Peanut Butter Valentine

Not that this is news to anyone, but it’s Valentine’s Day. I’ve always celebrated it in some fashion, despite my cynicism surrounding hyped-up over commercialized weekdays (it is, after all, just another day). But the truth is, it’s not the worst one of the bunch. Sure, all the red and pink doilies and hearts can make you feel a bit sick to your stomach, and if you don’t have a sweetheart, you might feel a bit left out of the celebration and forced into one of two categories: those who are single and celebrate anyway in defiance by eating chocolate, and those who eschew the romantic contextualization completely and celebrate making it through another Tuesday…by eating chocolate. It’s too bad that our culture demands that anyone choose sides on a holiday, which is supposed to be for everyone and not, as Bridget Jones puts it, just for the “smug marrieds.” But it is, after all, at its heart (pun intended), a holiday that values love and chocolate, which are pretty universal smilemakers, and happen to be two of my personal favorite things. And this year, I have a pretty good reason to celebrate.

Barf! No seriously I love them.

I met my sweetheart years ago, but it’s only within the last few years that we started to become friends. We were both musicians, and he happened to play in one of my favorite local bands. Oh, I loved (love) that band. I would often force myself up onstage with my tambourine so that I could be as close to the music as possible, and because I knew most of the lyrics, I’d occasionally get handed a mic.

Notice how I am obviously flirting and he is wholly absorbed in playing...

At one of these shows, just before they were going to take the stage, Ryan and I began talking, and I learned that in addition to being adorable, cheerful, intelligent, and a drummer, he also drove a motorcycle. I swooned (internally) and we made plans to meet for drinks later that week. He’ll tell you that I wowed him on our first date by ordering and consuming an entire steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and a dish of ice cream for dessert (when I get nervous, I eat), but whatever it was that caused the sparks to fly, we have been together ever since. I wasn’t particularly looking for love at the time, but it found me, which I guess how it’s supposed to work.

Sometimes we dance together.

We have spent over a year and a half together, dancing, traveling, and giggling (a lot), and endured many a trial and tribulation (being long-distance for 8 months comes to mind), but through every experience he has been consistent, caring, and dependable. He completely proved to me that love, however challenging or distant, is worth risking everything for. I’m truly lucky to have him in my life!

❤ ♡ ❤

He and our roommate Ross (who is also awesome and adorable) are getting a big Valentine’s meal tonight (salmon poached in red wine, and fresh pasta with tomatoes, tarragon and cream), but for dessert, in honor of the chocolate holiday, I’m making my sweetheart a version of his favorite candy–peanut butter cups.

You could use your favorite tart crust if you’re not so into peanut butter. This is completely adaptable to whatever you have on hand. Another nice thing about this tart is it is delicious anytime of year (because chocolate is always in season) and you can dress it up or dress it down, like the proverbial perfect little black dress.

The first time I made this, I pressed fresh strawberries into the chocolate after it had cooled but before it had hardened. You could literally try this with anything you might add to chocolate: candied orange peel, slivered and chopped almonds, dried cherries, or even adding spices like cinnamon and cardamom to the filling before it cools. The possibilities are endless. Crisp, sweet peanut buttery shortcrust, and a smooth, rich chocolate filling that complements any holiday….this is one indulgence I don’t mind celebrating. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Peanut Butter Cup Tart
Crust adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum, The Pie & Pastry Bible (she has a blog too! eek! i love her!)

Note: The chocolate ganache filling is sourceless, I don’t remember where I first learned how to make it, but honestly it’s just hot cream and chocolate. I recommend using the best chocolate you can find; it’ll make a big difference.
As for the crust, Rose Levy Berenbaum is the goddess of baked goods–her recipes are perfect. Exhaustively researched, tested, tried, and true, so you know if you follow them exactly, you’ll produce the perfect pie. Problem is, they are SO specific (she literally calls for 1/16 of a teaspoon of salt), they can be a little intimidating. What follows is my own adjustment to her recipe, and I can assure you (although my words carry less weight than hers) that it is almost as good.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
¼ cup packed light brown sugar,
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1-inch cubes
½ cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
½ large egg (beat the egg lightly before measuring out half of it)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or 4 oz each of milk and dark chocolate), coarsely chopped
8 ounces heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkle of sea salt (optional)

Equipment:

A food processor
A small spatula (to scrape the sides)
1 small & 1 medium bowl
A 9 inch tart pan
A small saucepan and whisk

Method:

  1. For the crust: In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a food processor with the metal blade, process the sugars for several minutes or until very fine. With the motor running, add the butter cubes. Add the peanut butter and process until smooth and creamy, about 10 seconds. With the motor running, add the egg and vanilla and process until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture and pulse just until incorporated.
  3. Scrape the dough into a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
  4. Press the dough evenly into the tart pan. Use your fingers for a rustic feel, or using a glass or measuring cup wrapped in floured plastic wrap for a more precise thickness. (It is a little more challenging, but faster and neater, to roll it out between floured sheets of plastic wrap to about 11 ½ inches in diameter. Remove one piece of plastic, invert the dough into the pan, easing the border into the sides of the pan so that the sharp top surface does not cut it off, and use the remaining plastic wrap to press it evenly into the pan.) Take care to press it well into the corners. If the dough softens and sticks, simply refrigerate it until the plastic wrap can be removed easily. If the dough tears, press it together or use scraps to patch it up. Cover the tart pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 1 week. (You can wrap the unbaked crust well and freeze it for up to 3 months.)
  5. Bake the tart shell, without weights, in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until golden. It will puff at first and then settle down toward the end of baking. The sides will be soft but spring back when touched gently with a finger. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. For the filling: Once the crust has cooled completely, put your chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat your cream in the saucepan until it forms tiny bubbles at the edges but before it boils. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
  7. Pour the ganache into the cooled tart shell and sprinkle with a few flakes of sea salt, if you like. Refrigerate for at least an hour until set. It will retain a soft, fudgy texture even if it’s been in the fridge for a while, so don’t worry about it getting too hard to cut. When slicing, I recommend using a sharp knife, and dipping it in a glass of hot water between cuts to help reduce the smearage. Enjoy!

{images courtesy of doug coombe, the photographer from ONCE, and carolcatherine}

2 comments
  1. Lucien said:

    NYAAAAWWWWWWWWWW

  2. Marrria said:

    Erik and I did the day-after anti-Valentines Day date. I bought a really nice bottle of organic basil vodka which I mixed with club soda and garnished with big queen olives and grape tomatoes, cut slightly to let the flavor leech into the drink. It was like sipping on a summer garden.

    Glad you’ve found such happiness with this boy, and with your path. Prost!

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