Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

My early twenties were a period of movement. I lived mainly out of a suitcase, shuffling between college dorms, internship accommodations, and my parents' house. In a year's time, I would call as many as four different beds my home. I loved the unpredictable nature of my life, this liberating feeling that I could go anywhere and do anything. It was freeing.

As the years passed, the pillow beneath my head grew fixed and my feet stayed in one place for a greater length of time. I moved to a small town of three thousand for two years; then I moved to a city of three million and that's where I still remain today. Though I resisted it in the beginning, I began to settle down, to find a community, to grow roots.

I closed on a beautiful house two weeks ago. The whole process still feels unreal; the understanding that I live here now is slow to set in. After years of living out of a suitcase, the lessons of minimalism stayed close to heart. Several rooms still sit empty after unpacking the boxes from my one bedroom apartment and will certainly sit empty for a while longer. The home is a blank slate, both exciting and intimidating at the same time.

I have dreamed of this moment for a long time. Now that it's here, I'm spending my time trying to take it all in, to savor this experience.

After baking in cramped apartment kitchens for a number of years, a large functional kitchen was one of the top elements I was looking for in my home. This new kitchen checks all the boxes, with enough counter space for several people to prep comfortably (or, in reality, enough space to support multiple messy, flour-covered projects). The new kitchen also features gas appliances. After using electric appliances my entire life, this particular adjustment has already become an adventure of trial and error.

For this Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, I gave the gas oven a spin for the first time. The graham cracker crust bakes only long enough to set before it is cooled and filled with a rich, creamy peanut butter filling. Covered with a thick chocolate glaze and a smattering of salted peanuts, the pie is a simple homage to the candy bar of similar flavors.

I enjoyed a slice while sitting on the floor of my empty dining room. Between bites, I imagined the memories that would be made in this room someday.

This Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie is a rich, chilled dessert that has a flavor reminiscent of a favorite candy bar. A crisp graham cracker crust is filled with a peanut butter filling made from creamy peanut butter and coconut cream (but don't worry, it tastes nothing of coconut). Spread with a thick chocolate glaze and garnished with salted peanuts, the pie is shaped into its final form. Serve chilled, with a tall glass of milk.

One Year Ago: Dulce de Leche Cake
Two Years Ago: Strawberry Layer Cake & Blueberry Oat Crumble Muffins
Three Years Ago: Berry Topped Angel Food Cake, Mango Margarita, & Chocolate Cacao Nib Banana Bread
Four Years Ago:  Buckwheat Pancakes, White Chocolate Espresso Cake, Vanilla Chia Pudding, & Rhubarb Vanilla Pound Cake
Five Years Ago: Multigrain Bread, Blueberry Lemon Crumble, Vanilla Cupcakes, Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Coconut Nutmeg Pudding
Six Years Ago: Roasted Cherry Brownies, Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, & Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread
Seven Years Ago: Lemon Tart, Chocolate SherbetTapioca Pudding

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Yields 8-10 servings

Graham Cracker Crust
2 cups (285 grams) graham cracker crumbs (about 12 crackers, crushed)
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (85 grams) butter, melted

Peanut Butter Filling
14 oz (414 mL) can full-fat coconut milk, chilled overnight in the refrigerator
1 1/2 cups (405 grams) creamy peanut butter
1 1/4 cups (140 grams) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze
6 ounces (170 grams) semisweet or milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (120 mL) heavy cream (or full-fat coconut milk)
1/4 cup (35 grams) salted, roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 degrees C). 

In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter until uniform. Press evenly into a pie pan and bake for 10-12 minutes to set. Cool before filling.

For the filling, open a can of chilled coconut milk and scoop the solid cream from the top into a mixing bowl. Leave the liquid in the bottom of the can and reserve it for another use (smoothies, baked goods, etc). Add the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract to the solid cream and beat until whipped, about 3-5 minutes. Spread evenly into the cooled crust.

For the glaze, heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until steaming. Immediately remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate, allowing the chocolate to melt for 5 minutes before stirring until smooth and uniform. Spread evenly over the filling. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Chill in refrigerator to set before serving. Store pie in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Banana Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

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Travel allows for a glimpse into another lifeβ€”a different pace, a divergent culture, an opportunity to live as someone else, if only for a short time. These differences may be large and bold, shouting out from every brick and every stone, or they may be quiet and subtle, a difference in the smell of the breeze, but the variations are there, waiting to be detected.

Last week, I was in Vermont on a "bake-cation," a term coined by my fellow classmate, where I happily spent my entire holiday in the kitchen, taking baking classes to learn the science of pastry. There was no sightseeing or a rushed to-do list; it was just butter, sugar, and me. After a long day on my feet, my evenings were spent sitting in a rocker on an old-fashioned porch, a glass of wine in one hand and a homemade pastry in the other, listening to a birdsong I did not recognize. It was a dream.

