12 August 2011

For Jennifer & Mikey Perillo - Peanut Butter Pie Friday

Ironically, it was because of my husband that I first discovered Jennifer Perillo's blog: In Jennie's Kitchen.  For those of you who don't know me, I started a custom cupcake business about 3 years ago and it has been a crazy busy ride. I rarely bake  recreationally anymore, or for my family as my husband often laments.  About 8 months ago, I declared I would no longer work on Sundays -- so I would have at least one day off a week to spend some good quality family time.  And I've picked up the practice of baking for them again -- usually chocolate chip cookies which is one of my husband's favorite treats. We have differing opinions on what makes a perfect chocolate chip cookie; I've made it a personal quest to find the best recipe and have tried about 3 dozen so far. Jennie's chocolate chip cookie recipe came up on one of my searches, and I bookmarked it along with about 12 others I have been meaning to come back and try.  Hers calls for molasses, a hard to find ingredient in Paris and not something I keep in my pantry.

Over the course of the past few months, I've revisited Jennie's blog on many occassions.  She has a direct and honest writing style I find endearing and the recipes I have tried from her blog have always garnered rave reviews. She once thanked her readers as being "a ray of sunshine" in her life and that is exactly how I have come to think of her. I've never met Jennie but sensed she was a kindred spirit and I enjoyed following along her comings and goings while she shared so many wonderful recipes and techniques.

Just like me, Jennie's a mom to two young kids aged 3 and 8. Like me, she is constantly striving to balance her personal and professional lives.  Like me, she is passionate about food and often reminisces about touchpoints in her life and people who have influenced her as she cooks on her blog. She lives in New York, my hometown.  And like me, she had settled down with a hard-working man who took his responsibilities to heart -- often working long hours and bringing the stress and the demands of the job home with him. The Mr. as she commonly referred to him.  Mikey as I have come to know him this past week.  A post for chocolate snaps, where she recounts one of her first dates with Mikey, her partner for life who loved and supported her in everything she did, brought a tear to my eye when I originally read it this past winter.  The sentiments expressed there are so much more bittersweet given the events of this past week.

Like many in the food community, I learned the devestating news via Twitter. Jennie's Mikey, the love and light of her life, had tragically and unexpectedly passed away. There are things that happen in life that are inexplicable and just so unfair.  This is one of them.  A man loved by his family and so many others suddenly cut short in the prime of his life.  Like me, I am sure Jennie expected her husband to be there at her side for decades to come -- to watch their kids head out into the world and forge their own way, to experience all the ups and downs that life threw at them, to love and laugh and to grow old together.  My heart is overflowing with sorrow for Jennie and her kids.  For all the sadness they are dealing with right now and for all the years to come without Mikey.  

In her latest blog post, Jennie shares Mikey's favorite recipe -- Creamy Peanut Butter Pie, and invites the world to celebrate his life by baking one and eating it with someone you love. For me, making this pie was a small labor of love. We are currently on vacation (something Jennie and Mikey were to do in just a few days!) All I had to make this recipe with was a small cake tin and a mixing bowl.  No scales, no measuring cups or spoons, no real oven - that's all back in Paris with my nephew who is housesitting for us! I actually used an empty Peroni beer bottle in lieu of a rolling pin to smash the biscuits to pieces for the crust. And I consider it a minor triumph that I was able to find the ingredients I needed to make this in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I did however modify the recipe; there was no peanut butter to be found in this small coastal village, and more importantly, my husband actually hates peanut butter (he's French after all!). Given the circumstances, I loved that Jennie's pie is no-bake and so I stuck with something just as easy to prepare by swapping out the peanut butter cream filling for cheesecake filling. Cheesecake is one of my husband's favorites. I didn't think Jennie or Mikey would mind.  

I'll be eating this pie with my family tonight -- the family I don't tell often enough how much I love them or how important they are to me.  I will savor each bite as I express how grateful I am for the love and life that I have, and I will think of Mikey and all that he has left behind.  May his memory and light live on in Jennie, in their two beautiful daughters, in their friends and loved ones, and in his favorite dessert: Peanut Butter Pie. Here's Jennie's recipe so you can make and share one with the ones you love!

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie
Originally published by Jennifer Perillo at 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.


  1. Beautiful, Cat. I read about her husband's passing and immediately felt distraught for her. I can't even imagine what she must be feeling and how she is managing to strength for her children. I'm bookmarking this recipe for the future - let us know how the Sugar Daze fam liked it!

  2. What a sad story. It's beautiful to see the blogger community come together and rally for such a good cause. I'm saying a prayer for Jennifer and her loved ones today. Marge from Boston, MA.

  3. Beautifully written, beautifully prepared. Rest in peace dear Mikey.

  4. I know, I've been feeling sad about this too. I will be trying that pie in honor of Mikey.

  5. My heart has been heavy since learning about this, too. Lovely post.

  6. I've read that over 400 peanut butter pies were prepared the celebrate Mikey's life this past Friday. A truly moving tribute & I hope Jennifer finds some solace in all the strength and love being shared the world over thanks to her beloved husband.

  7. PS Here's a lpage at the Food Network blog of the dozens of blog posts and pies made for Mikey: