Happy New Year Everyone! I hope you were able to enjoy some holiday celebrations with family and friends over the past few weeks and that you are also looking forward to approaching this year with a refreshed energy and perspective. Things might not have changed much, but I am filled with a sense of hope and renewal for all that 2021 has in store for all of us. If anything, I personally have realized that life is truly unpredictable, and while going with the flow might be challenging, it is possible to come out stronger once the struggles are all over if you put your mind to doing so. And whenever you can find a little bit of fun amidst the difficult moments, you must take advantage of it.
With that, I am starting off this year's blog with a new, cheery take on an old classic. Quarantine cooking might be losing its appeal as repeat recipes become mundane or you run out of ideas, so I hope that this recipe, and the ones to follow weekly, will reignite or continue your passion for at-home cooking and keep you going as it did all those months in the beginning.
Today, I am going to introduce you to dessert pizza, which I have no doubt will become your new go-to treat on a regular night or a celebration - it is fancy and will certainly evoke 'ooos' and 'ahhhs,' yet it is so simple to put together. This dessert is also layered with indulgent flavors and will fill you with so much comfort and content, taking away all your worries and concerns for the foreseeable future - a perfect end to a festivity or just a fantastic way to put you in a great mood.
I first conceptualized this playful masterpiece for a surprise 30th birthday over Zoom last month, and it is THAT scrumptious that I wanted to share it with you too. My inspiration began just with ingredients - the guest of honor's favorites included chocolate, peanut butter, berries, bananas, and marshmallows. Add some ice cream and this would be a delicious sundae! But of course, I couldn't do something that easy, and I knew the birthday girl is a well-versed baker; I had to go outside of the box, which I love to do, so that I could share some new techniques and really make it memorable.
It turns out, she also loves pizza and had lived in Italy for a bit, and once I found out this information, everything came together quickly. I started with a basic peanut base for the crust - knowing there would be a lot of components included, I wanted to make certain that nutty flavor was prevalent throughout every bite. After grinding peanuts and combining them with oats and almond flour for more structure and a few other seasonings and binding ingredients, the crust was ready to bake. I put it in the oven for 18 minutes and by the time all of the other parts were complete, it was ready to be loaded up.
Now, onto replicating the rest of the components - the sauce, the cheese, and the toppings. With the base more like a solid crumble then a dough, I knew I could layer on a few sauces and they would not make the crust soggy, which gave me lots of room to get creative. I definitely needed more peanut butter, so I first went for a peanut butter 'mousse.' Whisking together smooth peanut butter, almond milk, maple syrup, and salt yielded a luscious spread that would contribute a creamy mouthfeel full of a sweet roasted nut flavor, reminiscent of the adored Reese's Cups. The next component was caramelized bananas - sliced thick, coated in cinnamon and brown sugar, and quickly caramelized to form a crunchy crust. It will be hard to control yourself from eating them as their irresistible aroma wafts across the kitchen!
Then, we have a second sauce, and this sauce is what makes this dessert pizza so unique. It actually is a combination of two sauces, making for one extra special addition. And it is popular in Italy, so it just seems so fitting for this dessert. Want to know what it is...a blackberry sabayon! To begin, I made a blackberry compote with blackberries, lemon juice, vanilla, and a dash of salt. I cooked it with the lid on to release the juices, smashing the berries when they began to break down to accumulate even more liquid. Then, I simmered it over low heat to concentrate the flavor and achieve the necessary consistency, and I was done.
The sabayon is the trickiest part of the whole pizza, but in reality, it is scarier in your mind then in the actual execution. All you have to do is whisk eggs over a double boiler until they get thick, not letting them scorch or overcook and get lumpy while holding a hot pan with steam rising towards your face. Okay, so it does sound slightly nerve-racking, and it will take a good amount of muscle to get the right volume; if you work slowly and focus so you can reach the end result properly on the first try, the stress will diminish, and you will realize it is totally worth the effort. And to be honest, there really is not much steam at all, and if you hold a towel on the hot bowl, you will not get hurt.
For this recipe, I used apple cider as my liquid flavoring agent and maple syrup as my sweetener to yield a subtle, fluffy, ribbony, light custard. After mixing in the blackberries, you can see why it takes this dessert up to the next level; like whipped cream and berries but better, a creamy, silky sabayon absorbs the tartness of the blackberries to enhance their sweet notes while offering a buttery richness that shines with bright fruitiness as it slips into your stomach all too quickly (but without the butter!).
