the top and chopped peanut butter cups as desired.
  • Allow whole pie to chill for at least 1.5 hours before consuming (I know it’s going to be difficult).
  • Enjoy your sinful dessert and don’t feel the need to share if you don’t want 🙂

Wine Pairing: Since this dish is already so sweet, some boldness would match well with this so I think a nice Zinfandel with chocolate notes is a good match that would pair with the chocolate but not overload on sugar. Now go kick your feet up with a glass of wine and a slice of pie. You deserve it.

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Peanut Butter Soup

When Amanda first suggested this blog as something for us to do together, despite our distance, I was definitely excited. The next question after “Do we really want to do this?” (which was a resounding “Hell Yes”) was “where do we start?” Amanda and I really seem to bond over our love of flavorful and exotic spices and so we knew we wanted to start with something new. We chose African inspired dishes because it had both a combination of interesting flavor layers and it was certainly a cuisine I had never cooked before so it was something new and exciting with intriguing familiarity.

We chose to do different recipes for this week’s installment as it was a bit last minute and my newly relocated pantry was a bit lacking. While Amanda was able to make a beautiful and interesting Moroccan Chicken, I was looking for something somewhat simple to start with ingredients I had on hand and something on the healthy side (having just moved across country my pants were/still are a bit tight from road snacks). So I decided on a simple, vegetarian Peanut Butter Soup recipe which, although not traditional, is inspired by the West African dish.

I decided to use the recipe adapted from Hurry the Food up at http://hurrythefoodup.com/african-peanut-soup/ however, after 2 harried trips to the crowded grocery store I returned home only to be unloading my groceries from the car and saying to myself disappointedly “tomato paste!” I had forgotten to grab it and I then decided I was going to improvise because I certainly wasn’t going to deal with people any more that day.

So, before I began to cook the actual soup, I had to fashion some tomato paste substitute out of my only tomatoes in the house, a can of diced tomatoes. Apparently to make a workable substitution tomato paste the steps are very simple:

  • One 8 oz can of tomatoes
  • Puree in blender or food processor
  • Cook in a saucepan over medium heat for around 12-15 minutes until liquid is reduced enough that it will not add too much liquid to the dish.

I found that one 8oz can of tomato gave me around 1/4 cup of tomato paste.

Now I was ready to start on the soup, which was quite easy and quite delicious. The recipe on the the website was straightforward. To up the nutrition content, I added a few handfuls of spinach leaves as I ate the leftover portions.

If you have never tated this dish before, it tastes exactly as you wish it would. One giant, steaming bowl of peanut buttery goodness that would be the perfect comfort food for a cold day or really any day.

Wine Pairing:  To combine with the nuttiness in the dish I was craving a white wine tonight, which I can say I have never craved before. Generally I tolerate white wine if it is included in an tasting cases I order. However, tonight I paired this with a chilled Chenin Blanc which provided a light tartness to cut the strong peanutty taste as well as added an extra layer of temperature change.