I'll give you details about the classes soon. Stay tuned.

When traveling in New York City last June, I started the first morning with a green banana smoothie from a small shop down the street from the hotel. Even though I had a list of coffee and bagel shops to visit, the drink was so refreshing that I tossed the list to the wayside and got myself the same exact smoothie every morning hence. The drink I am sharing with you today is inspired by that smoothie, featuring bananas, peanut butter, avocado, and spinach. Though the smoothie may appear green, the flavor of the banana and peanut butter mask the others, making it more pleasant for adults (and kids) alike.

After a week of consuming more than my fair share of butter, sugar, and cream, I could use a few more of these smoothies to get back on track.

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Banana Peanut Butter Green Smoothie acts as a great start to the day, especially during the warm summer months. The smoothie's primary flavors are of banana and peanut butter, which cover up those of the green additions. Honey is added for sweetness, and milk is used to blend. I preferred almond milk in this recipe, but soy milk or regular cow's milk will do just as well.

One Year Ago: Lavender Vanilla Bean Cake
Two Years Ago: Coconut Sorbet and Cherry Almond Crumble
Three Years Ago: Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream, Mocha Almond Cupcakes, and Summer Berry Pavlova
Four Years Ago: Cauldron Cakes, Butterbeer, Butterbeer Cupcakes, and Cherry Almond Muffins
Five Years Ago: Mocha Frappuccino and Blueberry Lime Panna Cotta

Banana Peanut Butter Green Smoothie

Yields 1 large or 2 small servings

2 small (or 1 1/2 large) ripe bananas, frozen
1/2 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 small handful spinach leaves
1-2 teaspoons honey, to taste
1 cup (225 grams) milk 
1 teaspoon chia seeds, optional
Ice, optional

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies (GF)

One of my coworkers has celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder caused by gluten intolerance. Whenever I bring treats to the office after a weekend of baking, she is unable to enjoy them. I am too nervous to make her anything special out of my own kitchen, however. A fine layer of flour has settled over every surface and I am not careful enough to avoid cross contamination when filling measuring cups and spoons. As someone who also suffers from food allergiesβ€”mainly tree nuts and dairyβ€”I know how awful (and life-threatening) it can be when someone else isn't attentive enough.

So I send her recipes instead, gluten-free inventions from my kitchen that she can create in her own.

Though I adore my (gluten-free) almond butter chocolate chip cookies from a couple years ago, I wanted to create a recipe that was more accessible. Almond butter is not only expensive, but it can be difficult to find. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is abundant and cheap. Figuring out the proportions of ingredients was the tricky part.

Even though I would consider myself a fairly prolific baker, I have a terrible habit of not reading recipe directions (this is especially true if the recipe is one of my own). As a place to begin, I planned to mimic the proportions of the almond butter cookie. The first batch of cookies was nearly perfect, but I realized, after eating my third cookie, that none of my ratios were as intended. The second batch, following my original directions, turned out worse than the first. Sandy and crumbly, they reminded me more of shortbread than a gooey chocolate chip cookie.

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My lack of recipe literacy has been helpful before (especially with these double chocolate brownies) and this time was no exception. The third batch improved on the first batch, and the recipe was complete. I tried the recipe with the standard processed peanut butters ("Natural Jif" and "Natural Skippy") and the recipe turned out well both times. Though you can use a completely natural nut butter, I would hesitate doing so. These butters tend to create a more oily batter, which causes the cookies to spread differently (either too thin or not enough).

I shared the heaping pile of cookies I created with my teenage students, and this recipe came out the clear winner. The cookie is chewy, gooey, and full of melted chocolate. The fact that it is also gluten-free is just the icing on the cake.

These (gluten-free) Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies are easily my favorite peanut butter and chocolate cookie combination. The texture is thick and dense. Brown sugar adds a chewiness that appears once the cookies have cooled. Combined with chocolate chunks, these cookies could rival any similar cookie, gluten-free or not. Serve these with milk or coffee and dessert will become something special. 

One Year Ago: Blueberry Pie
Two Years Ago: Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Strawberry Charlotteand Fresh Strawberry Cake
Three Years Ago: Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, and Peanut Butter Cornmeal Cookies
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Milk, Raspberry Swirled Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream, Blueberry Coffee Cake, and Vanilla Pear Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Yields approximately 16 cookies

3/4 cup (200 grams) creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup (135 grams) brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (113 grams) semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla until uniform. Stir in the baking soda and salt. Fold in the coarsely chopped chocolate.

Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for several minutes before moving to a cooling rack to cool completely (the cookies will be fragile and need to set-up before they can be moved).