About a year ago, I was ordering a cappuccino at a Naples coffee shop when I glanced down and spied a chocolate peanut butter cream pie in the corner of the bakery display case.
I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
For the next several weeks, I would lie in bed dreaming up combinations of chocolatey, peanut buttery, crunchy, creamy, fudgy goodness. And finally, I woke up and decided to bake.
My first iteration (you may recall the teasers posted to our social media) was delicious—each element exactly how I wanted it to be. A crunchy Oreo crust, a fudgy brownie layer, then a fluffy peanut butter cream, topped with chocolate mousse, a pour of chocolate peanut butter ganache glaze, and finished with a sprinkling of chopped roasted peanuts.
In my first attempt, there were a couple issues with the coming together of the elements…mainly because of slicing and serving the pie before it had all set, which threw off the textural harmony of the layers. But my other difficulty lay in the bottom crust—the Oreo and the brownie layer didn’t stick together. They just fell apart. I needed a way to bind them.
In my efforts to fix this issue, I think I’ve streamlined the whole process and made it far easier to bake and assemble. Rather than a pie pan, this time around I opted for a spring-form pan. It looks far more elegant, and it’s easier to assemble. Instead of an Oreo crumb crust, I’ve decided to speed up the process and simply press a chocolate cookie dough directly into the pan to bake. Before, I made a batch of brownies, then crumbled them up and smooshed them on top of the crumb crust. Now, I pour a thick brownie batter directly on top of the cookie crust, eliminating yet another step and solving the problem of binding the two together.
don’t be daunted by this baking project!
This Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie may strike you as having waaaaay too many elements, and yeah, maybe it does. I wanted it to be over the top. But don’t let that daunt you!
When Maria texted me yesterday afternoon asking what I planned to post for Friday (today), I had nothing. But after I had gotten my babies to sleep last night, and I was sitting at my desk, I remembered shuffling through a pile of papers earlier that day and registering a scrap with scrawled notes.
I pulled it out. It was the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.
Once again, this dessert had entered my subconscious, and I couldn’t get it out.
So, at 8pm last night, I started baking. By 11pm, the kitchen was clean and I was in bed. Less than three hours to complete, start to finish, including clean-up. Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment late-night five-layer bake!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
[For the Chocolate Cookie Crust]
1 stick (8 tablespoons; 4 oz) salted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup dutch process cocoa powder (you can use regular cocoa)
1/4 tsp kosher salt
[For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownie Layer]
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons; 2 oz) salted butter
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup dutch-process cocoa (you can use regular cocoa)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, straight from fridge
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
[For the Whipped Chocolate Mousse]
3/4 cup (about 4.5 oz, or 125 grams) dark chocolate, chopped (can use semisweet chocolate chips)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
[For the Peanut Butter Cream]
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
[For the Chocolate Peanut Butter Ganache Glaze]
3 oz. chocolate, chopped (can use 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4-1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish
Special equipment: 9-inch springform pan, acetate strips for assembly (optional, see note)
Make the chocolate cookie crust. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. In a mixing bowl, beat together butter and brown sugar at medium high speed until creamy and light. Add flour, cocoa and salt and mix on low speed until moistened, then increase to medium high and beat another minute or two until creamy. Spread the mixture out into the bottom of the prepared pan and press down firmly. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Set aside.
Make the brownie layer. While the cookie crust is baking, prepare the brownie layer. In a medium-sized saucepan set over medium heat, melt butter and peanut butter. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, followed by cocoa powder, then the vanilla and egg. Stir in flour until combined. Pour the brownie batter over the warm cookie crust and return to oven, baking at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. When it comes out of the oven, use the back of a measuring cup to press down firmly all over the surface to compress and smoosh the warm brownie, making it a dense fudgy layer. If air bubbles form during this process, you can just pierce the surface of the brownie to deflate. Set aside to cool completely. (After it’s cool enough to touch, you may want to pop the pan in the freezer to speed up the cooling process.)
