The Setting: A kitchen frenzy.
The Soundtrack: Not even sure.
On the Stovetop: Brownies...Strawberry Jam...various components of what should be Peanut-Butter Mousse....
The Scenario: Paying homage to a delicious dessert from my favorite Florida chocolate shop.
I have literally been dreaming about this for months.
When we were living in Florida, I pretty much could not drive down the Dania Beach stretch of US-1 without stopping into Jimmies Chocolates for a chocolate-covered marzipan and a handmade truffle or two.
It wasn't until my last trip to Jimmie's, however, that I finally dined at Jimmie's Cafe.
Knowing my love of chocolate was as big as my nine-months-pregnant belly, Hoosband surprised me with Jimmie's dinner reservations for my birthday.
Our appetizer and entrees were delicious, but the desserts, not surprisingly, stole the show.
One in particular, a rich chocolate torte layered with sweet strawberry jelly and creamy peanut-butter mousse, doused in decadent dark chocolate ganache, has been haunting me ever since.
This, finally, is my attempt, slightly more freeform and sans snazzy ring molds.
It starts with a fudgy brownie--not my recipe, my favorite from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook (Martha's is my ultimate brownie go-to, but I'm sure your favorite recipe for fudgy--not cakey--brownies would be perfect, too!).
Pouring the batter into a 12-cup, standard-sized muffin pan instead of a brownie pan and cutting down the cooking time to 25-30 minutes makes 12 perfect little canvases for a peanut-butter masterpiece. The centers cave in, creating eager and receptive wells for the jelly.
I used muffin liners this time, but I'll omit them and butter the muffin cups when I do this again. The liners can be a bit of a hassle to remove before assembly of the dessert.
You could just buy strawberry jelly, but if you have a Vitamix or similarly awesome blender, this homemade jam is both simple and scrumptious.
The pectin in the apple seeds thickens and gels the mixture as it cools. You really need a beast of a blender to process the seeds and skins of the apples into oblivion for a pleasant texture. If you don't have one, you could always strain the jelly over cheesecloth after cooking--you will want to use cheesecloth so that you can squeeze excess juice out of the pulp...or you could simply omit the apples and use commercial pectin.
2 large apples, washed and quartered (do not remove skins or seeds)
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
Process the apples in the blender on high speed until they resemble applesauce. Add the frozen strawberries and process on high speed until the mixture looks like a smooth strawberry sorbet.
Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized saucepan and add sugar. Cook on med-high heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a splatter guard if desired. Reduce heat to med-low and cook one hour, stirring occasionally.
Cool completely and transfer to an airtight plastic container to store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
The next step is peanut-butter mousse... or semifreddo... or... frozen custard?
Let's just say the idea was mousse, but it sort of became more of an ice cream along the way...which is fine 'cause it's pretty darn tasty and cute to boot. Just use an ice-cream scoop to place the perfect mound of peanut-buttery goodness atop the jam.
The mousse idea may be revisited in future attempts, but for now....
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Whisk yolks with 1/4 cup sugar and salt over a double boiler till light in color and thick and creamy in texture, about 10 minutes. Place in an ice bath to cool.
Stir in peanut butter. Mixture may seize up a bit.
Whip egg whites with 1/4 sugar and 1/8 tsp cream of tartar over double boiler till stiff peaks form. Place in a water bath to cool.
Gently whisk 1/4 of the meringue into peanut butter mixture, and then very gently fold in the rest.
Whip cream till stiff peaks form and fold into the peanut butter mixture. Transfer the mixture to an airtight plastic container, and stash in the freezer for at least one hour, stirring after 30 minutes. The "mousse" can be stored in the freezer for two weeks.
The crowning glory is the perfect marriage of chocolate and cream known as ganache. Mine is as easy to make as it is to devour.
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/8 tsp instant coffee or instant espresso granules (not ground coffee)
6 oz mini semisweet chocolate chips
Place cream in a microwave-safe cup or bowl. Microwave on high for 60 seconds.
Stir in instant coffee.
Place chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Pour cream over chips and whisk until smooth and uniform.
Cooled ganache can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for two weeks and microwaved for 30 seconds to be spoonable again.