I’m still too full from the delicious Christmas weekend to talk about this pie. So let’s set it aside for the moment, shall we? I’ll come back to it. Honest. But only after I’ve worked up an appetite by regaling (lofty aspirations, no?) you with photos and stories from said delicious weekend.
It started and ended with a long drive. Unexpected long drives. Our flights were canceled, so we hopped in the car and cruised along the interstate that snakes its way from Chicago to Minneapolis. The change in scenery between Wednesday, when we drove to Minnesota through a landscape that was only lightly dusted with snow, and Sunday, when we rode home, was remarkable. During the days between our drives, a big storm left Sunday’s countryside looking sugar-dusted and still, as if someone had snapped open a thick white blanket and let it float silently to the ground, draping everything in sight with its sparkling whiteness. This all made for a beautiful drive home in the early morning hours:
About the snow. It was, in a word, persistent. The snow stopped only for brief pockets here and there; otherwise, it came down steadily the whole time we were in Minnesota. This meant knee-high snow boots; a close, personal relationship with a shovel; snow angels; an aborted snowman mission; a few snowball-induced welts; snowflakes caught upon the tongue; and all-around glee. In other words, we spent a good chunk of the weekend outside:
After each stint outdoors, we were thrilled to return to the cozy glow of my parents’ house. Following a quick thaw by the fire, we all snapped into action, whether it meant wrapping gifts, playing games or, of course, cooking.
My time in the kitchen during the weekend turned, unintentionally, into a Best of 2009 of sorts. I trotted out recipes for cinnamon rolls, a bolognese ragu, escarole salad threaded with pickled red onions, French onion soup topped with cheese toasts, a mustard-y and wine-y beef tenderloin with shallots, and this peanut butter pudding pie:
1/2 cup sugar
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup creamy (smooth) natural peanut butter (made with only peanuts and salt)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), plus more for shaving
1/4 cup heavy cream
Make the Crust: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.Stir together crumbs, butter, sugar and cinnamon and press on bottom and up side of a 9-inch pie plate (1-quart capacity). Bake until crisp, about 15 minutes, and cool on a rack.
Make the Chocolate Layer: In a small metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water melt the chocolate with the cream, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
Assemble: Spread the hot chocolate mixture in the bottom and up the sides of the crust. Let it cool. Chill the crust until the chocolate is set. Once the chocolate is set, pour the chilled pudding into the crust. Top with shaved bittersweet chocolate. Serve immediately or, if you have the time and prefer a pie filling that is more firm, chill the assembled pie for several hours before serving.