Peanut butter cheesecake. Let’s do this!

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Summer is here again, though not for my good friends in Melbourne.  As the ice begins to cover my friend’s truck, sun bakes the ground dry around my olive tree and feeds my mint until it is waist high!  Regardless of the weather, there’s always an opportunity to share a good peanut butter recipe and tempt you back into the kitchen.

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I don’t need to dress this bad boy up at all.  It is quite simply a combination of a no-bake cheesecake recipe and the salty goodness of peanut butter.  I spent quite a while getting this just right, so my hope is that you try it and love it as much as I did.  The recipe below makes a rather large cheesecake; plenty for all the family.  Rain or shine, it won’t last long at all!

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Peanut butter cheesecake

340g peanut butter

300g cream cheese

284ml double cream

160g caster sugar

130g Reece’s Pieces

100g butter

22 chocolate digestive biscuits

12 chocolate covered pretzels

2 tblspoons chocolate sprinkles

I began by crushing all of the biscuits and putting them into a mixing bowl.  I melted the butter and poured it in.  After mixing the biscuits and butter together, I tipped the mixture into a 9 inch springform cake tin and pressed it down to form the base of the cheesecake.  This went into the freezer for about half an hour to firm up.

For the cheesecake mixture, I used an electric mixer to whip the double cream until peaks formed.  I then added the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter and continued to mix until fully combined.

At this point, I threw in the sprinkles and Reece’s Pieces.  These are optional, but fun.  I spread this mixture over the biscuit base and popped the cake back in the freezer to make it firm before decorating it.

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Once the cheesecake was firm to the touch, I placed chocolate covered pretzels around the edges to make it easy to portion out when serving.  I also drizzled some chocolate and peanut butter sauce to give it yet more peanut butter beauty!  No half measures here.  Now if that isn’t a fun cheese cake, I don’t know what is!

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Got a sweet tooth? Okay, prove it!

Nothing is too sweet for me.  Have I said that before?  Probably.  I’ll eat every last mouthful of every sugary delight you care to serve me.  Chocolate dome cake, caramel fudge, mud cake, baklava, treacle tart, butterscotch this and praline that;  do your worst.  My brother draws the line at halva, my mum stops at dulce de leche chocolate mousse cake.  All the more for me, I guess.

In my opinion, if a cake leaves you wanting more, it has failed.  A cake should satisfy every sugary urge and leave you wanting nothing.  If I didn’t have such a sweet tooth, I would suggest that the recipe I’m sharing this week achieves this and more.

Peanut butter and chocolate are a popular combination right now and the internet is awash with all kinds of cakes that bring together these two favourites.  One thing that I noticed was the lack of chocolate log action in this department.  Enter The Last Piece of Cake.  I tested the best components from a number of peanut butter and chocolate recipes to come up with a cake so delicious, it would surpass my previous efforts.  The result was a peanut butter and chocolate log of epic proportions.

Essentially, I made a chocolate log filled and covered with a fluffy peanut butter icing and then coated in a darkly decadent peanut butter and chocolate ganache.  This approach has been made popular by the American cake recipe book, Sky High.  My version holds true to the decadence of the original idea.  I’ve noticed, however, that some famous blogs warn readers to cut only the thinnest of slices because of how sweet the cake is.  Pathetic!  To these bloggers I say, “Halt your feeble whimpering and let the people enjoy a huge slice of one of the tastiest cakes in the blogosphere!”  To you, dear reader, I say, “Have a go at putting together this  joyful  bundle of ingredients and rest assured that it will bring a peanut butter and chocolate smile to every face that tries it.”

Peanut butter chocolate log

(For the cake)

115g caster sugar

45g melted butter

40g Fairtrade cocoa powder

4 eggs

Icing sugar

(For the icing)

250g smooth peanut butter

250g icing sugar

110g softened butter

double cream

(For the ganache)

200g dark chocolate

3 tblspoons double cream

2 tblspoons golden syrup

2 tblspoons smooth peanut butter

To make the cake, put the eggs into a glass bowl over a small pan of water and heat gently.  Whisk the eggs continuously.  Take the eggs off the heat when they are foamy and tip them into a mixing bowl.  Use an electric mixer to whisk the eggs for another five or six minutes.  Keep going on the highest speed until there are no bubbles left and the texture is silky and smooth.

