There was a time, many years ago, when Neapolitan ice cream was considered a kooky and experimental flavour. Well, chefs have pushed the boundaries of dessert ingredients a long way since then. There was the salted caramel craze and lately, the odd strip of candied bacon has been appearing in our baked goods. Now, it's peanut butter's turn to take the spotlight, with the humble household ingredient working its way onto dessert menus across Melbourne. Whether it’s baked into a deconstructed cheesecake or added to a milkshake to create a uniquely salty-sweet flavouring, you’ve just got to get into some of these nutty desserts. Fingers crossed you don’t suffer a peanut allergy.
The Black Toro — deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake with chocolate ice cream and honeycomb
As the finale to a feast of pulled pork and puckering Mexican spices, dessert at the Black Toro arrives unassembled for ultimate appreciation of each individual characteristic contained in the dish. According to chef Garen Maskal, it's not a dessert for the faint hearted – and certainly not for the health-conscious. "Personally, I don't really like desserts, so when I do eat them, they've got to be really rich," he says. Sink your teeth into the twin quenelles of lavish peanut butter cheesecake and velvety, aerated dark chocolate ice cream, which sit side-by-side amongst little mounds of crispy homemade honeycomb.
Golden Fields — peanut butter parfait, salted caramel and soft chocolate
Every restaurant has a go-to dish – the one that turns up on food blogs time after time and garners public testimonials to its culinary excellence. For Golden Fields, it’s the peanut butter parfait that has diners coming back to take pictures on their iPhones. Remaining firmly on the menu since the day the restaurant first opened, the parfait contains a melange of lightly salted peanuts, crispy meringue base and velvet chocolate ganache. As head chef Todd Moses explains, it’s an intense blend of “opposing flavours and textures, but somehow it works brilliantly”.
Chez Dre — peanut butter, caramel and brownie with peanut butter mousse
North Americans have been onto the sweet-savoury fusion for years. They’re responsible for bringing us old favourites like peanut butter cookies, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwiches. But it’s South Melbourne cafe Chez Dre who take the concept to a new multicultural height, marrying the delicate precision of French petit gateau with these classic American treats. Chez Dre’s syrupy-sweet, five-layer construction is built on a base of pecan brownie and topped with platforms of salted caramel, specks of peanut crunch and chocolate cremeaux. But they don’t stop there. A fluffy peanut butter mousse is then laid on top to provide a roof, while structural integrity is reinforced by walls of thin, solid chocolate to encase the little beauty.
Tuck Shop Takeaway — peanut butter milkshake and soft-serve ice cream
Tuck Shop’s Karina Serex makes it her mission to keep the menu interesting. Her prized possession is the in-house soft serve machine which serves up a different set of flavours every day, and the peanut butter soft serve is a favourite on the menu rotation. "Using peanut butter adds that salty element which really complements the sweetness of the dish. Salt doesn't just enhance the flavour of savoury food…I use it in all my desserts," she says. Rumour has it that, come summer, Tuck Shop Takeaway will be expanding their menu to include a rather fancy version of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Stay tuned.
Bowery to Williamsburg — peanut butter hot chocolate
On any given weekday, legions of lunch-goers sit hunched over steaming, frothy-milked mugs of Bowery to Williamsburg's specialty hot chocolate, taking refuge from the winter chill. It’s the subtle addition of peanut butter — which adds extra depth and creaminess to the drink without being overpowering — that makes the drink so special. Chef Di Keser (who also runs the overwhelmingly popular cafe Hardware Societe) seems to have a knack for creating breakfasts that attain cult status, but she doesn't plan things that way. "There was no particular inspiration behind the peanut butter hot chocolate,” says Keser. “I just thought 'Yeah, that would work', so I made it. Shazam." It was only after making the divine combo that Keser did some research. "I Googled it and realised it was actually a thing," she laughs.
Woods of Windsor — peanut butter bar with raspberry sorbet and salted peanut caramel
It all started with chef Nick Stanton's desire to use a tasty household ingredient and make it the hero of the dessert plate. A pale bar of nut-butter arrives, drizzled in salted peanut caramel sauce and nestled beside a vivid sphere of raspberry sorbet. It's the tartness of the sorbet that really sets the flavour off, complementing the rich, buttery indulgence of its partner in sugar-led crime. "It's an extremely popular choice with diners. It's been on the menu since we opened in January last year and people keep coming back for it," says Stanton.