And so it was that 2013 started out right where 2012 left off. Funny how that happens (and even funnier that I am still somehow surprised by that!)!
Best of intentions and how the road to h-e-double-hockey-sticks is paved and all that, but I am glad that January is pretty much ovah! The Hanks house was visited by a never ending plague of infection and sickness which we are finally starting to come out from under I hope.
While I did still make it into the kitchen a few times this month, my writing/photo editing time has been sorely limited. So it was that February will see January’s posts. OK, so technically today is the last day of January, so maybe there is a bit of credit there.
Since we added our newest little family member things have also been hectic. Benny has already doubled in size. He’s already so handsome and so smart I just know bringing him into our family was the right thing to do.
I’ve had Valentine’s Day on my mind already and wanted to share this brainstorm I had a few months ago and finally got around to making. It takes me a while, but this one was well worth the wait.
Without much ado at all, here is what happened. I should preface this by admitting that the hubs and I don’t actually celebrate Valentine’s Day. After 14 years of marriage and a battle each year that wasn’t worth it where I wanted him to have a little romance in his soul and suck up his hatred for the holiday and he wanted me to let it go and not force him to celebrate something he hated, we’ve come to terms in the past few years.
A certain small angel baby named Kayla probably has the most to do with my acquiescence on this matter. Kayla is my own personal Valentine’s baby and absolutely nothing else my husband could ever do could top my genetically enhanced darling daughter. So, while I love to dream up celebratory ideas, they are usually for the kids and for Kayla’s birthday more than the actual holiday, although I do like the seasonal decor and keep that in mind.
In this case however there is one thing in common that all the Hanks boys have in common and since all my little family members are my favorite Valentine’s I wanted to make something with the most beloved flavors of my boys – peanut butter and chocolate.
I wanted to find a way to take their favorite to a fancier, more elaborate level and these tarts were what I came up with.
I should probably admit at this point that this recipe isn’t really too terribly traditional as far as the tart or creme brûlée portions go. The cookie crust sort of becomes more of an absorbed layer in the dish with the additional crunch of the chopped peanuts still in the layer of chocolate creme. I’m not gonna lie. I’m an impatient baker at times and the reason these tarts look less creamy and more like a baked mousse is because I skipped the water bath for cooking them. If you choose to not be a lazy bones you will end up with a more traditional texture. I love it both ways and also loved eating one of these warm from the oven instead of chilling it.
I guess my point is that if you are a purist, then this recipe may not be for you. In which case you should still make this dark chocolate creme brûlée and get your fix. It’s crazy good and was the base of the recipe I used to create these tarts. However, if you don’t mind your dessert being a little bit elegant and a little bit rock and roll (and chunky peanut butter and chocolate topped with a crisp sugary crust) then this is for you.
It’s rich, creamy, dreamy and amazing. The texture is somewhat like a molten cake meets creme brûlée meets soufflé meets cookie. It’s hard to describe, but oh so worth it. While it makes two small 5-6 inch tarts perfect for a special dinner for you and your sweetie you could easily double it and make more or just scoop it with some whipped cream or even ice cream into another dish and share with the family.
It starts out with a peanut butter cookie crust made from chunky peanut butter and not much else (and no flour needed so the entire recipe is actually gluten free as well!). The peanut butter cookie dough is pressed into the bottom of the tart pan and baked for a few minutes to give it a head start. The chocolate custard is simple to make and the recipe overall doesn’t require much time to prepare and few ingredients. Just be sure to use a good quality chocolate bar here for the best results and flavor.
Incidentally, if you want to decorate yours with some chocolate leaves too (as seen above) then you’ll do better to use those as garnish on the chilled ones. Making the chocolate leaves is pretty simple. Just melt 1/4 cup good chocolate chips and use a small clean paintbrush to paint a layer of melted chocolate on the backs of some clean mint leaves as shown below. Chill the leaves until set and gently peel the mint leaf off the chocolate before using as garnish.
Dark Chocolate Creme Brulee Peanut Butter Cookie Tarts
Original Recipe from pheMOMenon.com
Makes two 6-inch tarts
1/4 cup chunky/crunchy peanut butter
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
- Lightly butter two 6-inch shallow ramekins or baking dishes.
- In a small bowl stir together the ingredients until a cookie dough is formed.
- Divide the dough in half and press one portion each into the bottom of each ramekin.
- Place the ramekins on a baking sheet (if not using the water bath). If you want more of a custard texture at the end then place the ramekins into a shallow baking dish with at least 1-inch sides (further directions below – don’t add any water at this point).
- Bake the cookie portion for 5 minutes and remove from the oven while preparing the custard as directed below. Reduce oven heat 275°F.
For the Chocolate Creme Brûlée:
1 cup whipping cream
3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used 71% Valrhona)
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 4 tablespoons sugar for topping
- Bring cream to boil in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to low.
- Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
- Whisk yolks and sugar in a small bowl to blend.
- Gradually whisk in hot chocolate mixture.
- If you are using baking sheets then just skip to the next step below with the ramekins on your baking sheet. If you are using the water bath then carefully add enough very hot water to the baking dish with the ramekins in it to just come up about halfway up the sides.
- Pour the custard into each ramekin over the partially baked cookie to just under the rim of the dish, you may have a little extra custard left over. If you pour the full amount or fill to the rim it may overflow a bit (like mine did).
- Bake until custards are set, about 50 minutes. It will look a bit more like a baked mousse or soufflé (without being very puffy) if you aren’t using the water bath. If you do use the water bath it will more resemble pudding or pot de creme.
- Remove from the oven and from the water bath if using and set on a rack to cool slightly.
- For chilled creme brulee, chill the tarts 2 hours or cover and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to brulee the tops just preheat your broiler and sprinkle each custard with 1 tablespoon sugar. Broil until sugar turns golden, watching closely to avoid burning, about 3 minutes. Refrigerate again until custards are set, 1 to 2 hours.
Other serving option: To serve slightly warm from the oven (as shown here) simply place the dishes on a baking sheet and add up to 2 tablespoons of sugar onto the top of the dish. Use a torch to melt and crisp the sugar or place the dishes under the broiler in the oven until the caramelized crust is formed. Serve warm with fresh raspberries (optional).
Note: You could also prepare these in springform or removable sided tart pans, but only if you aren’t using the water bath.