Long absences aside, I'm not much of a hugger. But I will make you a pie with butter crust and serve it with hand-whipped cream melting off the top. I have a devout tendency to protect my space but the affection hasn't baked off of any cake I've ever made. There's just a balanced bit of bite in the frosting. A stack of lemon bars with shortbread crusts isn't made less sweet by a whiskey chaser.
In that way, I am a human equivalent of a quintessential combination- salty sweet. Never fully committed to one or the other, I am unlikely to provoke insulin shock with a superbly sweet nature but am incapable of hardening a heart on purpose.
This is my kind of dessert. Savory hits of peanut butter, creamy folds of cream cheese and then the chocolate. Goodnight...the chocolate.
In the midst of a folded-peanut-butter-cream-cheese-whipped-cream-mousse, bits of bittersweet chocolate and roasted peanuts rolled in cinnamon and espresso appear to break up that milky heaven with a toothsome crunch. It embarrasses me that one sentence was just that long but how do you break that up without the grammatical equal of a toothsome crunch?
As you've likely gathered if you've hung around for more than a post or two, I'm on the road a lot. What you might not realize is that for as much as I'm gone, I have a full family of friends who travel 10 times the amount I do. Jaimeson is my personal pied piper of musical gypsies but over the years the troop has widened considerably. I occasionally envy their rootlessness but, more than anything, I love the ability to provide an edible anchor of sorts when they appear in a 5 mile radius of Wicked Park's winding brick path.
These visits have punctuated the last five years. Once a month or so, someone will turn up to do something wholly wonderful onstage. New people, new sounds, new fun to be had and stories to be told... it's not a conscious effort but you would be hard-pressed to find a more interesting group of humans to spend time with on occasion. I just try to err on the side of mindful when talking about those occasions- we all have a right to determine our own level of public.
All this to say that it was one such visit that gave me a real good excuse to make this dense bit of magic so Amen for that. And on that note I'll throw out two related recommendations.
1) Food people love music and music people love food. I mean if you had to name the two concepts that gave you the most basic level of joy on a consistent basis, these two go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or peanut butter and chocolate, as the case may be. That link has never been more pronounced than it is now. Allie is a master bread baker and sends secret salad dressing ingredients. Elliot started a whole Tumblr dedicated to eating healthy on tour. And Jaimeson. I think you know by now.
If these kinds of things excite you (as they clearly do me), you should really check out the Epicurean Musician. Andrew interviews bands and musicians of all kinds to get the inside track on all the best ingestibles.
This week? He interviewed Cary Brothers. Cary released his second full-length album, Under Control (link is to iTunes, you will need that), on April 6th. The title kind've says it all, "Reformed Fast Food Addict Turns Toward Greener Pastures." Yes, I recognize the full irony of his TKTC love directed in the same breath with kale and asparagus while I'm here today posting about
I realize that's cheesy. Pop a Lactaid.
2) While I'll probably keep to my ambiguous personal guidelines regarding what to post and why, I think I could probably do a better job of speaking up when some of these folks are coming to Chicago...they give good (great) show, as the saying goes.
Starting with Bess Rogers and Lelia Broussard at the Elbo Room, this coming Monday, April 19. Be there- it's gonna be a rock show.
Without further ado (and thank you for your patience with all ado above), the instructionals for a pretty piece:
Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
For the crust:
32 Oreo cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
For the crunch:
1 1/4 cups salted peanuts, finely chopped, divided (for the filling, crunch and topping)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I used bittersweet chips chopped down)
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. espresso powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
For the filling:
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted (I found 1 cup perfectly sufficient)
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (not natural)
2 tbsp. whole milk
For the topping:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before filling. Yes, that is the only baking that needs to be done. It's awesome.
To make the crunch, in another small bowl combine 1/2 cup of the chopped peanuts, mini chocolate chips, sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss with a fork to mix and set aside.
To prepare the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a separate bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the mixer bowl, replace the whisk with the paddle attachment, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, whole milk, and 1/4 cup of the chopped peanuts until well combined.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about 1/4 of the whipped cream just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream. Scrape the mousse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.
To finish the torte, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan. Bring the 1/2 cup of cream to a full boil and remove it from heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and smooth.
Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, at least 20 minutes. When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the springform pan. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
This last picture brought to you by a great show at the Riviera, the end of what I imagine to have been an awesome tour (Jaimeson was on it for a few weeks, dance moves and all), some deliciously obscure beer, two kinds of whiskey, two full bands and crew on one tour bus, a torte that turned out worthy of its alternate title (at top courtesy of Elliot) and one song made popular in a little film called Beetlejuice. Salty, sweet and delicious the whole way through.