If you have visited my blog this week, you’ve read about my adventures with Sabrina at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine where I noshed on sustainable seafood and grilled cheese with wine, all the while hob nobbing with fancy pants food obsessed people. But the place to go and be seen was the Tasting Pavilion tent where the celebrity chefs were at, and where everyone was lining up to get a sample of savory and sweet treats. It was there that I experienced a dessert that inspired my dinner party worthy plated dessert, the Peanut Butter Smores with Toasted Strawberry Marshmallow and Bacon Peanut Brittle.
The Tasting Pavilion tent was the one place that everyone stopped at during the event. Even if you skip out on all the session, the Tasting Pavilion had all the big name chefs and all the amazing wineries for you to sip and taste. As I walked in, I noticed that there were rows of glasses for you to pick up and use for tasting. I immediate snagged a glass (even though I don’t really drink) and prepared myself for what was sure to be an epic tasting event.
Still reeling from the grilled cheese tasting I had right beforehand, I walked in and immediately saw Sherry Yard, my pastry idol. If you’ve read my blog before, you might know that I’ve talked about Sherry’s book The Secrets of Baking. It’s pretty much the one book that I felt actually changed the way I bake. Before that book, I viewed baking as following a recipe. But Sherry’s book breaks down each component of a dessert and explains master recipes and variations of the recipe. In short, it teaches you how to actually create you own dessert, not just follow a recipe to create someone else’s dessert. This was revolutionary to me.
So, of course, I immediately went into fan boy mode (which surprised even more, as I have never done that before) and ran up to her, gushing about how she changed my life. Though I’m sure I scared the heck out of her, Sherry was more than gracious and allowed me take a number of pictures of her and her cookie station, and even told me swing by later to grab a cookie lollipop from her. Sweetness from Ms. Yard herself!
Oh, and the cookies, they were fantastic. But what do you expect from the woman who creates the desserts for the Academy Awards, Grammy’s and Emmy’s as well as the fine dining for all of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants?
Moving on from Sherry, we ended up running into some other food bloggers including Amy from Cooking with Amy, Tracy from Shutterbean, Kamran from Sophisticated Gourmet, Anita from Desserts First, Lisa from Lisa is Bossy and Marcia from Tablehopper. It was like a mini Bay Area Food Blogging reunion (okay, Kamran isn’t from the Bay Area, but I’m not going to hold that against him).
As I chatted away with my fellow food bloggers, we wandered about tent sampling some amazing food from some amazing chefs. Prosciutto wrapped melon, seared scallops with microgreens, yellowtail sashimi with lotus root chip, roasted beets with goat cheese, pork belly sliders, the food excellent and seemingly unending.
Even more fun to watch was some of the chefs, working fast and hard to impress the rich and fabulous clientele. Taking pictures of them was hard, as they were a blur, working fast to place the tasting samples for impatient and tipsy folks. Luckily walking around with a giant DSLR means I had a good excuse to either tell the chef to slow down for a pic or skip the line and go to the front to just take a hero shot of the chef and the food.
Of course, I sort of snuck in back and took a few pics of the hard working chefs behind the scenes working their butts off as well. If anyone ever asks why most chefs are skinny, it’s because they bust ass with crazy hours doing manual labor. Working an event or in a kitchen is tough!
Of course, it wasn’t just the food that people were there for. There were what seemed to be hundreds of wineries and alcohol distillers there presenting their wares as well. From Single Malt Scotches to Vodka to Sparkling Wines to Beer and Reds and Whites (and a few dry roses), the entire gamut was there for us to sample.
But you’re probably wondering what inspired my plated dessert. Sabrina and I were rather full from all the rich food and wonderful wine, and as we wandered about, in a bit of a food coma, we turned the corner and saw a table full of small white cups and two women with giant blow torches roasting marshmallows. We immediately had to get in line to grab a couple of them. Turns out it was Miami pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink who was serving up Peanut Butter Smores with Bacon Peanut Brittle, Roasted Banana Jam, and Homemade Cocao Nib Marshmallows. I made a mental note that I wanted to do my own take on right after I took my first spoonful. And second spoonful. And third (after which I had to put I down because I really had eaten too much that day).
After we left the Tasting Pavilion, Sabrina and I got back on the bus, in a completely stupor and headed back for our last session of the day, Fortified: 300 Years of Port with Ramos Pinto. Sabrina and I aren’t heavy drinkers and I knew that afterwards we had to drive two hours back to San Francisco, so I wasn’t so sure that I drinking nine glasses of fortified wine was a good idea. But we walked in the session with my friend Amy Sherman of Cooking with Amy and writer Molly Watson and sat down and looked at the port, in descending vintage order 2007 to 1880.
Hello, 1880? Seriously?
Back at the Sustainable Delicacies from the Sea luncheon from yesterday Sabrina and I were seated with the lovely Stephanie (who we saw again at the Port Session) and we conversed about how expensive vintage wine can get. Apparently there is a Pebble Beach Food and Wine Founder’s Dinner that is invite only (apparently my invite got lost in the mail). The ticket to the dinner is $2000 AND you are required to bring a pre-approved Magnum of wine worth $5000 to $30,000. Slightly in awe, I stated I had never sipped wine that was in the four digits or higher. But that apparently changed after this session.
