Creamy, crunchy, gooey, and chewy. Sweet, salty, dark, yet light. Chef Zach’s peanut butter pretzel parfait is easy to throw together, but the results are wide-ranging. It is so rich, but it’s difficult to put down the spoon.
• For the caramel sauce:
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups of vanilla’d white sugar (sugar that has been stored with scraped vanilla bean[s])
2/3 cup of water
1 tbs. of vanilla extract
Combine water and sugar in a heavy, thick-bottom saucepan. Heat on medium-high for 7-9 minutes until you achieve a medium to medium-dark amber color. Do not stir during these 7-9 minutes.
Stirring constantly now, slowly add the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the hardened caramel is smooth and dissolved, and the sauce starts to thicken.
• For the chocolate ganache:
12 oz. of dark chocolate
8 oz. of heavy whipping cream
Scald the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until a skin forms on top of the cream and the cream is hot. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate in a bowl. Let sit for 2 minutes to start to melt the chocolate. Stir with a whisk to combine and make creamy.
• For the peanut butter filling:
28 oz. of creamy peanut butter
16 oz. of cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 cup of vanilla’d white sugar, plus 1/4 cup
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 tsp. of vanilla extract
In the bowl of a stand mixer, put the peanut butter, cream cheese, 1 cup of white sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
Mix on a medium-low speed until well combined. Set aside.
Whip together whipped cream with the remaining sugar until soft peaks form. Fold half of this cream into the peanut butter mixture to lighten it up. Once that’s well folded, fold in the remaining cream. Set aside.
• For the crunchy layers:
One 7 oz. bag of pretzels
1 cup of roasted peanuts
Pulse the pretzels in a food processor, not to turn them in to complete dust but to break them up. A tip is to use the freshest pretzels possible, so look at expiration dates. Crush the peanuts similarly, but do not mix the peanuts with the pretzels.
• To put it all together:
In your serving vessel of choice, begin with a layer of crushed pretzels. Spoon on caramel, followed by chocolate ganache and sprinkled with peanuts. Add a liberal amount of peanut butter filling, to be covered with more pretzels. Put on a bit more caramel, then some more peanuts, and a final layer of ganache. For more defined layers, let sit in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before adding each new layer. Chill before serving, but no longer than 2-3 hours so that the pretzels maintain their texture.
Tonight, Zach is working on building a menu based on the theme of heat. We are having a dinner and (slightly overdue) housewarming party soon for our friends and family, and it’ll be called, “Can You Beat the Heat?” The hottest pickled vegetables in the world (recipe here) are waiting in the refrigerator, and we’ve been collecting sauces and extracts to help develop more menu items. Driving from our weekend covering Vegas Uncork’d, we stopped at the Alien Fresh Jerky Store and picked up Dave’s Burning Nuts for inspiration. These rank half-way up Dave’s heat meter, and that’s more than enough for August. Spiced with habanero chili, this is the most popular snack from Dave’s Gourmet. Salty, savory, and obviously spicy, with a light smokiness and mild garlic and onion notes, these are not just hot peanuts but gourmet hot peanuts, for sure.
Not only do we have a population of varied backgrounds where we live, but also the population is big enough that there’s room for multiple restaurants of the same cuisine. After doing a Thai restaurant a while back, we went to another tonight that is also in Pleasant Hill, based on a recommendation. Thai Osha has a broad menu and warm interior, so we enjoyed our dinner very much.
Off the appetizer section we ordered Thai samosas: sauteed potato, Thai curry and onions, wrapped in wonton skin and deep fried, served with cucumber salad and peanut sauce. Zach liked the thin crispy exterior as they were fried really well with no greasy residue. The potato texture inside was fluffy and light, and the curry flavor was pleasantly mild. The peanut sauce was completely blended so we both got to enjoy it, since Zach can’t eat unprocessed nuts; it was silky smooth and rich in flavors supporting the peanuts, with a mildly sweet aftertaste.
Volcanic Beef is flank steak with fried basil leaves, black peppers, and red bell pepper in a “medium lava sauce.” The meat was well cut and lean, perfectly seared, tender, and flavorful. The sauce was savory with a hint of sweet and tanginess, so we were thankful for the side of white rice to sop up all of it (not pictured). It has one little chili pepper next to its name on the menu, indicating “medium” spiciness (on a scale of three, from zero to two chilies), but it wasn’t too spicy that August couldn’t handle it. Have no fear of one chili here if you usually prefer milder spiciness.
The ubiquitous Thai plate, the one that everyone knows, is always a safe bet. The noodles are loaded with chicken, prawns, egg, tofu, onions, bean sprouts, and ground peanuts (requested to be on the side in our case). A small detail we noticed was how much of the shell was peeled off the shrimp, making all the meat accessible with no work on our part to get at all of it. If you like a sweeter pad thai, this one’s for you.
Going to Thai Osha tonight proved that you have to eat at multiple establishments offering the same cuisine before finding a true favorite. Even if you still end up liking one of the first ones you went to, exploring others is never a bore.