Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie & Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

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This year, my older brother got quite the home-cooked birthday meal. My mom and younger brother made dinner, which featured all of my brother’s favorite flavor combinations — buffalo sauce with a gorgonzola spinach artichoke dip to accompany chicken cutlets and baked onion rings. And for dessert, the winning combination of peanut butter and chocolate.

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My brother sent me a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter pie made with Nutter Butters, so I set out to recreate the recipe using homemade ingredients. I wanted to make homemade peanut butter cups instead of using Reese’s, and based on everyone’s reactions, I’m sure I’ll be making these again soon.

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I also wanted to use natural ingredients for other components of the pie such as the crust, which uses almond flour as a perfect base that complements the peanut butter. And to keep the pie a bit lighter, I used mascarpone as an alternative to cream cheese and coconut cream as a substitute for heavy cream. I decided not to mess with the Nutella, since you really can’t improve the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread.

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The pie takes a while to set, but once it does, it is delicious straight from the freezer. The Nutella layer is sweet and refreshing, resembling chocolate hazelnut ice cream. The peanut butter mascarpone layer is light and not too sweet, and the crust is a strong anchor. Though I did like the peanut butter cookie crust, next time I might try a chocolate cookie crust instead to balance out the peanut butter cream.

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I had planned to top the pie with more of the peanut butter cups, but these homemade chocolates proved to be a popular dessert on their own. I think the pie held its own as well without too much candy accompaniment.

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I’m glad I got to make a new dessert — which I think will be requested again next year — for my brother’s birthday. Over the next three months, we have three more birthdays in my family, and I can’t wait to experiment with everyone else’s favorite desserts. Stay tuned for more summer birthday treats!

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

 Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Makes 24 mini peanut butter cups

–       3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

–       1 ½ cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       2 tbs. honey

–       ¼ cup powdered sugar

–       2 tsp. vanilla extract

–       sprinkle of sea salt

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler on the stove. Spray mini muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray or use mini muffin liners. Spoon about a tablespoon of chocolate into each muffin tin, spreading out the chocolate to create an even layer and to coat the sides as well. In a separate bowl, mix the peanut butter, honey, powdered sugar, and vanilla until combined. Spoon about 1 tsp. of the peanut butter mixture into each muffin tin. Completely cover the peanut butter dollops with the remaining melted chocolate. Sprinkle sea salt on top of each peanut butter cup, and place in the refrigerator to harden for at least two hours.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Inspired by Crazy for Crust

Crust:

–       2 cups almond flour

–       1 cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       ¼ cup agave

–       pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients until combined. Bake at 375 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Peanut Butter Cream:

–       1 cup natural creamy peanut butter

–       8 oz. mascarpone

–       ¼ cup agave

–       pinch of salt

Stir together all ingredients with an electric mixer until incorporated and fluffy.

Nutella Cream:

–       1 14-oz. can of full-fat coconut milk, refrigerated overnight

–       1 cup Nutella

Whip the cream from the coconut milk with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add Nutella, and mix until combined.

To Assemble:

Spoon the peanut butter cream onto the baked cookie crust, and smooth for an even layer. Reserve ¼ cup of the cream for decorating the pie, if desired. Next, add the Nutella cream over the peanut butter layer. Freeze for at least six hours or overnight. Right before serving, decorate if desired by piping the peanut butter cream on top of the cake. Top with one or multiple homemade peanut butter cups.

Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies

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This has been quite the summer thus far. I left my job at the beginning of June, started a new job — where I worked for three weeks before deciding it wasn’t the right fit — and moved out of my apartment (almost). Amid all of this change, I also got to visit Toronto and Niagara Falls with my family and spend a weekend laying on the beach in Montauk with some friends from college.

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This summer, I’m also lucky enough to get to travel to Israel through the Birthright program. As part of the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, young Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 26 get a 10-day all-expenses paid trip to Israel. I went to Israel in the summer of 2008 with my family and loved the culture, food, and landscape. I can’t wait to go back, meet new people, and eat delicious Israeli food.

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Tahini is known mostly as the essential ingredient that gives hummus its creamy texture and slightly nutty taste. And though I love hummus, tahini can be much more versatile. Though tahini is a little too salty to eat like other nut butters, when combined with agave and chocolate chips, it provides a wonderful yet unexpected base to this sweet and savory cookie.

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I was inspired to make a tahini cookie when I saw a recipe in a recent Birthright newsletter. The original recipe called for granulated sugar and butter, so I knew I would make something a bit different when I set out to make my own. It’s not that I don’t like using butter and sugar in baking — no question, they turn out delicious treats. But, typically when I bake, I like to make healthier sweets that I can snack on. Cue the agave and gluten-free flour. Similar to natural peanut butter in consistency, tahini contains plenty of oil, so I didn’t even have to make another addition.

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Add as little or as many chocolate chips as you like, but I will say that my family requested more chips. Maybe it’s just my family’s collective sweet tooth, or maybe more chocolate is generally preferred. My family is also split on whether these cookies are better straight from the freezer or at room temp. (I like the freezer option, especially in this 90 degree heat). Give these cookies a try, let me know how they turn out and what you, your family, and friends think of this surprising treat.

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Chocolate Chip Tahini Cookies 

–       2 eggs

–       2 tbs. vanilla extract

–       ½ cup agave

–       ¼ cup milk (I used almond milk)

–       1 cup tahini

–       3 cups flour (I used gluten-free)

–       ½ tsp. baking powder

–       1 tsp. baking soda

–       ¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

–       2 tbs. sesame seeds

Combine wet ingredients, and stir until incorporated. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated into the dough. Add the chocolate chips, and stir until combined. Spoon cookies onto lined cookie sheets, press down with a fork, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until cookies are golden brown.

