My son spent last month volunteering in Brazil – Rio, to be exact. Stowing away in his luggage briefly crossed my mind. The kid knows how to live. I was thrilled for him to spend some time experiencing the warm Brazilian culture, getting to know the crazy energy of the city, and of course, sampling the cuisine. After spending four years in Brazil as a child, I carry a little piece of Brazil with me wherever I go. To be honest, I haven’t been to Rio in 30 years – since visiting Escola Americana do Rio de Janiero as an 8th grade cheerleader supporting the soccer team from Sao Paulo’s Chapel School.
Our intrepid traveler was slated to live in a hostel in the Santa Teresa neighborhood with volunteers from across the globe, and help to teach children in a neighboring favela. A few days after he arrived, I hadn’t heard much from him. (As it turns out, he was off sampling every pao de queijo, brigadeiro and caipirinha in the neighborhood.) But with the radio silence, I pounded out a quick text asking him if everything was OK.
I mean I fell of a motorcycle taxi after drinking eight caipirinhas and was then immediately mauled by a pack of rabid Brazilian stray dogs. I’m in the hospital right now getting rabies shots and they had to amputate my left leg but I feel really safe here because the guy in the bed next to me was a police informant who was shot several times by a local drug lord and he has 24/7 security.
The dear boy has a unique way of saying: “Mom. I’m totally fine. Stop worrying.”
Let me admit, his colorful notes home gave me some cause for concern (motorcycle taxis, a communal bathroom so crawling with exotic critters he likened to an exhibit from the invertebrate house at the National Zoo, occasional rounds of gunfire echoing from the favelas up the hill). He was of course fine, and far richer for the experience. When he discovered caipirinhas and tasty snacks are served on Ipanema Beach to thirsty visitors, I worried he might decide to cancel his return ticket.
He did get on the flight home, and when he arrived we were all in the mood to celebrate. I thought something intensely American was in order, so a peanut butter cream pie came to mind.
On the ride home from the airport, Luke raved about his discovery of pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) dipped in dulce de leche. So I had dulce de leche on my mind. I started wondering how dulce to leche might taste whipped into that creamy peanut butter base… and into the whipped cream top… and then I decided to freeze the entire creation… and dust it with salted chopped peanuts at the end. OK, so it was an intensely American order with a South American nod.
Welcome home son. But please know: next time you head to Brazil, I’m tagging along.
Frozen Peanut Butter Dulce de Leche Pie
Loosely based on Joy the Baker's Peanut Butter Cream Pie
For the crust:
- 1¼ cup finely crushed cinnamon sugar graham crackers
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
For the filling:
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup smooth all-natural peanut butter
- 1 cup dulce de leche
For the whipped cream topping:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons dulce de leche
- Optional toppings:
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts
- chocolate sauce
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- To make the crust, place the cinnamon sugar graham crackers in a medium bowl. Add the butter and stir with a fork until the mixture is thoroughly moistened. The mixture will not form a dough ball, but will stay a crumby texture.
- Dump the crumb mixture into a 9-inch pie dish and, using your fingers, evenly press the mixture along the bottom and sides of the dish. Bake until the crust is slightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pie dish from the oven and let cool completely before filling.
- To make the pie filing, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it holds soft peaks, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.
- In the same bowl of the electric mixer (you don't have to rinse it out) fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and pliable, about 3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, salt, and vanilla extract and beat well. Beat in the peanut butter and dulce de leche until smooth. Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in a quarter of the whipped cream. Gently fold in another quarter of the whipped cream. Repeat twice with the remaining whipped cream until the mixture is well incorporated but still fluffy. Spoon the filling into the prepared crust. Place in the freezer for at least ½ hour.
- For the whipped cream topping, in the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until it holds soft speaks, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the dulce de leche and mix until combined. Take the pie out of the freezer, then top the pie with the whipped cream mixture. Place back in the freezer and freeze for at least 6 hours.
- Before serving, sprinkle the chopped peanuts on top of the pie. If you like, drizzle each slice with a bit of warm chocolate sauce.