Definitely one of the best things about having a 6.5 year old is that he now has classmates that can bestow upon us The Annual Gift of the Thin Mint Cookies. If there were any other Girl Scout Cookies worth celebrating, I knew nothing about them until pickup earlier this week when I saw other parents scurrying off with boxes of curiosities like Samoas and Tagalongs and launched a full investigation. Seriously, why did nobody tell me about those crispy chewy rings of caramel, coconut and stripes of chocolate? Was there always a cookie with both peanut butter and chocolate in it or is this some millennium baby voodoo? Making up for time lost to Thin Mint blinders begins here and now.
The other awesome thing about elementary school kids is genuine excitement over math-y holidays such as this coming Monday’s Pi(e) Day, something that I previously only celebrated sarcastically, because I was a terrible person with a life bereft of wide-eyed wonder. Thus, when I spied a Tagalongs-style peanut butter pie on Tasting Table this week and realized that it was easy enough that I could pull it off in my current sleep-deprived fugue while also filing the vast peanut butter pie-shaped hole in the archives, it was a done deal.
I’ve always been charmed by the idea of peanut butter pies but found them (forgive me, I know how unworthy this makes me) a little goopy and over-the-top in their standard form, to say nothing of the Cool Whip most muddle perfection with. This one, however, is delightfully to the point with equal billing given to a buttery shortbread crumb base, a compact layer of creamy peanut butter (with the essential tangy oomph so many peanut butter desserts miss when they don’t include cream cheese and salt) and a thick shiny layer of dark chocolate ganache with a dusting of sea salt, and it requires all of 10 minutes baking time. Sure, Pi(e) Day could be celebrated with flaky crusts, seasonal fruit and zero PIPIEGI (Processed Ingredients Processed Into Even Greater Ingredients) but really, where’s the fun in that?
One year ago: Black-Bottom Oatmeal Pie
Two years ago: Broccoli Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole
Three years ago: My Favorite Buttermilk Biscuits
Four years ago: Mulitgrain Apple Crisps
Five years ago: The Best Baked Spinach
Six years ago: Warm Mushroom Salad with Hazelnut and Coconut Milk Fudge
Seven years ago: Steak Sandwiches and Pita Bread
Eight years ago: Almond Biscotti and Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza
Nine years ago: Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan Loaf
And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Caponata
1.5 Years Ago: Herbed Tomato and Roasted Garlic Tart
2.5 Years Ago: Baked Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
3.5 Years Ago: Fig Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
4.5 Years Ago: Roasted Eggplant with Tomatoes and Mint
Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart, Tagalongs-Style
Adapted from Tasting Table
- I swapped the suggested graham crust for a shortbread one closer to the original cookie (but let’s be honest, so much better because: butter). One of the pesky things about crumb crusts is that I find that depending on the crumbs used and how finely ground they are, you might need more or less butter. Here, using shortbread loaded with butter, I only needed 3T melted butter to get the crumbs clumpy enough to form a crust. With the same amount of graham crumbs, I usually need 4T.
- I like to parbake crumb crusts because I think they set much better this way. The sugar helps “glue” the crust together too, but I still use as little as possible.
- I found that the recipe better filled out a 9-inch/1-inch tall tart pan than a standard pie dish. Should you not have a tart pan, you could still make this in a standard (not deep-dish) pie dish, but it might help to only press the 2/3 the way up the sides. Or, if you’d really like to fill out a standard pie pan, you could double the filling and chocolate This should also work in a 8-inch square baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends; this sling will hopefully make the bars easier to remove.
2 5.3-ounce (150 gram) shortbread cookie packages (to yield 1 3/4 to 2 cups shortbread cookie crumbs)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (see note about butter amount)
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 115 grams) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 30 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup (40 grams) powdered or confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup (130 grams) creamy peanut butter (I use Skippy but think a more natural one would work just fine here)
1/4 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (about 6 ounces or 170 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
A pinch of salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
Flaky sea salt, to finish (optional)
Make the crust: Heat oven to 350°F (176#176;C). Place a 9-inch round tart pan (ideally with a removable bottom) on a rimmed baking sheet. Finely grind cookies with sugar and salt in a food processor. Add melted butter and process until clumpy. (See note up top about needing more with other types of cookies.) Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom and up sides of pan. Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. If any parts of the crumb walls have fallen or slumped, you can press them gently back into place with a spoon. Let cool completely. I have no patience for long cooling processes and put it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla together until fluffy with an electric mixer or with good elbow grease, a big whisk. Scrape the mixture into the tart shell and smooth the surface with a spatula. Chill this while you prepare the topping — again, I just slide it into the freezer for 10 minutes. A cold surface helps the chocolate set faster.
Make the topping: Heat chocolate, pinch of salt and cream together in a microwave or saucepan until the chips are mostly melted. Stir until smooth. Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly then pour over peanut butter filling and gently spread smooth. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if desired. Chill the tart until firm. As you can guess, I do this in the freezer for 15 minutes or so because I like to have my treats as soon as possible. An hour in the fridge would also do the trick.
Serve in wedges. Don’t forget to share.