I am prone to kitchen disasters. My most recent one happened at a very bad time: Josh’s school auction.
Parents were asked to donate a dessert and although the instructions were very clear to make it attractive—from tips about where to buy a platter to how to wrap it in cellophane—I mistakenly thought we would be sharing it for dessert.
On the morning it was due, Jack said, “I guess you aren’t making a dessert.” Not willing to admit I had forgotten about it in the midst of a crazy workweek that included travel, I retorted, “Of course I’m still making a dessert.”
Jack left to go set up for the auction and I ran to my computer and trolled the web to find something I could make using ingredients I had on hand. Finally, I landed on the combination of two desserts (should have been the first red flag).
I hit print and went to Jack’s office to retrieve what I was sure would be the most delicious dessert ever. The printer was gone. No worries, I scribbled down the directions and headed to the kitchen (red flags two, three and four.)
I spent the next three hours baking what I envisioned as a fancy seven-layer wonder bar. While it cooled I packed Josh into the car, drove to Target for a platter and cellophane, which was not easy to find. Then I floored it to get back home.
As we walked in the door, the phone was ringing. It was Jack. “When are you delivering the dessert?” It was 2:40 and the desserts were due by 3:00. It was also pouring rain.
“I just have to platter it and I’ll drive it up. Can you meet me outside to take it in?”
He said yes and told me to add a bottle of wine. I grabbed a bottle of Mad Cuvée out of the wine fridge and secured it in the center of the plate, using candle Stick-Um. So resourceful, I was thinking.
Then I prepared to cut my dessert into squares. I carefully lifted the foil out of the pan and…it crumbled into a thousand pieces. While I stared in horror the phone rang again. It was Jack.
“Um, I’ve had a little problem with my dessert,” I said, “Can I bring cookies?” “What kind of cookies,” he asked. I looked at the two boxes of opened Girls Scouts cookies contemplating how they would look on the plate and pair with the wine.
And, then the real red flag waved as it slowly occurred to me these desserts weren’t for eating. They would be auctioned off.
In a full-on panic, I miraculously gathered together the ingredients for what turned out to be a pretty decent cheese platter that sold for $70! But, I swore to myself no more improv baking.
So now I’m back to my fail-proof desserts including this PB&J made with one of my go-to miracle ingredients: puff pastry. It’s not overly sweet and it is easier than easy to make, even for someone as dessert-challenged as me. And the puff pastry part can be resized in a different configurations. I’m going to make small rectangles and serve them with our Easter brunch.
As for the remains of the other dessert, well call me an optimist it’s in the freezer waiting for me to figure out how to still make it stick together. Anyone have a good idea?
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened slightly
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup strawberry preserves
1 pint strawberries, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unfold the puff pastry on a cutting board. Cut into 4 equal-size squares. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet and brush with the egg.
Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool.
Whip the butter with a whisk or hand-held electric mixer in a small bowl until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and whisk until creamy.
Carefully cut or pull apart the puff pastry pieces to separate the tops and bottoms. Spread equal amounts of the peanut butter mixture over each bottom. Spread equal amounts of strawberry mixture over the top piece of puff pastry. Spoon equal amounts of strawberries over the top of the peanut butter and replace the top. Serve.
What to drink: A dessert wine is a must with this recipe. While it’s not overly sweet, it will make a dry wine taste awful. Mad Cuvéée ($20), from Royal Tokaji, is one of my new faves. It has a slight honey flavor and like its more noble siblings, Royal Tokaji’s aszu wines, balancing acidity so it isn’t cloying.