so long january and a recipe: chocolate brownie pudding

January is no more, and I am stunned by how quickly those 30 days passed by. The first month of the year is probably my least favorite of all twelve, but I can’t quite put my finger on why that is. It might be the boring January food magazine issues, with uninspiring covers focusing on post-holiday diets and low calorie foods. Perhaps it’s because of the cold that seems to set in here in northern Florida during that month. If weather is the reason why, then I should have loved this past January — out of all the days Mother Nature had to play with, only two saw temperatures drop below a high of 60 degrees. The rest of the time, we enjoyed the warmth of highs in the 60s to the low 80s, and I had to repeatedly explain to my puzzled children why they weren’t allowed to go swimming in our community’s pool yet.

Every where I look, I see trees trying to bloom, confused by the warm weather we’ve had. The young maple trees that line our side street have newborn leaves popping out on their spindly branches, and when I got in my minivan at the airport after arriving home from Birmingham on Sunday, I found my van covered in the powdery yellow pollen from the oak tree branches overhanging the lot. And, for some reason, the Bradford pears seem to be the most confused, having just lost their leaves for the winter.

My weekend in Birmingham this past weekend was a little cold weather escape for me. I was able to wear sweaters and my new puffy white coat all weekend. I was even surprised by ice on my windshield on Sunday morning, when I got in the rental car to head to the airport. I could have done without the ice, but the crisp weather was a nice change from what I’m used to.

This coming weekend, I’m in for an even bigger taste of cold weather when I head up to New York City for a medical conference. I won’t mind the 40 degree weather one bit since I’m going to one of my favorite places on earth. Born and raised in the south, I somehow manage to feel like a New Yorker every time I visit – and the feeling persists for months after I return home. My love for the Big Apple is so apparent to my husband that Sam has even asked me a couple of times whether we should consider moving up there.

Don’t worry, Mom. We’re not moving anytime soon.

None of this really relates to this recipe for Chocolate Brownie Pudding except for the fact that the dessert will certainly warm you up on a cold night. Plus, it’s so darn good that I just couldn’t keep it from you any longer. I tweaked the recipe just a bit from a recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics – a great cookbook if you don’t own it already.

Now, in full disclosure, my non-chocolate loving husband was not overly impressed by this dish. It was just too rich and, well, chocolatey, for him.ย  Which means that it is the best dessert ever to serve to someone who adores chocolate. Like me.

When you take the casserole dish out of the oven after it bakes for an hour, the top of the surface is flat and smooth, hiding the gooey goodness just below the surface. Cracking the top by pressing gently with the back of a spoon reveals the glossy inside, showing just a hint of the molten chocolate below. The dessert — not quite a brownie, and not quite a pudding, but a nice blend of the two — has a texture that makes you think it’s not been cooked long enough. A couple of spoonfuls of this, either warm from the oven or warmed in the microwave, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream will satisfy every dessert craving you didn’t even know you had.

Unless you’re like my husband.

Don’t be like him.

Chocolate Brownie Pudding

After baking, the top will look fully cooked but the center will appear to be underbaked, and this is to be expected. The texture should be like a cross between an brownie and a pudding. Serve this by the spoonful - or spoonfuls - with a scoop of cold vanilla ice cream on top.


2 sticks unsalted butter
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 2 quart baking dish. Melt the 2 sticks of butter and set aside to cool.

With an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs and sugar on medium high speed until very thick and pale yellow, about 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together the cocoa and flour and set aside.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, decrease the speed to low and add vanilla extract, Grand Marnier, and the cocoa and flour mixture. Mix until just combined. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour in cooled butter and mix again until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and place it in a larger baking pan or roasting pan. Add hot tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool some; serve warm or at room temperature.

Minimally tweaked from Ina Garten's recipe in Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics, 2008.

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32 Responses to “for jennie, for all of us: frozen peanut butter pie”

  1. Ellie — August 16, 2011 @ 9:04 pm

    Thank you Merry, for writing this because I have been so concerned about Jennie, At least I know now that there were times for smiles along with the tears…Ellie

  2. LiztheChef — August 16, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

    I finally get why all of us are so eager to meet you. I was away on vacation – but you interrupted your life to care for a friend. Hope your practice had a back-up and looking forward to that cocktail here in San Diego in, Liz

  3. Eleanor Hoh (wokstar) — August 16, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

    What a good friend you are!

  4. A Boston Food Diary — August 16, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

    Beautiful post….you are a wonderful person

  5. kamran siddiqi — August 16, 2011 @ 9:29 pm

    M-J, having met you twice this year has been such an honor. You are truly a good friend and a great person. You aren’t even close-by, yet you did what any friend would do, you got on a plane and helped Jennie, gave her a shoulder to weep on, and gave her some time for herself.

    I know I’ve said this before, but I simply must say it again, I feel truly blessed being part of such a great community filled with amazing, loving, supportive people (like you).

    I made the pie with my loved one’s on Friday, a few hours after I got back from the potluck. When the pie was ready, we cried as we ate it; we tasted the love that we all put into the pie. “I love you’s” and hugs were exchanged. We spent the rest of the day together. We didn’t do much, but knowing that we were all together was all that mattered.

