When you see Bouchon Bakery's Peanut Butter Cream Puff ($6) in the pastry case and read the descriptive name tag, you might assume, as I did, that it's just a basic cream puff. Pâte à choux, pastry cream, you know the drill. But it turns out there's much more to it—four distinct layers that may surprise you.
Let's start with the whipped peanut butter pastry cream just beneath the choux. It's slightly salty and not sweet at all—really, it's nearly devoid of sugar. But don't worry, things sweeten up as you eat your way through. Next comes a layer of straight peanut butter that would be at home on any PB & J. It's saltier than the whipped filling and obviously much denser, but not any sweeter. As you get to layer number three you start to detect some sweetness from a deep, rich, chocolate brownie layer. However, almost as a tease, the chocolate is on the dark side so we're still not quite in sugarland yet. At the very bottom, finally, you reach a smooth band of nutty, sweetened chocolate creme with the consistency of Nutella.
The combination of unsweetened and lightly sweetened components inside a nicely baked choux pastry is refreshing, not something you can normally say about a cream puff. Those expecting a peanut butter version of a sweet Beard Papa cream puff should pass.