Chocolate Tiramisu

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I think I deceived some people last Sunday when I showed up to Easter dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house without that almond citrus cake. Luckily, I had made this chocolate tiramisu, which I think relieved any disappointment.

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My Aunt Grace is known for her tiramisu, but when I heard she wasn’t making it for Easter this year, I decided that instead of depriving my family of the sweet and creamy Italian dessert, I’d step up to the plate.

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I decided to make a chocolate variation of traditional tiramisu since I can think of very few pairings better than chocolate and coffee. Putting a twist on Giada’s recipe, I added a layer of chocolate on top of the whipped cream mixture to amp up the chocolate component. I think that layer was the best part.

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This recipe only takes about an hour to make, from melting the chocolate to assembling the layers. But it does take a bit longer to set. The lady fingers in my tiramisu still had a bite after a few hours in the fridge, so I think some extra refrigeration time would have done it well. By the time the tiramisu is ready, the cookies should be softened from the coffee bath and cream, and all three layers should be singing in unison.

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This tiramisu is a definitely a winner that would be the perfect end to a dinner party or any meal where you’re looking to impress. The prep work is simple, and the results are fancy and decadent. You can also finish the top layer off with a shaving of dark chocolate or a dusting of cocoa powder, but I think the chocolate swirl looks divine. I can’t wait to make this one again.

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Chocolate Tiramisu

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

–       1 ½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

–       4 cups heavy cream

–       4 egg yolks

–       ¾ cup sugar

–       1 tsp. salt

–       12 oz. mascarpone cheese

–       ½ cup coffee

–       About 25 lady fingers

Melt the chocolate chips with 2 cups heavy cream and ½ tsp. salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted and smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks, ¼ cup sugar, and the remaining ½ tsp. salt. Continue whisking over a pot of simmering water until the mixture has thickened and is pale yellow in color. Take the bowl off the heat, and fold in ½ cup of the melted chocolate. Refrigerate once incorporated.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 2 cups heavy cream with the remaining sugar until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, whip the mascarpone cheese using an electric mixer until soft and airy. Fold the mascarpone into the whipped cream until incorporated. Fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream mixture until incorporated and smooth.

Dip the lady fingers into the coffee, and place in a layer on the bottom of a 5-inch deep dish. Spoon the whipped cream mixture on top of the lady fingers, then spoon the melted chocolate on top of the whipped cream. Repeat until another three layers are formed. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

 

Chocolate Hamantaschen

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When I first saw Martha Stewart’s recipe for chocolate hamantaschen in this month’s issue of Living magazine, I knew I had to make them. Though I wouldn’t pass up a traditional hamantaschen, which are typically eaten on Purim, they’re not at the top of my list of favorite desserts. Most of the hamantaschen I’ve had in the past are quite dense, a bit dry, and lacking in my favorite dessert ingredient – chocolate.

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In honor of last week’s Purim holiday, I decided to test out these new and improved hamantaschen. Though I am not religious, I will always be in support of celebrating a holiday – religious or otherwise – when there is good food involved.

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Martha’s recipe looked pretty close to perfection, but as I mentioned in my last blog post, I eat mostly gluten-free now, so I wanted to make these cookies with a gluten-free twist. I decided on using half gluten-free all-purpose flour and half almond flour since I’ve found that combining different gluten-free flours often yields the best result. (The all-purpose flour mix I used consisted of mostly rice flour.)

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I also reduced the amount of sugar to make these cookies just a tad bit healthier. But I didn’t sacrifice on the butter. Despite the griping from my older brother, I decided not to experiment with substituting the butter for coconut oil. Maybe I’ll try this substitution another time, but I wanted a guaranteed good result with this first batch.

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The results did not disappoint. These hamantaschen are quite the improvement from the hamantaschen I ate as a kid in Hebrew school. The dough bakes up moist and buttery, the orange zest works its magic to delicately balance the richness of the chocolate, and the chocolate center is the perfect filling.

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My mom said she would eat these cookies plain without the signature hamantaschen center, as the dough was delicious as is. My brother suggested using Nutella for the filling — an indulgent suggestion I just might take next time.

Whether you celebrate Purim or not, these cookies are worth the multi-step process. I’m typically a fan of easy, one-bowl cookies that go straight into the oven, but the chilling in this recipe is essential in order to roll out the dough. You will not think this extra time wasted once you taste these cookies.

Give these hamantaschen a try, experiment with the different flours and fillings, and let me know how they turn out. Happy Purim, but mostly happy baking!

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Chocolate Hamantaschen

Makes about 36 medium-sized cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart

–       2 sticks unsalted butter

–       1 ¼ cups sugar in the raw

–       2 tsp. vanilla extract

–       zest of one orange

–       2 eggs, plus 1 egg for an egg wash before baking

–       2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

–       2 cups finely ground almond flour (I used this brand which my mom and I happily spotted at Costco.)

–       1 tsp. salt, plus more for sprinkling before baking

–       1 ½ tsp. baking powder

–       3 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

–       7 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale in color, about 3-4 minutes. Add vanilla extract, orange zest, and 2 eggs. Add flours, salt, and baking powder, beating until incorporated. Add finely chopped chocolate, and mix until combined. Form dough into three disks, and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about one hour.

Roll out dough, one disk at a time, on a floured surface. Dough should be about a 1/4 inch thick. Cut out circles using a cookie cutter or a round drinking glass, and place on cookie sheet. Whisk the remaining egg with a little water, and brush egg wash around the edges of the circular cookies. Place chocolate chips or chunks in the center of each cookie. Form the cookies into triangles, and freeze for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle each cookie with a little salt to make the chocolate flavor pop. Bake cookies at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, or until the dough turns golden brown.