We have reached the final two and the easiest toppings: chocolate-coated peanuts and toasted marshmallows. For the peanuts, I dipped them in melted chocolate and let them harden in the fridge - these will go on last, but I made them right after the crust went in the oven so they would have enough time to solidify. For the marshmallows, I just put them on top and broiled until they were golden brown and gooey, like cheese! Once it cooled for a few seconds, I added the chocolate peanuts so the shell did not melt immediately. And that's the whole pizza, best enjoyed right out of the oven while still warm. However, like savory pizza, if you save some leftovers in the fridge, it is yummy when cold as well. Also, because the sabayon only calls for a tiny amount of apple cider, you are going to end up with a lot of extra, so I highly recommend making mulled apple cider to enjoy with the pizza. Just pour it in a pot, add in some spices and citrus, and let it steep while preparing the pizza. The acidity from the apples and lemon and the warmth from the cinnamon and nutmeg are a wonderful complement to lighten up the sweeter, more decadent pizza,
So if you are looking to step up your dessert game but do not want to go too crazy, this pizza is the perfect place to begin. There are no finnicky or difficult ingredients incorporated - in fact, you probably have most of them in your pantry and fridge already, and if not, it is very likely you have the substitutions listed below. Whether you plan several days in advance or suddenly have a craving, if you are desiring something intriguing, satisfying, impressive, and full of delight, both in the cooking process and the eating experience, a dessert pizza is the way to go!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pizza
Serves 3 to 4 people
Peanut Chocolate Crumble Crust
½ cup Peanuts
¼ cup Almond or All Purpose Flour
¼ cup Rolled Oats
½ tsp Coriander
¼ tsp Baking Powder
1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tsp Maple Syrup
1 ½ T Water
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup Mini/Regular Chocolate Chips
Dark Chocolate-Coated Peanuts
½ cup Dark Chocolate
¼ cup Peanuts
Brown Sugar or Date Sugar
Peanut Butter Mousse
½ cup Peanut Butter
¼ cup Almond Milk
1 T Maple Syrup
½ pint Blackberries/Frozen Blackberries
Apple Cider Sabayon
2 Egg Yolks
1 ½ T Maple Syrup
2 T Apple Cider
½ cup Mini or Regular Marshmallows
4 cups Apple Cider
Ground Cinnamon, Clove, Nutmeg, and/or Allspice
1 Lemon and/or Orange
Any nut that you desire instead of peanuts; almond, cashew, or hazelnut butter can replace peanut butter
Honey in place of maple syrup
Any type of chocolate you desire (milk, dark, semisweet, white)
Raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries can replace blackberries
Quick or Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats are good
Vegetable Oil/Canola Oil/Olive Oil can replace Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Peanut Chocolate Crumble Crust: Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Blend the peanuts in a food processor until they achieve a crumbly texture. In a large bowl, combine the peanuts with the almond flour, rolled oats, ground coriander, baking powder, oil, maple syrup, water, and salt. Mix until well-incorporated. Press the mixture into a flat layer covering the bottom of a parchment-lined, 7-inch springform cake pan. If you don't have one, you can just shape it into a circle on a parchment-lined tray. Bake for 18 minutes.
For the Dark Chocolate-Coated Peanuts: Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Dip the peanuts in, coat them, then remove with a slotted spoon or fork, shaking off the excess chocolate. Place spaced out on a plate lined with a small piece of parchment. Let set in the fridge.
For the Caramelized Bananas: Slice the bananas into ½-inch thick pieces. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then dip both sides of the banana. Heat the pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the bananas in an even layer and cook until golden brown, then flip and repeat on the other side.
For the Peanut Butter Mousse: Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until evenly incorporated.
For the Blackberry Compote: Combine all ingredients in a pot and cook over low heat with the lid on. Once the blackberries begin to soften, smash them to further release their juices and break down any large pieces. Reduce until it resembles a loose jam. Set aside.
For the Apple Cider Sabayon: Assemble a double boiler and bring the water to a simmer. In a medium-sized heatproof bowl, combine the maple syrup and cider. Now, whisk in the egg yolks. Use a towel to hold the bowl over the water – don’t let the bottom touch the surface – and whisk. Make certain not to splash the mixture on the bowl’s sides as the liquid will cook very quickly if it lands on this hot surface and create crusty pieces that are not enjoyable. If you need a short break or to prevent the eggs from cooking too quickly, remove the bowl from the heat so they do not curdle or burn. The sabayon is done when it becomes thick and frothy, holding its shape as you run a spoon through it. If there are any lumps, strain into a small bowl.
For the Mulled Cider: Combine the apple cider and spices in a small pot. Squeeze in the juice of the citrus and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it steep.
To Finish: Turn the oven to broil and warm up the cider in a small pot over low heat. Slide the crust off the parchment onto a tray. Spread the peanut butter mousse over the top, then lay out the caramelized bananas. Cover with the sabayon, then sprinkle the marshmallows around. Place in the oven and broil just until the marshmallows turn brown. Remove from the oven, let cool for a minute, garnish with the chocolate-covered peanuts, and serve hot!