“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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Baby Back Ribs-Three Methods

Amanda and I have been friends for quite a while so it’s not too surprising when we’re in sync. This post was a happy accident since we had been discussing how we were culinarily going to enjoy the big game (as we often do–other people must think I’m so nosy when I ask what they plan to cook that long weekend/holiday/etc but I just want to go on a food journey with everyone!) and we had both independently decided on ribs!

I had recently received an electric pressure cooker over the holidays, which I am quite enjoying and I had heard that ribs were the real masterpiece to come out of one of those appliances. Naturally, this seemed like the perfect excuse to try these out.

Sadly, I also had to say goodbye to my trusty Immersion Circulator after it malfunctioned beyond repair, but I happily replaced it with a different brand and was anxious to try it out! I have so far stayed away from sharing any Sous Vide recipes on this blog, though it is the small appliance I use probably the most in my kitchen (yes, more than my rice cooker). Immersion Circulators are gaining popularity but they’re still very niche and aren’t quite making an appearance in everyone’s homes as say, a slow cooker. Thankfully, since Amanda was also feeling making some ribs in a more accessible way, we decided to utilize and share all three methods! Sadly, there are no pictures of the oven method at the moment because Amanda’s results were so delicious they disappeared before photographing but spoiler alert: you pretty much can’t go wrong here.

Ingredients:

  • One Rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs,
  • Salt & Pepper, and optionally any dry rub blend of your choice.
  • 1 8oz bottle of your favorite Barbeque sauce (having lived in Texas I’m partial to Stubbs, Franklin’s and Salt Lick brands).
  • 3/4 cup of beef broth or water (for the Pressure cooker method only)

Amanda’s Oven Method Instructions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Season the ribs with salt/pepper/dry rub of choice and place on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake the ribs for one hour or until internal temperature reaches at least 190°F. Brush with sauce and serve.

Electric Pressure Cooker Method Instructions: 

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  1. Season the ribs with salt/pepper and any additional seasonings of your choice if desired. Portion the ribs in to 2-3 rib sections so they will fit in the cooker.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of your bottle of barbecue sauce along with 3/4 cup of liquid (water or broth) to the bottom of the pressure cooker. Add your rib portions to the pot by stacking them or lining the sides. Don’t worry if everything is not submerged.
  3. Close the lid of your pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  4. Once the pressure is released, open your pressure cooker and spoon some of the sauce in the bottom over all of the ribs (carefully!).
  5. Preheat your broiler to high. Remove the ribs from the cooker and place them onto a sheet pan.
  6. Brush the ribs with your bottled barbecue sauce and broil for 2 minutes on each side.
  7. Brush with additional sauce if desired and enjoy!

Instructions (Sous Vide Method)–This one takes a while so plan accordingly

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  1. Preheat a water bath with your immersion cooker to 145 degrees (62 C).
  2. Slice the ribs into manageable sections–about 2-3 rib portions.
  3. Season the ribs with salt, pepper.
  4. Place the ribs into sealable, airtight plastic bags (see step 4 on options for bags) that the ribs are not stacked on top of one another, but they can be next to each other. If you need multiple bags for this, go for it. Add about 1-2 tbsp of your favorite barbecue sauce to each bag with ribs inside.
  5. Seal the meat in the bags using one of two methods:
    1. You can use traditional zip top bags (I’d recommend a heavy duty, freezer type bag) and using water displacement. To do this, place the bag into the water bath with a small portion of the top unsealed and sink as the air escapes through the top. Try to get out as much air as you can and seal fully. Secure in the water bath with a clip to prevent floating.
    2. Use a vacuum food sealer system if you happen to have one. If you are fortunate to have a Sous Vide Cooker in your home, I cannot recommend a food sealer enough.Make sure you use the “wet” sealing option if you have it since there is sauce in the bag.
  6. Secure the ribs in the water bath and cook for 18-24 hours.
  7. Once timing is finished, remove from the bags, place on a sheet pan. Brush with additional sauce if desired and broil in the oven for about 2 minutes on each side. This is not completely necessary from a cooking standpoint, but does make for a yummy looking finished product.
  8. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Since the perfect complement can really depend on your sauce or rub preferences, you could  go as bold as a Zinfandel, but I think a nice, chilled Rosé would go great with any of your customizations. The lightness and tartness would pair well with those notes in the sauce, and it adds a summery, grill-out type of feel to your evening. Happy sipping!

