Archive for January, 2011


peanut butter pie with chocolate cookie crust

When you write a baking blog, it makes baking a top priority.  Beyond parties, I’ll take any little excuse to get in the kitchen and try something new, or perfect a classic recipe.  Last weekend, the Albany Travers came down for a visit and with an equal appreciation for sweet treats, they are great people to bake for.

As many of you know, I’m working my way through Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, a great Christmas present from santa. Next up is Peanut Butter Pie, one of my favorite desserts and Tom’s evergreen answer when I ask “what should I make tonight?”

This Peanut Butter Pie recipe is very easy, and I love the addition of hot fudge atop this cold treat. The combination of cream cheese and peanut butter make this filling a winner.

The chocolate wafer cookies can be difficult to find at grocery stores, but they are worth the hunt.  In NYC, you can get them at Food Emporium or Fairway (I know, I’ve search every major grocery store in NYC and NJ).

I made a few changes to the original Baked recipe to make this dessert pop even more. I definitely plan to add this one to my secret stash of Peanut Butter Pie recipes.

Peanut Butter Pie with Cookie Crust
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
yield: one 9-inch pie

For the chocolate cookie crust
30 chocolate wafer cookies, or 6 oz (look for Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafer Cookies in the grocery store)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the peanut butter filling
1/2 cup or 3 oz of semisweet chocolate chips
8 oz ream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tbsps pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For the easy hot fudge sauce
6 oz milk chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup

Make the chocolate cookie crust
In a food processor, grind the cookies to a very fine powder. You should have about 1 1/2 cups.

cookies in food processor

Put the crumbs in a bowl and stir in the sugar.

sugar and chocolate cookie crumbs

Pour the butter over the crumb mixture and mix until well combined. The mixture will feel wet. Turn the crumb mixture out into a 9-inch pie plate and press it into the bottom and up the sides. You can use the back of a large spoon to even out the crust.

chocolate cookie crust

Put the crust in the refrigerator while you make the filling.

Make the peanut butter filling with chocolate bottom
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave oven or in a double boiler. Use a spatula to spread the chocolate in a thin layer on the bottom of the chilled pie crust. Put the crust back in the refrigerator while you make the peanut butter filling.

Put the cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla, and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium speed until well combined and completely smooth.  Set aside.

peanut butter filling ingredients

In a clean bowl, use the the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the cream until soft peaks form. Remove the bowl from the mixer and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until the mixture is uniform in color.

peanut butter filling

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and refrigerate for at least four hours.

Make the easy hot fudge sauce

Place both chocolates in a medium heatproof bowl and set aside.

chocolate for hot fudge

In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Add the corn syrup and stir to combine. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolates. Let the mixture sit for two minutes. Starting in the center of the bowl and working your way out to the edges, whisk the chocolate mixture in a circle until completely smooth. The hot fudge sauce, cooled to room temperature and covered tightly, will keep for three days in the refrigerator. Rewarm the sauce in a microwave oven on medium heat for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until the sauce is warm; or reheat it in a small saucepan over low heat.

Place a piece of pie on a large serving plate and spoon three heaping tablespoons of the warm sauce directly over the top of the pie.  Eat and enjoy immediately.

Baked: New Frontiers in Baking


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Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

I love gelato.  Who doesn’t?

I never quite understood the difference between gelato and ice cream until I was given the fabulous Ciao Bella cookbook from my friend Mary, who has a fabulous cooking blog of her own – The Culinary Librarian.

As you may already know, the difference is fat content.  Gelato requires less cream and more milk, which also limits the amount of air volume in the finished product.  In comparison to ice cream, gelato tends to be more dense than ice cream and more flavorful.  I think it’s creamier too.

Both gelato and ice cream are very easy to make.  All you need is a home ice cream maker and a cold freezer.  I have the Cuisinart ice cream maker, which works well and is a popular models.

I’ve made several gelato recipes in this book  and loved them all.  I have yet to delve into the very popular sorbetto recipes that Ciao Bella is known for, but I plan to make that a top priority this summer once the weather is warmer.

Below is one of my favorite gelato recipes.  It’s great topped with a little hot fudge and fresh oreo cookies.  Buon appetito!

Cookies and Cream Gelato
1 quart of gelato

Cookies & cream gelato

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2 oreos or chocolate sandwich cookies, finely chopped and frozen
3 oreos or chocolate sandwich cookies, coarsely chopped (with larger pieces) and frozen

To make the gelato:
In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the milk and cream.  Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.  Gradually whisk in the sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow.  Temper the egg yolks by very slowly pouring in the hot milk mixture while whisking continuously.  Return the custard to the saucepan and place over low heat.  Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit.  Do not bring to a boil.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring ever 5 minutes or so.  To cool the custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir the custard until cooled.  Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours, or overnight.

