"Peanut Butter & Jelly"
Thomas Keller's "Peanut Butter & Jellies"
I love The French Laundry Cookbook for many reasons, not least of which are the many recipes boasting familiar, comforting flavours presented in wholly unexpected and delicious ways. In the dessert chapter alone, seemingly innocuous treats like "Coffee and Doughnuts", "Banana Split", "Candied Apple", and of course, "Peanut Butter and Jellies" are given the signature Keller treatment. The spectacular results promise to tempt both kid and adult alike, and more pertinently, the kid in every adult.
The "Peanut Butter" component in the Keller pairing is actually a peanut butter truffle - small balls of milk chocolate and peanut butter ganache dipped in bittersweet chocolate then dusted with cocoa. Presentation-wise, instead of this elegant and grown-up manner, I opted for an alternative route, inspired by everybody's favourite peanut butter cups, as well as a recipe for Peanut Butter Pucks from Michael Recchiuti's Chocolate Obsession. Using great chocolate and great peanut butter ensures all the difference - think of these as Posh Peanut Butter Cups. I used Valrhona's Guanaja 70% to create the bittersweet chocolate shells. As for the filling, I went with Jivara 40%. The peanut butter that's blended with the melted milk chocolate should be a creamy, natural one made from roasted nuts (and without added salt and sugar) - I like this organic nut butter. To finish, a few grains of fleur de sel for a salty burst of flavour and subtle crunch.
The "Jelly" part of the equation (Keller offers recipes for both Yuzu Jellies and Concord Grape Jellies) is, ingeniously enough, in the style of a very French and very chic pate de fruit, those delicate translucent squares - intensely flavoured and brightly coloured - gleaming like so many precious jewels from the most bijoux of Parisian confiseries. If, like me, you love yuzu (which, incidentally, makes a mighty fine citrus curd), these jellies offer a brand new way to enjoy the flavour.
Neither chunks of chocolate covered peanut butter-filled pretzels in vanilla malt ice cream nor deep ripples of fudge and peanut butter to be found here...so it's not this Chubby Hubby, but this Chubby Hubby I'm naming the macaron after. Quite aside from the fact that he likes his peanut butter and jelly, this PB & J bender I've been on was sparked by a conversation we had some weeks back about whimsical macaron flavours. As any fan of his fabulous blog will know, the man has an uncanny knack where matters gustatory are concerned, even when suggesting things half in jest.
Part of the reason I've been so keen to learn how to make macarons is that they are the perfect, bite-sized, fun yet elegant vehicle for experimenting with a whole spectrum of flavours - so PB & J it was. For the cookie component, I substituted part of the quantity of ground almonds called for in a typical macaron recipe with ground peanuts, tinkering with the ratio until the taste was right (I finally settled on 2 parts peanuts to 1 part almond). As for the jelly, it's a soft-set grape number based on a recipe from Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures.