It’s that time of year again. Our flag waving, firework watching, parade going, time of year. We sport our red, white, and blue, maybe even get a stroke of inspiration to visit a battlefield or two. But no matter what, on the 4th of July we picnic and barbeque in a way that only Americans know how. But I’m not exactly saying that like it’s always a good thing.
It seems that although we have so much fresh produce in the summer and opportunities for innovative and delicious meals, the Independence Day cookout ignores any potential for groundbreaking feasting. It’s your average hot dog on a potato bun, overly mayonnaised elbow noodle salad, a reheated can on Bush’s Best Baked Beans, and don’t forget those festive sugar cookies with the fluorescent blue icing and little star-shaped sprinkles on top.
That’s not to say that all barbeques are bad. In fact just the other day I went to a picnic and had some of the best ribs of my life and fresh sweet corn on the cob. It was wonderful! But it is a little sad that on this holiday above all others, when we get the day off and have the time to cook, we just like to take the easy route. I suppose our efforts to reduce oven usage to a bare minimum as well as any other heat-inducing physical exertion lead to supersize packs of Costco potato salad.
But if you want to be the star of the picnic this 4th of July, to be the one that ignites the fireworks in everyone’s mouth, and to be the banisher of neon red cherry pie filling, then I have a recipe for you. In fact, I have my number one, signature, never-fail recipe for you. This is my ultimate peanut butter pie and although it absolutely screams Happy Independence Day, you’ll be coming up with excuses to make this for almost any, even the most insignificant, holiday.This pie is creamy, crunchy, sweet, and salty, and though it is sinfully rich and indulgent it still manages to be a refined and elegant dessert. And after four years of trial and error, I finally perfected it. Its peanut butter:chocolate:crust ratio has reached a level of magic so strong that you’ll swear this dessert performs some sort of disappearing act.
Happy 4th of July!
Peanut Butter Pie
This is the one time that I would suggest not buying all-natural peanut butter. Instead go for your favorite commercial brand like Jif or Skippy for a filling that is very creamy and won’t separate. And although this pie dirties up quite a few dishes and it takes a while for the separate layers to cool, there is very little oven usage and it’s a cinch to put together. Once it is completely assembled, it is best to let it set in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving so that the filling is firm and it cuts cleanly.
Graham Cracker Crust
1¾ cups graham cracker crumbs (make the crumbs either in a food processor or by placing the crackers in a plastic back and bashing them. Takes about 10 whole crackers)
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbs. dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 oz chopped dark chocolate
coarse sea salt
Peanut Butter Filling
4 oz room temperature cream cheese
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup smooth peanut butter
¾ tsp salt
1½ cups cold heavy whipping cream
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the piecrust. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until the butter is evenly distributed. Pour into a 9-inch pie dish and firmly press the mixture down on the bottom and up the sides. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to help evenly press the crumbs. Bake the crust for 8-10 minutes and then set aside to cool.
Once the crust is cool enough to touch, prepare the ganache layer for the inside of the pie. In a double boiler (or in just a metal bowl set over a pan of shallow, simmering water) heat the chocolate, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until fully melted. Then add the cream and continue stirring until the ingredients are well combined and the mixture is glossy, smooth, and quite runny. Set aside about 1 Tbs of ganache in a bowl for decorating later. Pour the rest of the ganache into the baked crust and spread it evenly over the surface, pushing it halfway up the sides of the crust. Sprinkle a little bit (about ¼ tsp) of coarse sea salt over the chocolate and put the pie dish into the refrigerator until the chocolate is set, about an hour.
While the ganache cools, make the peanut butter filling. Using a handheld mixer beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until combined, first on low and then on medium speed. Add the peanut butter and salt and continue beating until smooth. Wash your mixer’s beaters and then, in a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream on high speed until you have stiff peaks. Mix 1/3 of the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture then gently fold in the rest, reserving ½ to 1 cup of the whipped cream for decorating. Fold in the peanuts. Place the mixture in the refrigerator until the chocolate on the pie is firm.
Once the chocolate is firm, evenly spread the peanut butter mixture into the piecrust and smooth it out on top. To decorate, reheat the reserved chocolate and drizzle it over the pie. I put it into a plastic bag with one corner snipped off to do this. Then pipe the remaining whipped cream around the edge and sprinkle some chopped peanuts on top. For best results, let the pie cool in the refrigerator for about 4 hours before serving.