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1 May 2021

Peanut butter cup pie – Last week I decided to do a little pie-making. I would normally say “baking” here, but the only baking involved the crust. I got the idea because somehow we ended up with abnormally large quantities of both peanut butter and cream cheese, and I was looking for a way to use them. What I came up with is what I am calling a “peanut butter cup pie.”

“I was pleased with the way this came out. It is very tasty and very easy to make as well.”

One thing I hate about websites that specialize in recipes is that they make you read through the whole entry first and only give you the list of ingredients and instructions at the end. Why? Why would you do that? Maybe if I’m a regular reader of your blog and I feel some sort of emotional attachment to you and your content, I’ll be fine reading through the post without having any idea of what I need to actually follow along with you. But the cold, hard truth of the internet is that I probably landed on your page via a search engine and do not care about you or your witty banter—I just want the ingredients and instructions.

With that in mind, I am not going to toy with you. I’m going to give you my list of ingredients, followed by a quick set of instructions. If you still want to read on in more detail after that, you are more than welcome to do so, but I’m not going to waste any more of your valuable time, not when there is a peanut butter cup pie waiting to be made (and eaten!).

Ingredients

Instructions

Combine the Digestive biscuit crumbs with the melted butter and press into a 25 cm pie pan (this is a shade under ten inches for you imperialists out there; a nine-inch pan will be fine). Bake for 10 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius and set aside to cool. Thoroughly combine the cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar. Whip half (100 grams) of the cream and fold into the cream cheese/peanut butter mixture. When the pie crust is fully cool, scrape this mixture into it and smooth the surface out with a spatula. Cover and refrigerate for several hours. Just before taking the pie out of the refrigerator, finely chop the dark chocolate and put it in a bowl. Heat the remaining (100 grams) cream to boiling, pour it over the dark chocolate, and let it all sit for three minutes before stirring to a smooth consistency. Pour the ganache over the pie, spreading it out with a spatula if necessary. Allow the ganache to cool completely before covering the pie again and returning it to the refrigerator, preferably to sit overnight, before serving.

OK, that’s the quick-and-dirty version of my recipe. If that’s all you needed, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the pie! If you are a regular reader and/or would like to read the longer, more meandering version of my experience making this pie, read on. The process will not be illustrated with photographs at each step, because it is neither interesting nor complicated enough to warrant this. There will be a couple of photos at the end, though, so you can see how it turned out.

Like I said above, this pie was born out of necessity—the necessity of using two particular ingredients that we had in bulk. It started with just the peanut butter, but when I looked up recipes for “peanut butter pie” online, I saw that they all contained cream cheese as well. We happened to have a massive, restaurant-style bag of cream cheese sitting in the back of the refrigerator that I was worrying about going off, so I was delighted to discover that I would be able to kill two birds with one stone. I would link to a particular recipe, but the truth is that they are all basically the same, differing only in the proportion of ingredients and some minor details. Also, many of them do what I ranted about above, so I’m not inclined to subject my readers to that. There must be some template for cooking websites that everyone uses, because they all look exactly the same. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that there is a template for cooking website owners as well—young, conventionally attractive (but not so glamorous as to be inaccessible) women, usually with blond hair and (somehow) perfect teeth, and homey, folksy bios. I’ll be honest: I started wondering if all of these websites were run by real people or if they weren’t just churned out by an AI trained to press all the right buttons.

Back to the pie, though. I didn’t follow any particular recipe, instead deciding (as I usually do) to put together my own recipe. I knew that I wanted the pie to be sufficiently peanuty, so I wanted a one-to-one ratio of cream cheese to peanut butter. I also knew that I didn’t want the pie to be overly sweet—recipes that I find online or in books are almost always too sweet—so I didn’t want too much sugar. From there I just went with rough estimates as to how much I would need to fill the pie pan. These estimate turned out to be pretty much spot on; I probably could have fit more filling in the pie if I had wanted, but I liked the filling-to-ganache ratio I ended up with.

The recipe starts off with a Digestive biscuit crust that was born out of necessity rather than the desire to be different. Graham crackers are somewhat hard to find in Korea, while Digestive biscuits are very easy to get. I actually started making Digestive biscuit crusts years ago for my cheesecakes, and now that is my go-to substitute for graham cracker crusts. If you do have access to graham crackers and want to go that route, feel free (heck, if you want to make the whole process a lot easier, you may just want to buy a pre-made graham cracker crust, if you have access to such a luxury). You’ll probably have to adjust the proportions a bit; for reference, a single Digestive biscuit is about 15 grams, which means that the ratio of Digestive-to-butter is 3-to-1 by weight.

While we’re on the crust, though, I should note that it belatedly occurred to me that an Oreo or Hydrox crust would probably be even better, as the whole point of this pie is to imitate a peanut butter cup. We don’t keep Oreo cookies at home, though—in fact, we don’t keep any cookies, really, with the exception of Digestives, which I like to dunk in my afternoon tea (a habit I picked up as an exchange student in the UK). But if I were to do this again, I would definitely see about picking up some Oreos, or maybe a similar chocolate cookie that would not require me to scrape off the sugar paste (yes, that’s what it is, not cream) before using them.

