Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Mousse on Toasted Peanuts in Caramel Syrup and topped with Orange Blossom Honey Roasted Peanuts.
About once a year, I get a serious craving for peanut butter. It can happen in the summer or the winter, and either way, it’s short and intense — peanut butter has a way of overwhelming my whole being.
So, this year, I experimented with Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousses while the excitement lasted. I chose a mousse as its vehicle b/c I wanted the peanut butter flavor without its heavy stickiness… and mousse is another rich thing that I can handle about once a year.
I went through my usual rounds of recipe research, and I found that most recipes use either cream cheese or powdered sugar as the body of a peanut butter mousse and paired it with a chocolate component. I thought that was odd. Why not just incorporate chocolate to begin with for a cleaner flavor?
There’s quite a bit of leeway with chocolate mousse recipes, depending on the desired density and the intensity of chocolate flavor. Back when I started baking, the differences in ingredients from recipe to recipe for the same dessert seemed very mysterious, but it’s actually pretty straightforward — if you imagine the properties of the ingredients on their own, there’s a good chance that they’ll contribute those properties to the final dessert.
So, when I thought about what kind of mousse I wanted, I thought about the textures and flavors of… whole eggs… egg yolks… egg whites… gelatin… heavy cream… milk… water… alcohol… milk chocolate… dark chocolate…
Believe it or not, I actually went for an eggy mousse for my first version b/c I wanted that thick, bubbly texture as a refinement of the texture of peanut butter. My recipe was based on Albert’s Mousse in Bittersweet by Alice Medrich. I subbed 33% of the semisweet chocolate with peanut butter, used slightly less liquid (milk and water; to make up for the looseness of the peanut butter compared to chocolate), included Tuaca as the alcohol (an orange-vanilla liqueur from Italy), and whipped whole eggs. Since there was no cream in the mousse, I thought I’d put some on top, whipped. I also had some spiced nutty caramel leftover from a candy bar experiment, so I thinned it with water and put that in the bottom of the glass for kicks.
It was good ‘n rich. The peanut butter flavor was pretty mild, and allowed for the other flavors to come through, too. It had the stable bubbly texture that I wanted — removing a spoonful of it revealed that structure of air pockets that reminds me of slicing into a fine ciabatta dough in miniature. By the next day, the liqueur flavor was much stronger, overpowering the peanut butter. It was also denser, as mousses are wont to become over time.
For my second mousse, I aimed for a silky light texture, so I decided that the mousse would feature milk chocolate and whipped cream, with a little semisweet chocolate for more chocolate flavor and structure (from the add’l cocoa butter). I formulated it based on the Milk Chocolate Mousse recipe in Bittersweet and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Gianduja contributed by Nicole Plue in Scharffen Berger’s The Essence of Chocolate.
Plue’s gianduja is an amazing dessert that I sampled during a dinner at Julia’s Kitchen last year, and I’d recommend making it at home b/c it’s delicious and handy– it goes straight into the freezer. You can freeze it for several weeks, slicing off servings as you please, and letting it sit for 10 mins at room temp before eating.
So, below is the peanut butter chocolate mousse recipe that I came up with. It’s silky and peanut butter-y, with a strong dairy contingent, as you can tell by the ingredients . The chocolate flavor is more of a backdrop (though you could probably sub some of the milk with water to bring out the choc flavor more). It’s also very rich. Even though it was in my small Pierre Herme verrine glasses, I was overwhelmed by the amount; half would have been perfect for me. It’s nice topped with honey roasted peanuts and over the caramel syrup with toasted peanuts. The clear, gem-like caramel syrup is only caramelized sugar and water with a little salt; a caramel sauce with cream and butter would have been too rich.
And yes, it’s rather Snickers-like, isn’t it?
Peanut Butter Chocolate Mousse
6 oz Milk Chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut)
1 oz Semisweet Chocolate, chopped (I used 58% Cacao Barry)
Pinch Fine Sea Salt
6 oz Peanut Butter, room temp (I used Whole Foods Organic Creamy PB)
5 oz Whole Milk (I used Organic Valley)
8 oz Heavy Whipping Cream (I used Organic Valley)
In a double boiler over steaming hot water, melt the chocolates in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir together the peanut butter, salt, and milk until smooth, and then stir the peanut butter mixture into the chocolate mixture until smooth. Transfer the bowl to the mixer. Whip on high until smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft mounds. When the chocolate mixture is ready, stir in 1/3 of the cream, then quickly and gently fold in the rest.
Pour into vessel/s (and over caramel syrup and peanuts, if desired). Chill 1-4 hrs before serving. It will become denser as it chills longer.