  6. Renรฉe J. (RJ Flamingo) — August 16, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to go and be with Jennie. I know you were more help than you maybe you think you were, and so happy to hear that it wasn’t all tears. You are sensational. Oh, yeah. And so is the pie. ๐Ÿ˜‰ xox

  7. SMITH BITES — August 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    am so, so glad you went MJ – i wanted to go too but i’ve not met her in real life and i knew it just wasn’t feasible . . . i haven’t stopped thinking about Jennie and her children since the terrible news hit twitter . . . it’s all been so surreal . . . but am thankful for this community and that you’re part of it

  8. Winnie — August 16, 2011 @ 9:42 pm

    You’re not just a good friend; you are an amazing one. And the pie looks fantastic xoxo

  9. Maria Raynal — August 16, 2011 @ 9:43 pm

    You are such a warm, generous person and friend. It was comforting, knowing you were there for Jennie and her girls. And I love your version of the pie.

  10. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — August 16, 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    Beautiful post… I am sure that having you there with her was a huge comfort. I love that you made a pie when you got home, as well. It looks lovely!

  11. Chris — August 16, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

    Thanks for this! I have been wanting to know how the trip went. It was so good of you to go. The two of you broke the molds of truly special people. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hugs! Can’t wait to chat with you again…

  12. Barbara | Creative Culinary — August 16, 2011 @ 9:59 pm

    I am certain your visit was everything Jennifer needed from a friend. Making her a priority, doing dishes, playing with the girls and most importantly being a loving shoulder in her time of need; you didn’t have to do more.

    The pie is a symbol of love…you have shown her and her family that in spades.

  13. Ethan — August 16, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

    You wanted to make the pie and we all wanted to be there in Brooklyn.
    You are one of the great ones M-J, blown fuse and all:)

  14. Paula — August 16, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

    I’m sure you were so much more than *a help* to Jennie and her family. Your presence and your actions at a time when nothing made sense, providing your friend and her children the support and the love needed to get through those days… You were a blessing.

    I’m glad that you baked the pie when you got home and I’m happy that you were able to share it with your own family.

  15. Wendy Read - Sunchowder — August 16, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

    Beautiful post and you are a wonderful friend. I am sure you were a comfort to Jennie and her children. I will never forget when you took the time out to call me when my neighbor was struck down with Lymphoma. You are amazing and I am so looking forward to meeting you in New Orleans.

  16. DessertForTwo — August 17, 2011 @ 12:13 am

    I’m so glad you were able to go up there and be with her. I’m still in shock a little too.
    On the bright side, I absolutely love your chocolate decorations on this pie! So original! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Any chance you’re going to Food Blog Forum in Nashville in October? Would LOVE to see you again ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Liren — August 17, 2011 @ 1:58 am

    MJ, only you would feel badly that you did not make a peanut butter pie, when you were already being the sweetest and most supportive friend to Jennie. The gift of your presence, to be there for those very difficult moments so soon after Mikey’s death – I am certain that means more to her than anything. But I know what you mean about needing to make the pie, and am so glad you were able to enjoy it with your own loved ones.

  18. Prerna@IndianSimmer — August 17, 2011 @ 2:19 am

    Oh MJ, you are the sweetest kindest person! We all wished to be there with Jennie, by her side when she was weak but you actually did what a true friend should. You flew all the way.
    Thanks for letting us know that Jennie is sort of doing ok and she has a friend by her side (physically) when she needed one!

  19. Kulsum at JourneyKitchen — August 17, 2011 @ 2:35 am

    MJ you did exactly what a true friend does.Thank you for letting us in on how Jennie is doing. I have said it a million times but what an incredible community we are and Jennie is one of the bravest woman I know.

  20. myFudo — August 17, 2011 @ 5:10 am

    You are such a good friend, Hope Jennie is alright. Love your photo

  21. Brian @ A Thought For Food — August 17, 2011 @ 7:10 am


    That was so touching of you to go be with Jennie. I can only imagine what help you were… I have no doubt that she appreciated everything that you did.

    Sending you loving thoughts as well…


  22. Aggie — August 17, 2011 @ 7:35 am

    You are a good friend MJ. Your pie is beautiful, just like you.

  23. Lynda — August 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    What a beautiful post, and pie, and friend. xo.

  24. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — August 17, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

    Thank you. For being there when so many of us couldn’t. I am sure you were way more help than you imagine. Hugs XOX

  25. Caneel — August 17, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to be there, as a friend, a comfort and a help, for her. I wasn’t able to make my pie until this week, either, but I’m glad I did. Thank you for sharing your beautiful pie.

  26. amelia from z tasty life — August 18, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    M-J: you acted as a true friend… being there, just listening, living a few hours of every day life, baking the pie, sharing this with all of us. We are all distraught by this event. I too have been thinking about Jennifer every day since this tragedy. It has helped me appreciate my daily family moments so much more. Last Friday I took a day off and took my kids peach picking, just ’cause. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  27. Kathleen — August 18, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    I always remind my 24 year old daughter of the great importance of girlfriends. They can help you get through anything and everything! Your pie looks delicious and I love the swirls!

  28. Mike — August 18, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

    MJ, what you did showed just what kind of person you are. A lot of us say we’d do the same thing if the circumstance arose and yet, for various reasons, many wouldn’t. You did. You momentarily paused your life so someone you care about could go forward. Everyone needs a friend like you.

    By the way, the pie looks so good. Only fitting that you were able to take some time for yourself to make this.

  29. IlinaP — August 19, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

    I am so glad to have met you but wish it was under better circumstances. I flew in and out so quickly and left for vacation early the next morning. I owe Jennie a peanut butter pie. First thing I’m gonna do when I get home and settled. Thanks for being such a good friend!

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