Dark Chocolate Avocado Mousse Eclairs

When Amanda and I had this Distance Dishes date, Valentines Day was just around the corner so we wanted to make some recipes that were insanely decadent. To me, that meant something incredibly chocolatey. While an eclair might not seem like the logical first choice, I had some leftover raw cacao paste kicking around my pantry and I thought this might be the perfect vehicle to incorporate some.  I also wanted to do something a little different with the filling, so an avocado mousse seemed like a great experiment.

The result was this celebration of dark chocolate that was so rich, and had a chocolate flavor more pure than I’d experienced in a pastry before. The topping and the filling themselves seemed like they might be too much when combined in one bite, but the buttery pastry breaks it up perfectly and adds in another dimension of flavor. If you have some time to make these, I highly recommend it.

Pate a Choux

I used this recipe without the extra salt: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/sweet-or-savory-pate-a-choux-recipe

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar plus 1/8 teaspoon salt (for sweet)
  • 5 3/4 ounces flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
  • 4 large eggs and 2 whites

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, boil the water, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and remove from the heat. Stir until a ball forms and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Transfer the ball to a stand mixer and turn on to the lowest stir setting.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time making sure each one is fully incorporated before moving on to the next.
  6. Once all the eggs are added you can check to make sure your dough is the right consistency by checking if it falls off the paddle to your mixer in v-like sheets. If it is too thick, you may need an additional egg white.
  7. Transfer dough to a piping bag or a plastic zip top bag with a hole cut in one corner, and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper into lines about 3-4 inches long, 2 inches apart.
  8. Turn the oven down to 35o and cook for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Once they are cooked, upon removing them from the oven, pierce the sides with a small knife to release steam. This will help them not to collapse in on themselves.
  10. Allow to cool fully and they will be ready for assembly.

Avocado Mousse Filling

Ingredients: 

  • 3 Ripe avocados
  • 1/2 cup of raw cacao paste broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup of agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions: 

  1. Peel and mash the avocados in a food processor or blender.
  2. If using cacao paste, heat it over low-medium heat until the chunks are melted. Be careful to keep stirring so that the chocolate does not burn. Add in your sweetener of choice and stir. If using cocoa powder add it and the sweetener directly to the food processor.
  3. Add the cacao mixture to the food processor along with the vanilla extract and salt and pulse until everything is blended.
  4. If the mousse is too bitter for you, feel free to add more sweetener as needed. This can be enjoyed by itself as a tasty dessert treat, or can be the delicious filling for our eclairs.

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Dark Chocolate Ganache Icing

Note: You can find a more traditional recipe for ganache from my previous Chocolate and Peanut Butter Pie post–this is an alternative using raw cacao paste, but feel free to substitute the other recipe as it may be easier to acquire the ingredients. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2/3 cup of raw cacao paste, broken into chunks or cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup agave syrup or maple syrup (granulated sugar will also work)
  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions: 

  1. Heat the heavy cream over medium low heat so that it is close to but does not boil. Be sure to stir frequently to ensure that it does not burn.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and add the cacao and sweetener to the pan and stir frequently until all the chunks are melted and the mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Keep warm for eclair assembly.

Assembly: 

  1. Transfer the avocado mousse to a piping bag or something with a piping tip.
  2. Using the side you pierced with a knife already, pipe the mousse into the end of the choux pastry. Be sure to full them as much as you can without overfilling them.
  3. Once all are filled with the mousse, dip the tops into the ganache and allow to cool in the fridge.
  4. After all your hard work, these are ready to be enjoyed! To save yourself one long stint in the kitchen, the choux shells freeze well when they are unfilled so you can make them in advance. In addition, the mousse can also be made one day in advance, but just make sure you don’t eat it all if you want to save some for piping. Enjoy!

 

Wine pairing: With this ode to dark chocolate, you definitely want something bold with notes of chocolate and cherry to go with this decadent dessert. I’d recommend a Zinfandel with those undertones if you can find one, but an Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon are good choices as well ( I mean it’s wine an chocolate–hard to go wrong right?) Happy snacking!

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