Once the base is chilled, gently stir the finely chopped oreo pieces into the base.  Pour the mixture into the container of an ice cream machine and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions (approximately 25 minutes).  Add the coarsely chopped chocolate sandwich cookies to the mixture 5 minutes before the churning is complete.  Transfer to an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

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Sweet Serendipity cookbook

Sweet Serendipity cookbook

If you haven’t been to Serendipity in Manhattan, you’re missing out.  This adorable cafe and dessert paradise is flanked by a a quirky store that sells lots of fun chotchkies and can make the 2 hour wait worthwhile.


Famous for the frozen hot chocolate, which is amazing , Serendipity serves a wide variety of sweet treats and offers an extensive food menu.  I recommend going for lunch.  You can make a reservation in advance if you’re there to eat food (as well as dessert), and can skip the massive wait that many of us endure for a spoonful of these delicious desserts.  My brother Eddie brought me to Serendipity for lunch on my birthday before I moved to NYC and it was one of my all time favorite meals.  I recommend going light on lunch and heavy on sugar…

Lucky for us, Serendipity has shared its secrets with the world in its Sweet Serendipity cookbook, which includes their famous frozen hot chocolate recipe and much more.

Below is a favorite recipe of mine.  It’s an indulgent year-round dessert and may remind you of a summer s’more.  It’s great with or without the chocolate pecan topping.  Enjoy!

Mississippi Mud Cake

Mississippi Mud Cake
Serves 6 or more

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups marshmallows

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup evaporated milk
2 sticks butter, melted and cooled

To make the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan.  Set aside.

Sift together the flour and cocoa in a medium bowl.  Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  On low speed, mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture.  Add the chopped pecans and the vanilla extract and continue to mix until combined.

Chocolate cake ready for the oven

Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake on a rack in the middle of the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  Remove the cake and sprinkle with the marshmallows, then return it to the oven and continue baking until the marshmallows melt and start to brown.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan, set on a cooling rack.

To make the chocolate pecan topping:
Sift together the confectioners’ sugar and the cocoa into a medium bowl.  Add the pecans, evaporated milk and melted butter and mix until combined.

Slice the cake into wedges to serve and drizzle topping over cake as desired.  Store loosely covered, at room temperature.

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Peanut butter crispy bars

The start of a great peanut butter bar

As you probably know from my Brooklyn adventures post, I recently discovered Baked, a rustic and tasty bakery that resides in the unique hamlet of Red Hook, Brooklyn.

One of my favorite presents from Santa Claus was a splendid new cookbook – Baked: New Frontiers in Baking (I guess you’ve officially become an adult when you get excited to see books under the tree on Christmas morning!).  And, diet or not, I’m excited to bake my way through this diverse book, which offers intriguing recipes for everything from traditional cakes, cookies and bars to unique twists on retro desserts, fun candy and flavorful drinks.

My first choice was to recreate the Peanut Butter Crispy Bars that initially won my love during my one and only trip to Red Hook.  With an upcoming New Year’s Eve party as the perfect excuse, I put this recipe to the test and toted them to Hell’s Kitchen for a night of Youtube, Dick Clark / Snooki, festive bubbly and the best dance competition known to man – thanks Kristie and Mark!

The below recipe is adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking and yields a creamy and crunchy treat that’s sure to win over any peanut butter lover.

Peanut butter crispy bars

Peanut butter crispy bars

Peanut Butter Crispy Bars
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

For the crispy crust
2 cups crisped rice cereal
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 tbsps light corn syrup
3 tbsps unsalted butter, melted

For the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
5 oz milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup peanut butter

For the chocolate icing
3 oz dark chocolate (60-72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp light corn syrup
4 tbsps unsalted butter

Make the crispy crust
Lightly spray an 8-inch square pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Put the cereal in a large bowl and set aside.

Pour 1/4 cup water into a small saucepan.  Gently add the sugar and corn syrup and use a small wooden spoon to stir the mixture until just combined. Put a candy thermometer in the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; cook until the mixture reaches the 230 – 235 degrees (soft ball stage).

Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and pour the mixture over the cereal. Working quickly, stir until the cereal is thoroughly coated, then pour it into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the mixture into the bottom of the pan (do not press up the sides). Let the crust cool to room temperature while you make the next layer.

Make the milk chocolate peanut butter layer
Combine the chocolate and peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for one minute.  Remove from microwave and stir until the mixture is completely melted and smooth.  Pour the mixture over the cooled crust. Put the pan in the freezer for 45 minutes, or until the top layer hardens.

Make the chocolate icing
Combine the chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Remove from the microwave and stir until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the chocolate icing over the chilled milk chocolate peanut butter layer and spread into an even layer.  Put the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until the topping hardens.

Cut into 9 squares and serve.  The bars can be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly for up to 4 days.

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