Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Peanut Butter Cups

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
Confession: I don't like chocolate with peanut butter.  To which my friend Jacob would always respond, "I don't understand you, and I don't think I want to."  I don't even like PB&Js.  Give me a PB or give me a J, but not together.

Peanut Butter Cups

But these chocolate peanut butter cups aren't for me, they're my Valentine's treat to Joe.  He likes Reese's peanut butter cups, but he loved these far more.  (I promise not to make any sickening Valentine's lovey-dovey talk.)  They're hand-made with quality ingredients, see, not some cheap factory-plunked creation.  They'd also make a great gluten-free treat.

Chocolate Cups

These confections are easy to make but require a bit of care.  I combined two recipes I had found.  Melted bittersweet chocolate is brushed on the inside of paper mini-muffin cups, refrigerated, a second layer is brushed on, and they are refrigerated again.  At this point one recipe says to peel off the paper, but this resulted in breakage because the unfilled cups are too fragile.  So I piped the peanut butter mixture into them and froze them briefly, and then removing the paper was easier.

Be quick (the chocolate melts on your fingers), but very gentle when removing the papers.  Expect some breakage and plan on making extras.  Normally I'd console myself over breakage by eating the pieces, but like I said this isn't my kind of treat.  Then hide the broken pieces somewhere and present the prettiest cups to your lucky Valentine.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pains aux Raisins

pain aux raisin
I was torn over whether to make these or the pains au chocolat.  Did I want a luscious pastry cream with raisins, or intense bittersweet chocolate?  Turns out I didn't have to choose because each recipe required a half-batch of the same kind of dough!

I brought these along with the pain au chocolat to my last book club meeting, and it wasn't a surprise that everybody chose the chocolate variety.  But Isabelle, our organizer who comes from southern France, took the untouched pains aux raisins with her and said she ate them before she got to the highway.  "The  pains au chocolat were delicious,'' she said, ''but the pains aux raisins were out of this world!"  She added that they were very authentic, and that she doesn't dole out undeserved flattery.  Which is appreciated!  The consensus was the same at home.  Joe found a few I had squirreled away in the freezer to bring to my mother and sister in New York: "Hey, there are more pains aux raisins in here!!"  I forbade him from touching them.  Trust me, he more than ate his share!

Pain Aux Raisins
Clockwise from top-left: The pastry cream is easy to make and dotted with plenty of vanilla seeds; the dough is then rolled up and sliced (don't forget to add your raisins, or you'll have to unroll like I did); the pains are proofed on a sheet pan; they tend to fall on their sides after rising, so I lay them flat.

Pain Aux Raisins1
The many layers bake up golden and flaky, and the pains are brushed with an apricot glaze.  The pastry cream becomes not so much a filling as an element of moisture and flavor.