Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Possibility: GF Chocolate Brownie and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

Brett, my husband, turned 40 last week.  There was a long period…maybe 4 or 5 months…where he was NOT handling it well.  He would grumble about the months passing too quickly and snarl “it’s just a number” and roll his eyes at his little brother’s attempt at “age humor.”  Especially when it threatened to included a collapsible cane and a subscription to AARP.  I thought he was overreacting.  And told him as much. 

But now that his birthday has passed…I’m starting to get a little nervous.  Because I realize…I’m right behind him.  Creeping along that well worn road of “unmistakable adult,” where I no longer get carded for a glass of wine and must set regular appointments with my stylist to cover the patches of gray hair that insist on reappearing each month. 
It boggles the mind, to consider the fact that our lives could very well be, half over.  And at the very least, the most exciting, full-of-possibility, pain-free half of our lives.  I say that, with a bit of humor...but I work in the aging church...where most of those I minister with, have long given up trying to cover their gray hair and wistfully remember the "good ol' days."  I hear litanies of pain and listen for laments of lost freedom and humdrum.  And even I want to shout to the new college freshman, "Don't forget this moment...it really is the best...everything is in front of you.  Every possibility.  Every turn and every fork in the road.  Every love and every loss.  Every exploration and every hesitation." 
But even as I type that...I know that it's a choice...it's a choice to decide that "possibility" is no longer in your vocabulary. 
So, rather than freak out or settle into a serious state of depression… I’ve started my own version of a bucket list...my Possibility List.  I’ve got things like “be an extra in a movie” and “spend the night in a tree house” and “take a pottery class” and "eat more (really) good chocolate" – you know, frivolous fun stuff!  But then I’ve got other, more intentional things, like “be a more active presence in the life of Alzheimer patients“ and “volunteer regularly at Hope Haven“ and “work to change the systems that keep people food-insecure.”  This list has already taken me out of my little, comfortable box that I live in…it's brought fear and the unknown back into my life.  In a good way.  And I like it. 

So here's to checking things off the Possibility List...starting with "eat more (good) chocolate" and Brett's birthday cake...

What you'll need:
Gluten Free Brownies:
1/2 Cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon water
2 Eggs
1 Teaspoon vanilla
3/4 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 Cup white (or brown) rice flour
1/4 Teaspoon salt
Peanut Butter Mousse:
1 Cup heavy whipping cream, cold
10 Ounces cream cheese...or like, a package and a half, at room temperature
2/3 Cup powdered sugar
2/3 Cup creamy peanut butter (the stuff I used, had added sugar...so I cut back on the powdered sugar just a smidge) 
Chocolate Ganache:
4 ½ ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped finely
½ cup heavy whipping cream

What to do for the Gluten-free Brownies:
Preheat oven to 350*.  Combine butter and sugar in a large bowl mixer.  Add eggs, water, and vanilla, mixing well.  Add cocoa and incorporate well.  Add flour and salt, mixing until smooth and a little glossy.  Divide between two 8 inch round cake pans that have been buttered and lined with parchment.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.

What to do for the Peanut Butter Mousse (besides drool):
Whisk the whipped cream on high until stiff peaks form.  Set aside (I put mine in the fridge because it was so bloomin' hot in the house..."enjoying August" is not on my Possibility List). In a different bowl, gather cream cheese, peanut butter, and powered sugar together, whisking on medium speed, until fully incorporated and fluffy.  Add whipped cream and whisk on medium high until peanut butter mixture and whipped cream are fully incorporated and the texture is light and fluffy and tastes the way you think heaven might taste.
What to do for the Chocolate Ganache:
Break up your semi-sweet chocolate and put it in a small-ish bowl.  In a saucepan bring cream to a boil. Once the boil starts, pour over chocolate. Let sit for about a minute or until your patience runs out.  Whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy.

And then assemble.  Layer...or, if you don't care about presentation...just take a big spoon, scoop up a bit of brownie, a glob of mousse, and dip the tip into the ganache...and eat to your hearts content.

You'll note: There are Reeses Peanut Butter Cups on this concoction...they are Brett's favorite candy...but they completely ruined the flavor profile (Gaw...I'm fancy.  Or spending too much time watching the Food Network).  I would suggest leaving them off.  Or replacing them with chopped Snickers bars.  But that's only because those are my favorite.