We all agree, the back of house is swarming with talented people. I had the pleasure of working with some of the best in the business in San Francisco, California. I met Suzanne LaFleur when she was executive pastry chef of Yoshi's, San Francisco. Since our time together at "the yosh", she has gone on to work at notable kitchens such as Perbacco, Google Headquarters, and now the Square in San Francisco. I asked her a couple questions and snagged a killer recipe. Enjoy!
Oreo-Peanut Butter Caramel "Stoner" Bars
Oreo-Peanut Butter Caramel Stoner Bars- makes one 9X9 inch pan of bars
24 Oreo Cookies (two rows) Reserve last row for garnish, and snacking
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted*
1 teaspoon Kosher salt**
In a food processor, pulse the cookies until mixture is fine and crumbly.
Stir the cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt together. Press crumbs into the bottom of a 9X9 inch pan that has been sprayed and lined with parchment paper (for easier removal).
Bake the crust for 8 minutes at 350°F then cool completely before filling.
*salted butters vary in saltiness. So I prefer to use unsalted and then season with salt accordingly.
**I prefer Kosher as it is not as salty as Iodized granules and is easier to control when pinching it over food. If using granules, decrease the salt to 3/4 teaspoon.
For the filling:
Melt the following together over low heat, stirring:
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Set aside to cool to room temperature. You can cool down faster if you stir it over another bowl of ice water.
In a stand up mixer, using the paddle attachment or using a hand mixer with regular attachments, blend:
8 ounces room temperature cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
When blended, add:
1 cup creamy peanut butter ***
***do not use natural peanut butter as this may separate and get oily. The emulsified ones such as Jif or Skippy are best for this application)
Then add the cooled brown sugar mixture.
In a separate bowl, whip to soft peaks:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
Fold cream into peanut butter mixture until blended.
Spread on top of the Oreo crust.
Chill for several hours or overnight.
For the caramel sauce:
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp unsalted, room temperature butter
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Splash of vanilla extract
Pour sugar and water into a heavy saucepan, making sure all of the sugar is wet. It is important for you to not get sugar on the sides of the pan, or the sauce may crystallize. You can use a heat proof brush, dipped in water to clean the sides of the pot as it is cooking.
Bring to a boil on high heat.
Continue boiling until the sugar turns a dark amber color.
Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Be careful, as this will bubble up when you add the cold liquid to the boiling syrup. Whisk in the butter, salt and splash of vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature.
For best results, loosen the sides of the chilled peanut butter bar and pop out gently on to a cutting board, crust side on the bottom of board.
Drizzle the caramel sauce and top with crushed Oreos.
Cut into whatever size you prefer, using a hot knife (dip in hot water and dry off with a towel between cuts).
Serve or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Variations: can add chips of any flavor, chocolate, butterscotch, white. Top with potato chips or pretzels in addition to Oreos. But do this last minute so they stay crisp.
Q: What made you choose the "sweet life" ?
I was a line (savory) cook for several years and the pastry kitchen intimidated me because I was scared of the preciseness it required. I challenged myself and continue to learn new things daily.
Q: What advice would you give to amateur bakers to make their dishes look more professional?
To make your dishes look more professional, focus on clean lines, sharp cuts and overall evenness. It can really make a huge difference in presentation.
Q: What are some factors you think are important when opening or running a restaurant?
I believe, when you are first starting out in the profession of baking and pastry, you must make things that people are familiar with and learn how to perfect them. You can be more adventurous with your combinations over time, once you have established yourself and the basics, and then customers will trust you and try different things.
Q: On a desert island, what are 3 ingredients or kitchen utensils you would take with you?
On a desert Island the three things I would want the most with me, bake-wise are eggs (for their versatility), sugar and butter. I am assuming I might be able to make flour out of coconuts, or nuts, a whisk out of palm tree leaves and a knife out of a wood shard. Of course, I would have to learn how to harvest salt from the sea. If you don't have salt, you don't have flavor. I put it in all of my baked goods.
You can follow Suzanne on Instagram @Suziecups