Posts Tagged ‘Peanut Butter’
If you were to ask me if the relationship I’m in is long-distance, my immediate response would be in the negative. After a few moments, I might qualify that with a few mumblings of something along the lines of a well sort-of, kind-of, but still–not really. But thing is, I live in a different state than my boyfriend. The drive to see each other is something along the lines of three and a half hours. I’m pretty sure this fits the standard description of “long-distance” but somehow I still don’t see it that way.
I think this has something to do with the fact that my boyfriend spent the last school year in Switzerland. Actually, I’m positive it has everything to do with that. Because let me tell you learning to deal with a nine-hour time difference and trying to balance out the act of waking up at seven in the morning to chit-chat after going to sleep only five hours earlier is not something you ever become entirely used to, no matter how often you remind yourself that it’s worth it (always, always worth it). So when this routine changes to one where you can call any time of the day (!), where you don’t have to schedule out times to talk (!), and where the only thing between you and him is a mere few hours away by car (!), things don’t seem quite so “long-distance” anymore. (Do any of you have either of these distance relationships? I know you’re out there…)
Anyway, it was Waylon’s birthday this last Thursday. Instead of me shipping him a little present across that Atlantic Ocean, he drove down to spend the weekend with me. In return, as his present, I made him drive yet another three or so hours to a small town in southern Oregon whose main feature is that it runs Shakespeare productions all year long; I bought us tickets to see his favorite play, Julius Ceaser. That may seem boring to some people–sitting in a car that long just to go see a play, but I really think that car ride was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. There’s something comforting, being in a warm car buzzing along the freeway with the pitter-patter of the rain sloshing on the windshield, sitting next to a person who feels so much closer than last year but still never close enough, enough of the time. It’s nice being close.
For dessert each night of the weekend we each had a thick slice of a birthday cake I made for him. The recipe is Alice Medrich’s, from her cookbook A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts. This cake is fittingly labeled under the fall section, though there’s nothing stopping this cake from being made any season of the year. It combines her classic chocolate sour cream layer cake with a peanut butter filling and a thick, ganache-like chocolate frosting. I’m going to go ahead and claim this cake as a classic: the crumb is moist, tender, but firm, and the flavor is pure chocolate. It gets a little messy making it, but the cake component is the hardest part. The peanut butter filling is (surprise) a perfect, perfect flavor combination against the chocolate, and the two-ingredient frosting on the outside firms up really beautifully into a sleek, firm ganache. If nothing else, I know I’m going to use the chocolate sour cream cake recipe again, any time I’ll need a classic chocolate cake.
The cake is intended for a decorative touch of peanut brittle–like shiny glass shards against the rich chocolate cake. Alice sticks the shattered pieces straight out of the cake, although I like the idea of patterning them on the sides like a mosaic. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to try out the peanut brittle myself, nor did I pick some up at the store. Instead, I ended up pinning salted, roasted peanut halves around the sides: a half-hearted effort but an effort nonetheless. Besides, I don’t think Waylon would notice the difference–the poor boy doesn’t have much of an interest in any cake in general. But seeing as it was his birthday, I irrationally and somewhat selfishly decided that he needed a cake anyway.
But really, there is only so much he can complain about because it’s all relative, don’t you think? Sure, he may not be over the moon for cake, but the fact of the matter is he spent his birthday eating a treat I made for him. And there is something to be said for that when only a year before the only sign of birthday-affection from his girlfriend came in the form of a package in the mail and a happy e-mail. Yes, I think that maybe we aren’t so long-distance after all.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Layer Cake
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s A Year in Chocolate: Four Seasons of Unforgettable Desserts
Serves 10 to 12
Amy’s Notes: I made my cake in 9-inch cake pans, but I think 8-inch ones (as called for) are preferable, seeing as they create a taller cake. I increased the amount of frosting because I ran out and had to make more–this might have been due to the larger surface area of my cake, but you might as well make extra and layer it on then run out anyway. The frosting is pretty strong and seriously chocolaty, if you’re hesitant to extreme chocolate flavor, you might want to sub-in your favorite chocolate frosting.
2 layers Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake, baked and cooled completely (recipe follows)
2/3 cup natural smooth peanut butter (Alice recommends Adam’s
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted after measuring
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream
4 to 6 ounces peanut brittle, or dry, salted, roasted peanuts for decoration
Beat the peanut butter, vanilla, powdered sugar, and butter until just blended and smooth. Turn one cake layer upside down on 8-inch round cardboard circle or on a serving platter. Spread the peanut butter mixture evenly over the cake. Top with the second later, right side up. Set aside.