Begin the whipped chocolate mousse. The mousse mixture needs to cool before you can whip it, so get it started before you make the Peanut Butter Cream layer. Place chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. In a small saucepan, scald the heavy cream (heat it until just before it simmers). Pour the warmed heavy cream over the chopped chocolate, and let it sit for a minute or two to melt. Then, add the vanilla and whisk mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool. (You can place the bowl in the fridge to help speed up this process.)
Prepare the peanut butter cream. In a mixing bowl with the whisk attachment, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Transfer the whipped cream to another bowl. In the same mixing bowl (no need to wipe it down), beat cream cheese at medium speed for 30 seconds to break it up. Scrape down bowl, add peanut butter, and beat another minute to combine. Scrape down bowl, add powdered sugar and vanilla, stir mixture on low speed to moisten, and then increase to medium high and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture in two batches, using a spatula and a gentle hand.
Finish the whipped chocolate mousse. Wipe down the mixing bowl and whisk attachment. Pour the cooled chocolate cream mixture into the bowl and beat, beginning at low speed and working gradually up to high speed, until thickened. Towards the end, it should look like a soft frosting consistency. Set aside.
Prepare the chocolate peanut butter ganache glaze. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine chocolate, peanut butter, cream and corn syrup. Whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside.
Assemble the pie. (If desired, slip a strip of acetate between the cookie/brownie crust and the sides of the pan. This can help yield more clearly defined layers. See note.) Spread the peanut butter cream filling evenly into the cooled cookie/brownie crust. Top with whipped chocolate mousse and spread evenly. Gently pour the cooled glaze and use an offset spatula to spread it in a smooth, even layer. Top with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts.
Chill the assembled pie in the fridge for 8-12 hours, or overnight. Store in fridge until ready to serve. You may want to run a knife around the edge before loosening the sides of the springform pan. (See note) Enjoy straight from fridge, or allow it to sit out and soften for 30-60 minutes. If you intend to transport the pie or leave it out on the counter for a while before serving, I suggest removing the springform sides and cutting slices while it is still cold. The bottom brownie/cookie layer requires some muscle to cut through while cold, but the whole things will cut far more easily and yield cleaner slices if you do so while it’s still cold. Then, you can leave the dessert out, or put the springform sides back on and transport it to an event, without worrying that the cream layers will ooze when you try to cut it closer to room temperature. Stores in the fridge fully assembled for several days.
pan size: I originally used a 9-inch glass pyrex pan for this recipe, and then switched over to the springform pan because of the elegance of the exposed layers. You can use either! If you do opt for the classic pie pan, then be sure to smoosh the cookie crust up the sides as well. Also keep in mind that you may have to mound the cream fillings in the middle a bit to fit everything within the smaller dimensions of the pie pan.
assembly: When I was assembling the cream layers, I decided to loosen the pan’s sides, slip a strip of acetate between the cookie/brownie crust and the sides of the spring form pan, and then put the springform sides back on. This way, I would be sure to get clean sides and high-contrast layers when the cake was done chilling and I unmolded the pan. This step isn’t necessary, and not needed at all when using a pie pan, but for the springform pan it does help guarantee a clean, sharp edge.
the crust: why cookie AND brownie? I suppose you could do one or the other, but I wanted to be over-the-top. Also, I wanted both the crunchy of the cookie and the chewy of the brownie. I sacrifice some of that cookie crunch by doing a baked cookie crust rather than a cookie crumb crust (i.e. crushed cookies mixed with butter), and also because I pour a brownie batter on top instead of pressing already cooked brownies on top, but I needed to bind the two (hence the batter), and I’m all about streamlining recipes and making them from scratch as much as possible. So, yes, if I had store-bought Oreos on hand I would give a crushed Oreo crumb crust a try with the brownie batter poured on top. But homemaking Oreos in order to crush them up and make a crust with them is just another step that I decided to eliminate. If you decide to try a crushed Oreo crumb crust beneath the poured brownie batter, then that would be about 20 Oreo sandwiches, so 40 individual wafers, with the filling scraped out, mixed with 5 tablespoons of melted butter, pressed in the pan and baked for roughly 10 minutes.