October 9, 2006
Considering my love of good-for-you nut butters and my passion for the unabashedly trashy peanut butter cup, it was only a matter of time before I attempted to coalesce the two and make a peanut butter cup spread of some sort.
I thought I would simply use unsweetened cocoa powder to flavor an otherwise classic homemade peanut butter, but when I opened the tin in which I keep my cocoa powder, a hollow clonk is all that greeted me. "Who used the last of the cocoa powder without replenishing the supply?" I asked, punctuating my question with a colorful expletive. "I did and I'm sorry," I replied, alone in the kitchen, "but the Salon du Chocolat is coming up and if you make it there, won't you be pleased to have a shopping alibi?" That shut me up for a while.
In the meantime, I consoled myself by thinking it was a splendid occasion to use some of the Xocopili* I had in my chocolate cabinet. These rather innovative, marble-sized balls of dark chocolate (72% cacao content) belong to a line of Valrhona products for professionals: seasoned with sea salt and a mix of spices (Espelette chili pepper, curry, paprika, and cardamom), they are meant for use in savory dishes -- especially game -- but they also make a fine treat to gobble up as is, or lower in a cup of espresso for a few seconds.
My chocolate peanut butter thus turned into something rather more sophisticated than I originally intended, and I was quite blown away by the complexity of its flavor and the richness of its mouthfeel. Michele Pfeiffer's line from Scarface -- "Don't toot your horn honey, you're not that good" -- echoes in my mind and I feel compelled to note that all the credit goes to the peanuts and the Xocopili, but I am quite content to reap the benefits on my morning tartine.
* In Paris, you will find Xocopili at -- where else? -- G. Detou. Sure, it comes in a one-kilo tub, but if you buy one and offer to share, I'm sure you'll make lots of new friends.
Spiced Chocolate Peanut Butter
125 grams (1 cup) raw peeled peanuts
40 grams (1 1/2 ounces) Xocopili (substitute bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus a teeny-tiny pinch each of ground chili, curry, paprika, and cardamom)
Sea salt, to taste
Makes about a cup.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Spread the peanuts on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 5 to 7 minutes, keeping an eye on them and stirring halfway through, until golden and fragrant. Let cool.
Combine the nuts and chocolate in a food processor, and process until the mixture turns creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl every once in a while. This will take a few minutes, and you may want to sing your latest favorite song (such as Forgotten Christmas Gift) at the top of your voice to cover the sound of the motor and keep yourself entertained. Add salt to taste and mix again.
Transfer to a jar and close tightly. The texture is best for spreading at room temperature, but keep in the fridge if you're not going to consume it right away or if the weather is very warm.
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