When you are a dedicated Seattlelite, you do not complain about the weather. It’s like a secret pain you are not supposed to publicly acknowledge. Someone, who is likely entirely garbed in polar fleece, will undoubtedly accuse you of being a wimp or, worse, a Californian. The truth of the matter is that I am a Californian. I was born and raised there. When I moved to this lovely state, I needed the change. I was a young thing with bright eyes. I was a college freshman with so much lust for life I barely noticed the weather except to marvel at the autumnal leaves. The leaves fall off the trees here in the Fall! Can you imagine?
Despite all this early vim and vigor, the charm sort of faded. And, while I still love this city for a whole host of reasons, the gray and rain really got to me this year. There. I said it. It’s on the record, for certain. You can call me what you like. I’m an adult now. I have a pretty thick skin. You develop an armor of sorts after several years of abuse as a public servant.
However, I’m really not going to complain any further because there is nothing to complain about now. It’s summer. It’s July and Seattle is the absolute perfect place to be this time of year. It’s temperate. It’s gorgeous. Throw open your doors and windows. Inhale the fresh air. This is living. It’s definitely a rejuvenating time of year around here. It’s the time of year when you are surely inspired to do things you don’t ordinarily do or to take on projects that would otherwise seem too time-consuming for the short days of winter.
You can make jam, for example. That is always an excellent idea. Or, quite possibly, you might consider taking on a dessert that (gasp) is a multi-hour project. I know that sounds drastic, but it’s entirely doable on the balmy days of summer in Seattle or, really, wherever you are this lovely time of year. This dessert is worth the effort. And, before I go any further, I should clarify. There’s not a great deal of difficulty involved in making this delectable treat, but there are several steps and the cake must cool and set in the refrigerator. See? Not bad at all.
I should also warn you this isn’t in the same vein as the summery berry dessert I offered up recently. It’s rich. It’s decadent. It’s worth every calorie, I promise. I made this chocolate peanut butter torte this past week for my brother who was visiting from San Francisco. The man is peanut butter addict. You must give an addict what he deserves for his birthday. So I took it on after Maeve was asleep and I’m so very glad I did. It was a BIG hit.
You might be concerned about the liberal use of peanut butter in a dessert. I expected this response. The way I see it, there are those of us who dab our toast with marmalade and those of us who slather on the peanut butter. There isn’t a great deal of crossover. Well, Nutella must straddle both camps. And, I’m sure there are some of you who fall into the gray area and adore both creamy spreads on your toast and dabble here and there depending on your mood.
There’s no gray area for me. I’m in the peanut butter camp. That is for sure. My mother routinely snuck pieces of orange peel into nearly every dessert making all of her sweet dishes reminiscent of marmalade. I can’t say I’m a fan. This sneakiness sort of turned me off anything with citrus peel as a main component to the dish. Please do not reveal this to the country of Ireland or they might take away my passport. That would be bad because Maeve is looking forward to visiting the mother country.
Without further ado, I give you peanut butter torte. I hope you enjoy it. It’s not the most sophisticated of desserts, but it is so rare we get to indulge our inner children and, even more importantly, our peanut butter addictions.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte
1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth (not natural variety)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Scrape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter 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, put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl 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 remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and , working with a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy. Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.
Source: Baking, Dorie Greenspan