For the frosting, place the chocolate in a small bowl and set in a pan of barely simmering water (as a double boiler). Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Off heat, scrape the sour cream on top of the chocolate and stir until combined and the sour cream isn’t streaky anymore. Use immediately (really!) to frost the top and sides of the cake. If the frosting becomes too stiff to use or loses its gloss, set the bowl in a pan of hot water again for a few seconds to soften. Decorate with peanuts or shards of peanut brittle–as I mentioned earlier, I think creating a mosaic on the sides of the cake with the broken pieces of peanut brittle would be very pretty.
Cake keep at room temprature in a covered container for two to three days.
Chocolate Sour Cream Layer Cake
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/8 teaspoon baking powder (sounds weird, I know, but I just went with it)
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly softened (I zapped it in the microwave for a bit)
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch round cake layer pans with a round of parchment paper and lightly grease or spray sides with vegetable oil spray.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together, or whisk very well. Set aside. Combine the sour cream with 1/4 cup water. Set aside.
In a standing mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter for a few seconds until creamy. Add the sugar in a steady stream and continue to beat at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile break the eggs into a cup or small bowl, add the vanilla, and whisk to combine the whites and yolks. Beat the eggs into the butter mixture gradually, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, beating constantly.
Stop the mixer and add one third of the flour mixture to the bowl. Beat on low speed only until no flour is visible. Scrape down sides of bowl. Next, add half the sour cream mixture, beating again on low speed only until just blended and stopping to scrape down bowl afterwards. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining sour cream, and then finished by the final third of the flour mixture–stopping the mixture each time you add the ingredients and beating on low speed only enough to incorporate the ingredients after each addition. It’ll help to scrape down the sides of the bowl throughout as well. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Note here that the batter will be thick, almost like that of brownies. But don’t fret! It will bake up to a beautiful cake.
Bake until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the pan (it will especially start doing this once taken out), and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes before unmolding. Invert each layer on a plate and peel of parchment liners. Turn the cakes right side up on a wire rack to cool completely. At this point the cake can be wrapped well and kept at room temperature for 1 to 2 days before using, or put in the freezer for up to three months (I froze mine about 3 days before using and it worked out great).
I know this soup may not look like the most appealing thing in the world—especially during this wonderful transition time of the seasons we’re currently caught between. I mean, it didn’t to me. Why make something like African peanut soup of all things when you could be getting your last go of summer and adding roasted tomatoes into everything, or satisfying the first glimpses of fall with nutty pumpkin recipes and, ahem, a whole-wheat date bread?
Well because, to be honest with you, this soup is exactly the kind of thing you don’t really think or have daydreams about. It’s not the kind of thing that I would exactly put under my “make as soon as possible” bookmark, and I’m guessing that’s how it is with you, too. But next time you find yourself this fall with nothing in your fridge but a couple sweet potatoes, an onion, and a jar of peanut butter, pull out this recipe and give it a try.
You’ll find that after a little bit of chopping here, a little bit of waiting there, and a whirl of pureeing at the end, you’ll end up with a flavorful, exotic and satisfying soup. Carrots, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes and a touch of honey make a savory-sweet base. This is accented by a slight kick of ginger and heat of cayenne pepper, and the whole thing gets rounded together by smooth peanut butter. Sprinkle chopped green onion and roasted peanuts on top, and what more could you ask for on a weeknight when all you want is a comforting bowl of thick soup and a hunk of bread to dunk in it?
It’s a tasty, easy soup that packs a surprising complexity of flavors in the short amount of time it takes to make it. It gets better after a day or two, as the flavors meld and the texture gets even thicker (trust me on this, I’ve had it for dinner every night this week). It didn’t scream out to me as the essence-of-the-season, seize-the-opportunity-now type of meal to me at first, but somehow having a big pot of it sitting in my fridge waiting for me whenever I want a warm bowl of soup has made it quite the comforting thing, perfect for right now.
Sweet and Spicy African Peanut Soup
Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s The Food You Crave
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about two cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium carrots, diced
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons peeled ginger, grated
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes with juices
2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
½ cup chopped scallion greens (about three scallions)
Roasted peanuts, for garnish and crunch
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 5-7 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic, and ginger and cook for about 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potatoes, then the broth and tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in a few batches (never filling the blender more than half-way at a time), and return the soup to the pot. Over low heat, add the honey and peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with scallions and roasted peanuts.