Not that money is any way to judge wine (I can’t even pronounce the word “oenophile” so don’t look at me to judge wine). But an 1880 bottle of port had to be worth a lot of money I figure. In the end, I sipped each glass of port, enjoying them for what they were. My favorites were in line with Sabrina’s favorites, being the 1994 (nice and juicy without being too raisiny), the 1952 (aromatic vanilla and caramel hints) and the wonderful 1880 with it’s shimmery golden hue. I wondered if the age of the 1880 influenced me, but then I took a sip of the 1884 and decided I really didn’t care of it too much, and it was only four years younger. The 1880 really was sublime with complex nutty fruity flavors all floating together. Turns out there was only seven bottles of the 1880 left in the existence. That said, I was on total port overload by the time we got to the 1880 but there was no way I was going to waste a 230 year old port…so I made Sabrina drink the rest. Ha!
The port was a pretty fantastic way to end the weekend. We drove back from a stellar weekend and back to our normal non-fabulous lives (hey, how come no one is serving me three course meals at home? AJ get on that!). But upon arriving back in my dinky one room apartment I decided I needed to reproduce that peanut butter smores dessert, because it’s something that everyone should taste, not just the resort casually dressed people at Pebble Beach.
I opted to not make the banana jam mostly because I’m not HUGE banana fan, and though I like it a lot, I knew that it would take some time to make and having a bunch of banana jam around would just be a waste for AJ and myself. On top of that, Chef Hedy Goldsmith found some way to clarify the jam and intensify the banana flavor and not being an expert in jam making, I couldn’t find any resources on how to do that online or in my cookbooks. If anyone knows how to make clarified roasted banana jam (maybe she just uses banana oil?) holler. But I do love strawberries and wanting to simplify things (I know, it’s relative ok?) I made strawberry marshmallows as my fruit counterpoint to the chocolate and peanut butter.
The dessert was a certified hit. Every single person who ate it raved about it and AJ declared that it took peanut butter desserts to the next level. I think the idea of peanut butter and chocolate is one of those comfort desserts that is a crowd pleaser, but adding the white chocolate to the peanut butter sweetened it a little as well help keep it firm and adding creating a strawberry marshmallow along with the bacon peanut butter brittle helped add texture and fruit flavors that really did elevate the idea of a “smores” to a dinner party worth dessert. You know a dinner party full of your fancy pants rich friends, or at least your friends pretending to be fancy pants rich, like Sabrina and I did.
Peanut Butter Smores with Strawberry Marshmallows and Bacon Peanut Brittle
Inspired by a dessert by Chef Hedy Goldsmith from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami.
Disclaimer: The peanut butter used in this recipe is provided by Peanut Butter & Co., which I received as a sample at the BlogHer Food 2011 Conference. The dark chocolate used in this recipe is provided by Sharffen Berger Chocolate which I received as sample at the BlogHer Food 2011 Conference. The graham crackers used in this recipe is provided by Attune Foods, the maker of New Morning Organic Graham Crackers, the only organic graham cracker on the market.
225 g (9 oz or about 18 crackers) of graham crackers (homemade or store bought)
80 g (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
85 g (6 tablespoons) salted butter, melted
170 g (6 oz) white chocolate
265 g (1 cup) smooth peanut butter
340 g (12 oz) bittersweet chocolate
227 g (8 oz) crème fraiche
1/4 teaspoon of truffle salt (if you’re fancy) or sea salt (if you aren’t that fancy)
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F and spray a 9” x 9” pan lightly with cooking oil. Place a large sheet of parchment paper inside the pan, leaving 2” hanging over the sides. This will make removing the smores easier.
2. Crush the graham crackers to crumbs in a medium mixing bowl. You can use a food processor, place them in a ziplock bag and use a roling pin to crush them, or if you are lazy like I was, just crumble them with your hands into a bowl. The hands way is very satisfying and actually leads to a nice irregular texture, which I kinda liked.
3. Add the brown sugar and melted butter to the graham cracker crumbs and toss with your hands until evenly distributed. You want the crumbs to get pebbly and start to stick together. You’ll know you the crust is completely ready, when you squeeze some of it in your hand and it holds together.
4. Pour the graham cracker crumbs in the lined pan, and press down firmly to evenly spread the crumbs on the bottom of the pan. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown and fragrant. Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool on a wire rack while you prep the peanut butter layer.
5. Chop the white chocolate into small chunks and place in a metal bowl that fits tightly over a pot with a small amount of water. Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Once the water is boiling, and the white chocolate starts to melt around the edges, turn the heat off. Let the residual steam and heat from the water warm the bowl and melt the white chocolate. Stir occasionally.
6. Once the white chocolate is completely melted, stir the peanut butter into it, until it is completely incorporated it. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly to the edges of the pan, being careful not disturb the cracker crust too much. Place in the fridge while you prep the chocolate layer.
7. Chop the bittersweet chocolate and place in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave on 30 seconds and stir, the microwave a second time for 30 seconds and stir. The chocolate should me mostly melted, but there may be a few chunks left.
8. Heat the crème fraiche in a small pan on the stove over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once small bubbles form on the side of the crème fraiche (you don’t want it to boil) pull the pan off the stove and pour the crème fraiche over the mostly melted bittersweet chocolate and stir with a heatproof spatula until smooth. Remove the pan from the fridge and check the firmness of the peanut butter. If it feels solid on top when you push down, then pour the chocolate ganache over it and spread to the edges. If the peanut butter feels too warm or too soft, put it back in the fridge for another ten minutes or so. The dark chocolate ganache will be fine at room temperature until the peanut butter layer firms up.
9. Once you’ve poured the dark chocolate later over the peanut butter layer, sprinkle some truffle salt or sea salt over the chocolate layer and put it back in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour or overnight.
10. To serve, stick a strawberry marshmallow on a toothpick or skewer and using a kitchen torch, toast the marshmallow all the way around carefully. Then place on top of a square slice of the peanut butter chocolate graham cracker bar. Add a few pieces of bacon peanut brittle and serve in your resort casual finest.