Sift the flour and cocoa into the eggs and fold them in gently with a spatula until they are combined and there are no dry bits.  Gently mix in all of the melted butter.

Pour the batter onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.  My tray is about nine inches by fifteen inches.  Make sure the batter is spread equally so that it cooks evenly.  Put it into the middle of a hot oven (190C) for about ten minutes.  When a skewer comes out clean, you’ll know the cake is done.

To roll it, you’ll need to get some baking paper ready on your work surface.  Dust it with plenty of icing sugar.  This will prevent the cake sticking to the paper and breaking up.  Tip the cake out onto the dusted paper and carefully roll it up.  Take time to roll it carefully because it is hot and also delicate at this point.  Leave the roll to cool down on a wire rack.

Now it’s time to make the icing.  Yum!  Clean your electric whisk and use it to mix together the peanut butter and the softened butter.  Add the icing sugar in stages until fully combined.  Don’t put it all in at once, or you’ll finish up looking like Casper The Friendly Ghost.  If the icing gets too dry, add a little double cream.  Keep going until there is no more icing sugar to add and the icing is a nice, thick and creamy consistency.

Now it’s an assembly job.  Unroll the cake and peel off the paper without breaking it.  Using roughly half of the icing, spread a thick layer all over the cake right up to the edges.  Roll it all back up and put it on a plate.  Use a spatula to spread the rest of the icing all over the log.  It should be completely covered in the peanut butter icing incuding the ends.  There might be just a little left in the bowl for you to enjoy!  Put the log in the fridge for about half an hour to an hour to firm up.

Once the icing is firm, make the peanut butter and chocolate ganache which will coat the log.  Melt all of the ingredients together in a glass bowl over a small pan of water and mix it well.  Let it cool a little before you use it.

Okay, so I had a slice before the ganache had set. I just couldn’t resist!

The ganache should be thick and spreadable.  Pour it onto the log and spread the ganache all over.  Place the log back in the fridge for the ganache to set.  I’ll admit, I couldn’t wait and I had a slice while the ganache was still melted.  The cake tasted far better once the ganache had set, but it’s your call.

When you can tap the top of the log and it has set properly, it’s time to dig in.  My advice?  Cut a beautifully thick slice and let your cares float away!  Let me know what you think…

You had me at “Peanut butter”.

Fairtrade is the way forward.

What do you do with spare peanut butter?  Yes, I tackle all of life’s big questions.  After making the blondies, I had some peanut butter left.  The simplest option involves me grabbing the nearest spoon and simply tucking in.  Yes, I’m that sophisticated.  Fans of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will already be familiar with the excellent marriage of chocolate and peanut butter.  I’ve made my own before, but this time, I thought it would be fun to use ice-cube trays for the molds.

Reading fun posts on blogs like The Smart Cookie Cook, is a great way to get inspired.  When I read the peanut butter and Oreo post, I knew that I had to make something where peanut butter was the star.  That’s really why I love these chunks of chocolate and peanut butter.

I found making them with the ice-cube trays was rewarding.  I even got a bit carried away at the end and used some of the gold paper from the chocolate bars to wrap the chunks individually.  A pointless act, because we both know exactly what was gonna happen to those little mouthfuls of peanut butter loveliness.  Now I have to go and make some more.

Fairtrade peanut butter and pecan chocolate chunks

150g Fairtrade milk chocolate

10 pecans

Fairtrade peanut butter

I haven’t put a measurement for the peanut butter.  The amounts needed are very small because you don’t need very much for each chunk.  This recipe makes ten chocolate chunks, but obviously it would be very easy to make larger quantities.

The pecans will be the top of the chunks when they are popped out.

I broke up the chocolate in a bowl and placed the bowl over a pan of hot water on a low heat.  We are often told by television chefs not to let the water touch the bowl, but it really doesn’t matter, so long as the heat is kept low enough to melt the chocolate slowly.  Melting it too quickly with give you a grainy texture.

Nobody will miss just one, will they?

