Ok, so you’re probably wondering, “what’s with the dorky ‘Rachael Ray-esque’ title?” Well, this week’s TWD recipe (Peanut Butter Torte, chosen by Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food) was sort of two-fold for me. As always, it was another baking adventure that pushed me to try things out of my comfort zone, but it also served as a celebratory (or celebra-torte-y, if you will….hehe) cake for me. Allow me to steer away from the subject of TWD for a second:
As sort of a “second job”, I sing in the chorus of a nearby opera company every summer. Last summer was my first season with them and the opera we did (called Falstaff) had a teeny-tiny chorus role. The chorus was on stage for a total of 5 minutes, maybe. This year, however, is different – this year we’re doing Puccini’s Turandot and the chorus plays a significant role in the opera…we’re on stage practically the entire time! Woo hoo! So, the other night in rehearsal, we came to a part of the score where there was a small soprano solo. I wasn’t even paying attention because I just figured the director would give it to one of the ladies who had been in the company for a while. Out of nowhere, I heard the director say my name, and as I looked up, sure enough, he was pointing right at me (This would be the part that, if I were telling you this story in person, I’d be jumping up and down and screaming). So, after I had sort of gotten a grip on reality and my face had turned four shades of red, it finally occurred to me, “omigoshomigoshomigosh I just got a solo! I just got a solo! I just got a SOLO!” Now, this is a pretty big opera company, mind you; and I’m just a lowly chorus mignon; so hopefully you can understand my excitement.
So, anyway, when something big like that happens, I always make some kind of fun dessert or meal to celebrate (last year, when I auditioned and made the opera company for the first time, I made cranberry white chocolate cookies); well I was already making the Peanut Butter Torte for Tuesdays with Dorie and that’s pretty fun, fancy dessert, so I thought, “I’ll just make this as a ‘congratulations to me’ dessert!” And that’s just what this torte is; something to celebrate with! I don’t think I would make this for anything other than a celebration or a big dinner party – its one of those desserts you only need to eat once a year, if not less – its chock full of fat and calories (but worth every bite, in my chubby opinion). You could always halve the recipe, though, if you wanted to make it for two or even four. However you make it, though – its darned delicious. The espresso powder gives it a slight coffee taste, which just adds mountains of flavor to the peanut butter mousse filling. I also loved the crunch of the peanuts and chocolate chips – and that oreo crust….heaven!
This was the perfect (don’t worry, I’ll say it normal this time-) celebratory dessert – and from now on, whenever I make this delectable peanut butter torte, I’ll always look back and think on the time I got my first solo with a big opera company!
Peanut Butter Torte
1 1/4 c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 1/2 c. heavy cream
1 1/4 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 c salted peanut butter – crunchy or smooth
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Getting ready: 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. Crape 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 mouse 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 The Torte: 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 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.
When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.