No caption necessary.
Friday evening has brought Autumn to Los Angeles in a rush of cool wind, muggy weather, warm rain, and skies ranging from custard to robin’s egg to deep auburn. The days grow shorter and as I grow into the transition the distance between here and San Francisco, the home I loved for half a decade, becomes evident to me. It’s not that I miss San Francisco, per se, in fact I’ve never been happier in my life. It’s more that I miss the knowledge that the forthcoming weeks will bring bitter wind, hail, gray skies, and the promise of a season of cozy evenings inside. As I rode my bike this morning and experienced the signs of the fall in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt I realized with an equal measure of excitement and wistfulness that I have no idea what this season will feel like.
It’s this uncertainty, I think, that made me reach for something that reminds me of what Autumn was like slightly north of here. Peanut butter and honeycomb pie feels to me the perfect balance of sweetness and warm spices that remind me of San Francisco and cool creaminess which I know will make this dessert more palatable on this muggy fall night in Los Angeles. As I prepared the custard, crust, sauce, and honeycomb I was moved to hunt through my dusty collection of CDs. I was yearning to hear Schubert’s mass in G which is, for me, a harbinger of the fall. It’s sumptuousness is the perfect match to this decadent dessert and as I cooked and listened I felt a certainty that although the seasons will feel differently here all that was good in them before will continue here and wherever my life takes me. So take this recipe and prepare it yourself, take comfort in that which tastes good and feels right.
For the Crust
9 graham crackers
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
a pinch of kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
6 tablespoons of butter
Peanut Butter Custard Filling
8 large egg yolks
12 tablespoons of sugar
1 1/2 cups of whole milk
1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2 1/2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons of lite corn syrup
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon of baking soda, sifted
1/4 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts
Directions for Preparation
1. Prepare and pre-bake the graham cracker crusts
Begin by measuring out your brown sugar, scoop using your measuring cup then...
...using your palm pack the brown sugar into the measuring cup.
Add the brown sugar, graham crackers, kosher salt, and nutmeg to the food processor
Purée until the mass resembles fine meal
Meanwhile melt the butter over medium heat until slightly browned and giving off a slight nutty aroma. This is called "brown butter" and by taking the time to slowly brown the butter you add an unexpected degree of flavor which will lend itself well to the graham crackers and warm spices in the rest of the crust.
Combine the brown butter and the graham-cracker-and-sugar in a bowl until evenly combined
Spoon the crust mixture generously into the tartelette pans
take a glass (I stole this one from Air France on my way home from Paris)
Press the glass evenly in the center of the mold compacting the crust mixture down
Begin pressing the crust on the sides around the cup down evenly, adding crust mixture as necessary so the crust comes to the top of the mold and forms an even, compact crust all around...
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees farenheit. Your crust-filled tartelette pans will look like this going in...
...and after baking for about 15 minutes they will look like this. Set aside and let cool completely while you prepare the custard.
2. Prepare the Peanut Butter Custard
Pour your egg yolks into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment
Add six tablespoons of sugar
Whip on high for about two minutes. It will start out looking like this...
...and end up looking like this: light, fluffy, white, and ribbony when you dip a spoon in and pull it out.
With a small paring knife split your vanilla bean in half and...
...scrape the seeds into a small saucepan with the milk and remaining six tablespoons of sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer stirring to dissolve the sugar.
Once the sugar is dissolved remove the bean and turn off the heat.
With the mixer's whip moving at medium-low speed slowly (and I mean slowly) pour the hot milk mixture into the yolk-and-sugar mixture.
Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and turn the heat to medium
Slowly bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will thicken considerably.
Pour the simmering mixture back into the mixing bowl
Turn the mixer to medium-high and whip for a couple of minutes to cool
With the mixer moving at medium add the butter one tablespoon at a time, allowing the butter to melt completely after each addition
With the mixer still moving at medium add the peanut butter by heaping spoonful
Scrape down the sides, add the salt, and whip again at medium until the mixture is cooled to room temperature and is evenly combined.
3. Pour the custard into the prepared graham cracker crusts and chill to set
Pour the custard into the pre-baked graham cracker crust shells in your tartelette pans just to the top.
Move to the refrigerator and chill completely.
4. While the tartelettes set prepare the honeycomb
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and ¼ tablespoon of water in a large saucepan
Over medium heat dissolve the sugar
Once sugar is dissolved turn heat to high. DO NOT STIR WITH A SPOON. Stir occasionally over high heat by twirling the pan in a clockwise motion. If you use a spoon you will never, ever get the burnt sugar off of it.
Occasionally use a pastry brush dripped in water and brush the insides of the pan. This gets the sugar off of the sides and prevents it from burning, thus lending a burned flavor to the entire batch
Just as the molten sugar turns a light amber color (mine is a bit dark here, due in part to the black pan I'm using) ...
...working very quickly (the mixture is about to increase in size about 50-fold) sift in the baking soda
Whisk quickly just until the baking soda is combined, then...
Pour out onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
Allow the honeycomb to cool for at least 20 minutes. It is ready when it is cool and brittle.
5. Prepare the Sauce
Over medium heat melt together the butter and chocolate (complicated...I know) and keep warm for pouring over the tartelettes.
6. Decorate and serve the tartelettes
Break the honeycomb apart with the edge of a flat metal spatula. The key is to get medium-sized bits while not turning the mass to powder
Arrange an odd number of honeycomb pieces over the custard like so
Arrange the peanut pieces over the honeycomb so it looks like they fell all over.
Drizzle the warm chocolate sauce over the tartelettes.
Serve with hot chocolate or coffee...or do like me and have some Kahlua and coffee with yours (if you have any leftover after last week's White Russian Cupcakes). Enjoy!
You’ll have leftover honeycomb. The honeycomb makes a perfectly delicious candy as-is or if you’re feeling adventurous melt some bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler and dip the pieces in it. Let set and enjoy as a fabulously decadent treat for yourself or throw it in a cellophane bag and impress your friends with a home-made gift. They don’t need to know you gave them some rather inexpensive leftovers 😉