Saturday, July 30, 2011

Can't Take the Heat? Step Away From That Oven!

As the mercury of summer rises, who wants to crank up the oven to bake dessert?  Summer is the time for chilled and frozen treats to indulge your sweet tooth cravings.  Ice cream always tops the list of summer favorites, whether you make a batch at home or take an evening drive over to your neighborhood ice cream shoppe.  Within a short driving distance from my home on Long Island are two such meccas: McNutty's in Miller Place and Hollywood Sweets in Ridge both serve up that creamy decadence which defines summer. Both venues offer quality ice cream in an array of flavors, and an extensive selection of toppings and cones for even the most creative minds of sundae construction.  A much better option than chasing after the good humor truck for some not-so-good corporate frozen glop on a stick.  For anyone taking a weekend trip to Mystic, Connecticut, do not come home without stopping at Drawbridge Ice Cream in Mystic, where you will experience the creamiest example of ice cream indulgence.  For New York city day trippers, a cup of gelato from a gelato stand in Little Italy will take the chill off and send you right to heaven.

Cheesecake can be a refreshing summer dessert option, especially when the farm stands can provide ingredients for some luscious and opulent toppings, like blueberries or raspberries.  Some other chilled oven-free desserts include panna cotta, an Italian custard which can be crowned with fruity toppings like strawberries, traditional French chocolate mousse, old-fashioned ice box cake, and Brian's favorite: peanut butter chocolate mousse pie.  We first had this dessert at a resort on vacation in St. Thomas.  I then tried to duplicate it at home and, in my humble beginnings as a home cook, managed to accomplish that using a lot of short-cut processed ingredients.  I wanted to surprise Brian today with his favorite, only this time I took my years of learned culinary skills and set out to make this dessert with better ingredients, and I amped up the wow factor with an added topping.  The result: well let's just say I don't think we need to do a pre-rinse before running his plate through the dishwasher, or the pie dish for that matter!


14 chocolate graham crackers or chocolate wafers, ground in food processor
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup melted semi-sweet chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Lindt dark chocolate bar, chilled, then broken into shards
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
5 peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Thoroughly combine graham cracker crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar and melted butter.  Press into bottom and up the sides of 8 or 9-inch pie dish.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the peanut butter, melted chocolate and condensed milk until well blended.  In a mixer bowl with a wire whisk attachment, whip heavy cream, 3 tablespoons sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form.  Fold whipped cream mixture into peanut butter mixture until well incorporated.  Empty contents into prepared pie crust.  Place in freezer for at least six hours.  In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients, then cover the top of the frozen pie with this mixture.

Should serve six, but it never does seem to go that far in this house!  This dessert covers all the bases: a cookie crust, that sinfully creamy frozen mousse filling, the chocolate-candy-nuts topping ... no one who loves that all-American flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate will be disappointed.

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