Thursday, May 11, 2017

Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Bars

Guys! It's time for me to get back to it. To come back to this little internet space on my old Samsung 13-inch monitor and give you more recipes to bake and bake and bake!

In the next few months I'll be working towards more regular posts like it used to be. I just need some time to put ducks in a row (or a crooked line) and it will happen.

For now I'm hung up on peanut butter. No surprise there, I know. And this is coming from a girl who used to be threatened by her mother with peanut butter! "You're getting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch!", she'd say, and pack it up in a brown paper bag for school when I was acting up. Yup - she knew me well. She used food to punish AND promote me.

Many moons later and I adore peanut butter. I have 3 jars in my fridge right now - natural smooth, natural with sea salt and good ol' chunky original Kraft (the regular stuff).

The difference? Huge.

So why do I like natural peanut butter better? Not because it has the word "natural" in it. I'm a Food Scientist so marketing people can't fool me with their naming and brown/green packaging themes. But it tastes so darn good because it is pure, dark roasted peanuts. The only oils present are peanut oil, which tastes like peanuts and everything just tastes so peanutty, rich and it really does stick to the roof of your mouth. The "regular" stuff is emulsified. Nothing wrong with that, it's an important function and it is the reason why so many foods we eat don't look curdled or separated and stay smooth. But, emulsifiers change the taste slightly. Most of all, however, these peanut butters have added vegetables that completely change the taste and when these oils go rancid... YUCK. So not good. The extra sugar added to these products takes away from the savouryness too and I personally like my peanut butter with a touch of salt if anything.

With your natural butters, the peanut oil separates out and don't try to pour it off. I've done that before to make a more sticky, less runny peanut butter and it did just that - it was stiff! Leave it in, stir it in, enjoy the peanut glory.

In this totally addictive (sorry) recipe, you can use either type of peanut butter, but the smooth emulsified type actually works really well to leave you with a silky ganache.

I use creamy milk chocolate for the top layer and the milky dairy flavour really complements peanuts. Then to drive home the milky theme, there is a cream cheese shortbread base. Anything with cream cheese, right?! Maybe make a double batch...

NOTE: With milk chocolate, you CAN make ganache with just 10% cream. That's because of the high sugar content and milk solids in milk chocolate. These things help to bind water and add solids to the water-phase so the mixture is stable.

Serve them alongside extra peanuts for the peanut lovers out there. I adore my little porcelain appetizer dishes and I use them whenever I can. They're colourful and printed, and add a lot of character on a serving plate. You can find similar ones like these porcelain blue and white dishes that are Portuguese-inspired, these moroccan ceramic plates, or these fun and colourful ceramic leaf plates and beautiful floral ones!

So now, my beef: peanut butter jars should not be wide-mouthed. Same goes for Nutella. It is certainly not conducive to healthy eating patterns. (ie. like my "wide mouth" when I can't help from digging in)

Peanut butter jars should have the smallest openings enough to slide a butterknife through to spread on your toast. They certainly should not be large enough to shove a tablespoon in. Because, evidently that tablespoon ends up straight in my mouth before another one goes in for the toast. A knife would be a little dangerous to shove in your mouth, although I've done it and sacrificed my tongue for the pleasure of creamy peanuttyness. All that being said, it would take much longer to make these delicious squares through a tiny slot, so wide-mouth wins. Fine. Sheesh.


Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Bars
makes 12-16 bars

For the base:
6 tbsp (84g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
4 tbsp (56g) cream cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup (142g) all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

For Topping:
1/3 cup (80ml) half & half  10% cream
1 tbsp (14g) unsalted butter
5 oz (142g) milk chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup (80ml) chunky or smooth peanut butter
roasted peanuts for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, beat together butter and sugar until a bit fluffy and lighter in color, about 2 minutes. Beat in cream cheese and vanilla. Add flour and a pinch of salt and mix until combined. Place dough into prepared pan. Using either floured hands or a piece of plastic wrap, press dough evenly into the bottom of the baking pan.

Prick chilled dough all over with a fork and then bake for about 15-20 minutes, until a bit puffed and lightly golden around the edges. Then remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While crust is baking, make the filling.

To make the topping pour cream into a saucepan over medium heat until it just begins to steam. Add butter and then add chopped chocolate and stir gently off the heat until melted and smooth. Reserve ¼ cup of this mixture and gently stir peanut butter into the rest in the saucepan off the heat. Let stand until thick and then spread over the cooled base. Refrigerate until set (1-2 hours) and then pour the remaining ganache over top to create a glaze. Refrigerate for another 30 minutes before slicing.

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