A couple years ago, I went out for a dinner with my dear friend Erica (who has a fantastic travel blog called As Her World Turns) at a place in Boston not far from my alma mater and Fenway Park. The spot is called Church, and as I recall, the four of us (Erica also brought with her some lovely friends from college) all very much enjoyed our food, but the most memorable bites that evening (not surprisingly) came during dessert. Erica and I split a piece of chocolate peanut butter pie… that was on a pretzel crust. Now, while I am in no way advocating that chocolate pies of any variety or flavor combination should necessarily ditch the traditional chocolate cookie crumb crust, in this case, something about the pretzel crust elevated both the chocolate and peanut butter flavors to a whole new level.
Now, for some reason, this past Thanksgiving, I got it in my head that I wanted to try to recreate this dessert and make it to share at our family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Chocolate and peanut butter are two items that, when joined together, create a magnificent harmony of delicious flavors, that both excite and inspire. After lots of googling, I ended up combining a couple recipes I found at Serious Eats and Making Michael Pollan Proud. I have combined and refined them for you, here below, with my own edits and adjustments already included, as well as any tips and tricks I learned along the way! Fair warning–I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a professional pastry chef. Besides a few cooking classes scattered throughout my public school career, I have no professional or academic training in the arena whatsoever. What I do have, besides a better than average understanding of chocolate, is access to a lot of super talented pastry chefs, chocolatiers, and other culinary pros, who have shared with me over the past few years some of their vast knowledge. Oh, I also watch a lot of the Food Network…
- 3 cups pretzels, finely crushed (I used pretzel sticks, put them in a Ziplock bag, and pounded them with a mallet. Measure them after they are crushed. If you end up making more “pretzel dust” than is necessary to cover the pie pan, simply discard.)
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
Peanut Butter Filling:
- 10 ounces heavy whipping cream, divided
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 4 ounces confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 12 ounces creamy peanut butter
Chocolate Top Layer:
- 6 ounces dark chocolate (I used Valrhona 61%, but any baking chocolate between 55% and 65% would suffice–do NOT use chocolate chips), chopped into fine pieces
Prepare the crust: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor, combine pretzels, butter and brown sugar, and pulse until fine crumbs form. Pat into a 10-inch tart pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the crust just begins to brown. Watch carefully that the edges don’t burn. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool completely. Refrigerate.
Prepare the peanut butter filling: Using a hand mixer, whip half of the heavy cream (5 ounces) to soft peaks and reserve in the refrigerator. Be careful not to whip it too much, or else you’ll get butter! While it would be best to use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, I did not have one available to me, so I used the hand mixer to add the cream cheese, confectioner’s sugar, and salt in a bowl. These ingredients should be whisked until smooth. Using a spoon or spatula, add the peanut butter part by part to the bowl, and whisk together until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. Take the whipped cream out of the refrigerator and whisk into the ingredients in the bowl to completely combine. This will help soften the mixture and give it a more airy texture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pretzel pie crust. If you are very talented with a spatula, you can smooth out the top with a spatula. Ordinarily, such details don’t bother me, but this part is actually helpful for when you spread the chocolate layer on top. Chill the pie in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the chocolate top layer: Place the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, carefully bring the remaining 5 ounces of cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally. This should only take a couple minutes, so keep an eye on it. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and allow it to sit for 2 minutes, then slowly stir the mixture until the chocolate is smooth and shiny. Once the chocolate is a consistently smooth texture, pour the chocolate evenly over the top of the peanut butter filling and smooth with a spatula. Chill until the ganache has set, at least 10 minutes.
This pie is super delicious and flavorful, so a regular-sized slice is more than enough to satisfy your sweet tooth at any particular sitting, especially after a large meal. My family all seemed to really enjoy it, and while I don’t think my version came out as good as the one we had at Church, it definitely still hit the spot!