Once I had my butter-moistened Digestive crumb mixture, I pressed it into the pie pan. This was probably the most labor-intensive part of the entire pie-making process, simply because it is tricky to get an even layer of crumb mixture. I ended up with a thicker “heel” (the part where the bottom of the pie meets the angled side), and the edge of the crust was a bit messy, but I didn’t bother myself too much about either of those things. The function of the crust is really only to make sure that you can later remove the pie from the pan, and also of course to provide a little crunch to complement the creaminess of the filling; this crust did both of those things, so I didn’t care how pretty it was.

While the crust was cooling, I took a look at my cream cheese, which had been softening at room temperature for an hour or so at that point. It wasn’t really all that soft, though, so I put the bowl in a larger bowl of warm water to help speed up the process a bit. I don’t know how much this really helped, other than to make the surface of the cream cheese a little mushier, but it did make me feel better. When it came time to mash together the cream cheese, sugar, and peanut butter, I had to get in there with a fork anyway and really work at it. I eventually got it to a uniform consistency and set it aside while I whipped the cream. Once I got the cream to the “stiff peaks” stage, I carefully folded it into the peanut butter mixture with a spatula. You’re not really stirring it here, because you don’t want to lose that air you just worked into the cream, so it does take a while to get the mixture to a uniform consistency once again.

The filling then went into the pie crust, which in turn went into the refrigerator for about three or four hours, I think. At the end of that time I made my tried-and-true ganache, using equal parts (by weight) dark chocolate and cream. I was using chocolate “buttons,” which I suspect would probably melt just fine with the addition of boiling cream, but the finer you chop your chocolate the quicker everything will come together, so I took a knife to it. As I did this, I was once again reminded of an interesting property of chocolate, namely that it builds up quite a static charge when you chop or grate it, so any shavings you get tend to fly off the blade rather than fall neatly into the bowl. Once I had wrangled all my chocolate into the bowl, I boiled the cream, poured it on, and then set the timer for three minutes. I don’t know if I ever experimented to find out if this is the ideal time, but it seems to work for me—it’s long enough to melt the chocolate, but not so long that it cools down too much.

Once the three minutes are up, all that is left is to stir the chocolate-and-cream mixture. If you’ve never done this before, you’ll probably think that there is too much cream in the mix. Don’t worry, just keep stirring, and make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate all the chocolate. The ganache is done when there are no more streaks and you are left with a lovely, glossy liquid.

I had originally thought that I would leave the ganache to cool a bit before pouring it over the pie, as this is what I usually do when I am pouring it over a cake. But when I saw the consistency and took into account the fact that the cold pie would cause the ganache to solidify a lot more quickly than when poured over a cake, I decided to go for it right away. I’m glad I did, because the ganache became too viscous to spread simply by tilting the pie pan, and I had to use a spatula to make sure it covered everything. Once the ganache was completely cool, I covered the pie and returned it to the refrigerator, where it waited until dessert. And now, finally, here it is:

This is the whole pie out of the refrigerator, before we set to with our knives. You can see that the crust is a little rough around the edges, but it served its purpose. The first slice is always the trickiest to get out, but once we had a little wiggle room to work with the rest of it came out easily. I had originally contemplated cutting the pie into eight slices, but once I saw the actual pie I realized that twelve slices was far more realistic. It’s very rich and heavy (each slice, if you cut it into twelve, has about 370 calories), so I don’t think I could eat any more in a single sitting. We ended up giving a quarter of it to a colleague, and HJ brought two slices out to the park one afternoon to share with a friend who had come up to visit from the provinces.

This is a cross-section of a slice to give you a better idea of how it came out. This particular slice is actually from the day after, as it seemed to cut better after spending an entire day in the refrigerator. If you’re wondering what those little chunks are, well, they are peanuts! Strangely enough, every recipe for peanut butter pie I found on the internet specified creamy peanut butter, but both HJ and I happen to like chunky peanut butter—and the chunkier the better. I would recommend going chunky, as this adds a textural contrast to the filling in addition to the crunch of the crust. If you like your pie fillings bland and uninteresting, though, feel free to go creamy (false dichotomies for the win!).

All in all, I was pleased with the way this came out. It is very tasty and very easy to make as well. And even though it does have a lot of calories, 370 calories per slice is not too egregious when compared to restaurant desserts. I’ve seen desserts that top 1,000 calories, and the chocolate peanut butter cup from Uno Chicago Grill—probably the closest thing to my pie here—has over 1,300 calories! Still, I’m not saying that 370 calories is not a lot. I do want to try this again at some point (mainly to try out the chocolate cookie crust) but it will have to be when I have a lot of people around to help me eat it, which means after the pandemic is over. Until then, I can only dream—and make smaller desserts.

Send me your thoughts.

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