August 12, 2011

Jennie’s Peanut Butter Pie

I don’t know Jennie. But I know the reliable warmth of her writing and her creative recipes, and I’ve thought about her more this week that many of my real-life friends. Jennie’s husband died.

Just writing that makes me feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach.

People like me, who love Jennie through the fibers of the internet, have felt achingly helpless. But I read her lastest post and felt grateful for some direction:

For those asking what they can do to help my healing process, make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love. Then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on.

Pie I can do.

I went to the grocery store this morning for the ingredients, and came home to bake. I tried to be mindful as I was mixing. Before this unimaginable news, I had been thinking about what it means to be married, how to share your life with someone and uphold the promises you make. I had been wondering about timing, and when to take the next steps in life. When is it time to buy a house? To have a baby? To take that trip we’ve been putting off? As I botched the cookie crust and struggled to spread the melted chocolate I thought, This is love. Making mistakes and making a mess. And extending the whole sticky mess as an offering.

If we walked around all the time, aware that at any moment our time with the people we love most could almost be up, it would drive us insane. So there must be some line we can walk, one where we are filled up with gratitude and so much joy for how lucky we are, but without making ourselves crazy over how fragile life is.

The pie smells delicious, and it’s sitting in the refrigerator right now. Tonight I’ll carry it upstate on a long train ride, resting securely on my lap. I’ll cut into the whole mess and watch it fall apart when the crust doesn’t hold, then pass out slices to old friends and my guy. And then we’ll dig in.

Time’s a wastin’.

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
from In Jennie’s Kitchen
Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.

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  • Karen: This pie sounds delicious, and oh, what a good reason to make it. My heart goes out to Jennie and her family. I’ve already got plans to make a different type of cake tonight, but I have a feeling I’ll be making it with the same intentions and love because of this. Thanks for sharing.4 years ago

  • I think you can make anything––or make nothing at all––and imbue it with the love and intention and tight squeezing Jennie wants us too. Thanks, Karen.4 years ago

  • Cadi: Oddly enough, I was thinking of making a peanut butter pie for my dinner party tomorrow night and had changed my mind to chocolate silk, but now, in reading this, PB Pie it is. And when I make it and serve it to my very best friends and my husband I will be thinking all of the thoughts you had while you made yours (as I’ve noticed we think the same way a lot) as well as sending my heart to Jennie, to help with her healing process. You said it perfectly: Pie I can do. I made one for an ailing neighbor a while back and it filled his (and my) heart.

    I’m going to go get myself a tissue now because I’ve reduced myself to a wilty mess. Be sure to hug your husband extra hard and long tonight when you see him – I know I will with mine.4 years ago

  • Amy C: Boy oh boy, now I am an emotional mess. I’m going out with my husband and dearest friends tonight, to this little country restaurant where everyone brings their dogs and sits on the patio and drinks local beer and laughs. I will be sure to savor every moment of it – something I haven’t been very good at lately. Life is so short and frustrating and delicious, I wish I could grasp every moment and hold it tightly, so that if tragedy ever strikes I wouldn’t regret anything. My heart and my love and my sadness and my thoughts go out to Jennie. I simply can’t imagine.4 years ago

  • Tight hugs all around, Cadi.

    Amy, You said it so beautifully.4 years ago

  • Jacqueline: The perfect post at the perfect time for me. Ironically, my DH is allergic to peanuts, so this recipe would spell certain doom…but I am going to try to bake something.
    Thanks again for another great read!4 years ago

  • Donna: How utterly heartbreaking that video is. I am weeping as I read this, like I haven’t wept in months. I’m pregnant (we just found out she’s a girl) and my husband is at home right now taking care of my 15 month old. When I think about how Jennie must be suffering now…and how quickly everything in our wonderful, imperfect lives can change…I am just overwhelmed with sympathy for her and her kids.

    I’m a terrible cook. But I’ll try my hardest. For Jennie (whom I don’t know) and her family.4 years ago

  • Tina: I don’t know Jennie either but my heart goes out to her. As we are extremely cash strapped right now, I’ll make do with something we have on hand and remember to buy the ingredients to make this in the future because the message behind it is so important. I’ll hug my kids extra tight tonight, even while eating our “two pennies rubbed together” meal.4 years ago

  • Priyanka: Lovely pie….
    Had missed visiting your lovely blog. totally love ur blog4 years ago

  • Doris: What a beautiful entry. My heart goes out to Jenny and her family. I have just spent 2 days with my parents. It was difficult at times (ageing parents can be difficult), but I am glad I took the time – we had some good talks and a lot of cake.4 years ago

  • EB: Oh wow. I’m just sort of dumbstruck. I can’t even imagine the weight of that loss.4 years ago

  • kaka: Wow. This looks gorgeous…I’m looking forward to trying this recipe.
    Peanut and butter ?! Life really couldn’t get any better. Thanks for the beautiful post!4 years ago

  • Melissa M.: This pie sounds heavenly.
    While I know this post is from a couple years ago, I feel the need to weigh in on your questions, even if they have already been answered.
    Buy a house when you find the right one for the right price. Do not settle, don’t find the house you love in the neighborhood you don’t love. Just wait. It will come.
    Go on the trip now.
    Have a baby when you feel ready, not when the pressure of people asking “when” feels like too much. You will also be ready before you think you are. It is a scary jump. My husband and I took a while coming to the place where we thought we were ready to give up so much of our lifestyle. It turns out we didn’t have to give as much up as we had imagined (really barely anything), and we gained so much. It doesn’t even seem like we are missing out on anything.
    Also, take this with a grain of salt. It is just the unsolicited advice of a random internet friend.2 years ago

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That is happiness; to be dissolved into something completely great.
- Willa Cather