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.

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Strawberry Raspberry Jam Pie Bars

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The weather in New York this past weekend was perfect. It finally feels like spring is exactly as it should be — 70 degrees and sunny. To celebrate, I met up with some friends from work for a picnic in Prospect Park.

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I first went to Prospect Park this past fall and was blown away by the park’s beauty and magnitude. The green hills and trees make you feel like you’re not even in New York City. It’s a long subway ride from Astoria, but boy, is it worth it.

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Last night’s picnic was met with not only good weather and company, but also, of course, delicious food. My friend Ally is also a food enthusiast, and she and her husband made a curried chickpea and carrot salad, a cucumber and avocado salad, and homemade pizza — all so fresh and flavorful. I brought along Ina Garten’s Mediterranean pasta salad, which I highly recommend if you’re in need of a good picnic or summer potluck dish.

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And for dessert. Every time I thought of a dessert idea last week, I’d meander over to Ally’s desk and share my plans. First it was banana cake with caramel frosting. Then it was lemon cake squares. Finally, I settled on these pie bars. I’m glad I did.

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These bars are a great picnic dessert because they have all the flavors of a homemade pie without the fuss of slicing and plating. These bars hold up well in transit (even across public transportation in three boroughs!), can be made in advance, and are easy to put out for a self-serve gathering.

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The lemon zest in both the crust and the filling complement the sweetness of the jam and serve as a reminder that we really are heading toward summer. The spices in the crust and crumble add warmth and create that comforting freshly baked pie taste.

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The jam that’s mixed into the filling is sweet enough that additional sugar isn’t needed. Of course you can change it up by adding some whole berries or swirling extra jam into the filling, which would make these pie bars burst with even more flavor.

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I hope you had a wonderful spring weekend and that the next few weeks leading into summer bring you beautiful weather, fun with friends, and delicious food.

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Strawberry Raspberry Jam Pie Bars

Adapted from Joy the Baker

Crust/topping:

–       3 cups flour

–       1 ½ cups turbinado sugar

–       ¼ tsp. salt

–       ¼ tsp. ground ginger

–       ¼ tsp. all spice

–       1 tsp. cinnamon

–       3 sticks cold unsalted butter

–       zest of 1 lemon

Filling:

–       4 eggs

–       ½ cup raspberry jam

–       ½ cup strawberry jam

–       1 cup sour cream

–       ¾ cup flour

–       ¼ tsp. salt

–       zest of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients for the crust in a food processor. Once combined, the mixture should be crumbly but should hold together when squeezed. Press the mixture into a 9×13 inch pan. Leave 1 ½ cups aside for the top of the bars, and refrigerate. Bake the crust at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. Whisk all ingredients until smooth. After the baked crust has cooled for about 10 minutes, pour the filling on top. Distribute the remaining crust evenly over the top of the filling so that it resembles a crumble. Bake for about an hour or until the filling has set.

Notes for next time:

–       Pecans or walnuts would be a welcome addition to the crust. They would add both crunch and a buttery texture that would allow you to cut down on the amount of butter used. A mixture of finely ground and coarsely ground nuts would work well here.

–       Add more lemon zest or juice. The consistency of the filling of these bars is similar to that of lemon squares. Adding more zest and juice to the filling would create a lemon square/fruit pie bar hybrid that would be lovely.

Fruit Tart

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Whenever there’s a holiday that celebrates my mom – namely her birthday or Mother’s Day – I can always guess what she’ll ask me to make for dessert. Before my mom even got to make her request this year, I said, “Don’t say fruit tart.”

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Needless to say, I made a fruit tart for Mother’s Day. On this day, it doesn’t matter that me or my other family members have gotten a little tired of the standard fruit tart my mom loves so much. It’s my mom’s favorite dessert, and it will always make an appearance on our dining room table on this day each year.

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This year for Mother’s Day, we went all out. We always stay home and cook for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because in our minds, nothing can beat the taste and price tag of home cooked meals.

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For brunch, I made a vanilla Dutch baby and homemade pork sausage patties. Dinner starred veal Milanese, which my younger brother made, with a side of eggplant caponata that I whipped up. This berry tart closed out the day, which was full of cooking, baking, and dish washing from start to finish.

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The crust of this fruit tart is a little sweeter than other pie crusts I’ve made, but I think my family liked the sugar cookie-esque taste. The chocolate layer is a simple yet extra special addition, and the pastry cream is chock full of flavor from the vanilla seeds.

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This is my second time making this type of pastry cream, and I have to admit that it isn’t one of my favorite things to make. It always takes longer than I want to thicken up, and when it does, I can never seem to completely get rid of the lumps. But, it tastes good in between the chocolate and fruit, which is really all that matters.

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You can of course use any type of fruit you like and omit or change the chocolate layer. A layer of white chocolate would be a nice twist. My mom loves dark chocolate, though, so that’s what our tarts will continue to feature.

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I hope you all had a lovely Sunday celebrating your moms. I think I speak for everyone in my family when I say that we all got to enjoy Mother’s Day this year by treating ourselves to some delicious dishes including my mom’s favorite fruit tart.

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Fruit Tart

Adapted from The Dessert Spot

Crust:

–       12 tbs. cold, unsalted butter

–       ½ cup sugar

–       2 cups flour

–       ½ tsp. salt

–       1 egg

–       1 tbs. cold water

Pastry Cream:

–       2 cups milk

–       ½ cup sugar

–       1 vanilla bean

–       ½ cup cornstarch

–       4 egg yolks

–       3 tbs. butter

 Chocolate Layer:

–       ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate

–       ¼ cup cream or half and half

Fruit:

–      ½ pint raspberries

–       About 10 large strawberries

Start with the crust, since it will have to refrigerate for at least an hour before being rolled out. Combine all ingredients for the crust in a food processor, and process until dough forms into a ball. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll out dough on a floured surface and press dough into a nine-inch tart dish. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Heat the milk and ¼ cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the whole vanilla bean to the milk mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Once the milk has heated, remove the vanilla bean. Add a little bit of the milk mixture to the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Continue to temper the egg yolks until all of the milk has been added to the egg mixture. Add the liquid back to the saucepan and add the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch dissolves, and let the liquid come to a boil. After it starts boiling, the mixture should become thicker. Turn off the heat and start mixing to work out the lumps. Add in the butter and continue to stir. Refrigerate until cool.

Once the crust has been baked and cooled, make the chocolate mixture. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan until melted. Smooth the chocolate mixture over the baked crust. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until the chocolate has set.

Add the pastry cream on top of the chocolate in a smooth layer. Cut the strawberries in whichever type of shape you like and arrange fruit on top of the pastry cream until completely covered.