I placed a pecan half in the bottom of each ice-cube compartment and spooned just enough melted chocolate into it to cover the pecan.  I then put the tray into the freezer for a couple of minutes to set the chocolate.  Next it was time to add the peanut butter.  It’s a good idea to pipe the peanut butter onto the centre of each chunk if you’re making a lot of them.  Since I was only making a mini batch, I just used a little spoon to drop a little ball of peanut butter in.  This would be the filling for the chocolate chunks.

The next bit was fun too. I just topped up the ice-cube tray with the remaining chocolate so that each compartment was level and put them all back in the freezer for another couple of minutes.  When they were set, I popped them out and I have to say that a couple didn’t even make it to a plate!  At one point, I wondered if you’d mind not seeing a photograph of them.  Could I get away with just a description?  My mother-in-law adores peanut butter as much as, if not more so, than me.  A little box of these wrapped in shiny paper may be making its way to her at some point.  In the meantime, I think I’ll just make another batch…for research purposes of course.

Do blondes have more fun?

Being married to a greedy chap with a food obsession is frustrating at times, I’m sure.  There’s moaning when meals are dull, there’s a constant stream of food-related chat, large amounts of hard-earned pennies are spent on what seem to be random or unnecessary ingredients and every now and again, a meal is served that the hip kids would label as an “epic fail”.

Don’t get the violins out just yet.  N is a big fan of white chocolate and has the odd day where she completely lucks out.  There are actually two days when this happens.  One is white chocolate cheesecake day.  The other, is blondie day.  Today, it was definitely a blondie day.

Blondies are an alternative to brownies and while I don’t wish to give the impression that I would ever get tired of eating brownies, I do want to promote some thinking outside of that rich, chocolatey box.  I first came across this recipe a few years ago when I was going through what can only be described as a baking frenzy.  Having lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years without an oven, it was a total joy to be back in a kitchen that had more than a microwave and a wok burner.  The baking that followed is almost a blur to me now, but one thing has remained a part of our household since then.  My blondie recipe.  It’s so easy to make that I could burst out laughing just thinking about it.  It requires only two things of you.  The first is that you like white chocolate.  The second is that you like peanut butter.

Blondies (adapted from Rachel Allen)

200g white chocolate (chopped into little chunks)

200g light brown sugar

150g peanut butter

125g plain flour

100g butter

1 egg

1 tspoon baking powder

1 tspoon vanilla extract

If you’re gonna bother making something that relies heavily on two ingredients, it’s worth making sure that those ingredients are well represented.  I’ve adapted this recipe so that every piece and every bite is packed full of fun.  Let’s just say that I’ve cranked up the volume.  For me, there’s no such thing as too sweet.  I used crunchy peanut butter because it gives the blondies extra texture, but the recipe works fine with smooth.

Cream the peanut butter and butter together in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, vanilla and egg.  Add this to the peanut butter mixture and stir.  Finally add the flour and baking powder.  It’s a good idea to use your hands to squeeze everything together and form a dough.  When you’ve got a dough, you can mix in the white chocolate.  My mum hates white chocolate, so at this point she would add something else.  Come to think of it, I don’t think she likes peanut butter either.  Hmmm… anyway, once you have a ball of stickiness, you’re ready to transfer it to a baking tray.

Don’t be alarmed.  The dough is not the sort that you can roll out and work with.  The best thing to do is to line a little tray with baking paper and then press the dough onto it.  I begin by putting the dough in the middle and using my palms to flatten and push the dough to the edges.  I use a tray with one inch sides because the blondies will rise during baking.  Upon finishing this stage of the recipe, I guarantee you’ll be full of doubt, but fear not.  Into the middle shelf of the oven at 160 degrees Celsius for about twenty minutes and you’re laughing.

Just golden, but not brown.

The blondies will puff up and turn ever so slightly golden.  Don’t allow them to brown.  The blondies will still be very soft when you take them out.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool.  If you try to lift them out (and I have), they’ll break up.  If you try to cut them (and I have), they’ll be a mush.  If you prod them with your finger (and I have), well hey, it’s your finger, do what you like.  Once they are completely cool, they will have a wonderful soft, chewy texture and will hold their shape after being cut into little squares.  If your loved ones like white chocolate as much as my wife, you’ll earn major brownie points- or should that be blondie points?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.