#82, Chocolate Brownies with Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Pecans

“This is a variation on a brownie that we served at the bakery for years. In this version, though, the caramel and pecans, plus the surprisingly tasty addition of peanut butter chips, are layered between the graham cracker crust and the brownie.” (Excerpt: Magnolia)

The end of a harrowing journey.


This journey looked as though it would be a cake walk. I had everything needed for the recipe.


Got to use my food processor to turn graham crackers into powder.

I can feel the power of the steel blades.

Reached stage 2 with a promissing crust and everything ready to roll.


I should say, ready to pour.

I smell sweetness brewing! Caramel, chocolate, butter.



Officially way too much caramel. My sweet tooth was in the driver’s seat.

No sign of danger yet.

This layer is the caramel, peanut butter chips, crushed pecans and walnuts – not yet finished sprinkling on the walnuts.

Decpetive tranquility.

Chocolate brownie layer. Fits perfectly.

10 minutes later, I peeked inside the oven and saw and smelled a caramel volcano oozing and dripping down every side of the pan. BUT !!! I could tell that the brownie was holding its place over most of the surface. So I was determined to let the caramel run its course and let the baking proceed.

lava flow

The resulting brownie lava field AFTER having scraped around all the edges.

Trim off 1 inch perimeter of candied caramel and an AMAZING brownie awaits.

Best brownie of my life.

Dense. Just beyond gooey into the pleasantly chewy realm of YUM. Yep, back to the land of YUM and glad I made the journey.


Strawberry Shortcake (a.k.a. #75)

“Here is an old-fashioned favorite that doesn’t seem to go out of style. ”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l



As it turns out, I had some strawberries left over from the previous recipe. So, I looked around (or rather, inside the Magnolia cookbook) and found a recipe for strawberry shortcake. “Waste not. Want not.”

But, for some reason, I was in a hurry to get this one done. Oops. Getting in a hurry while baking usually spells trouble. And, well, a bit of trouble followed.

A tender, buttery, light cake. Well worth making and well worth waiting for – to avoid breakdown.


What was I thinking? I dunno. I thought I could lift this cake out of its tin well before the suggested cool-down period. SEE?! Now I get it. THAT’S why they say let it rest and cool down for a few minutes. Cake and cookies are generally very tender and prone to come apart if handled right out of the oven. They tend to solidify in the cooler air of room temperature. As you can see, the main cake fell all apart.


Lemons… lemonade. Torn cake…….?

Strawberry shortcake parfait!!

Yo doodle!! No complaints here.

What about “plus-que-parfait”?

Oooh. Cool idea – I think – but it didn’t quite hold up in presentation mode.

Worth doing again. I would pursue the parfait idea more on purpose next time. I like the small tartlet idea too. Needs more thinking.


(It’s bedtime where I live. At least, it’s bedtime for bakers.)

Strawberry Tart with Black Currant Cream Cheese Filling


This post was supposed to be about Magnolia’s Srawberry Double-Crust Pie, but I was in such a mood for France, and the whole “tart” tradition, that I just couldn’t bring myself to make an American style pie. I ended borrowing from here and there to create the desert of the title and pictured below. I’ll explain:


The stawberry filling follows the recipe found in Magnolia’s Strawberry Double-crust Pie.

The cream cheese filling comes from the Cream Cheese Pecan Pie. But I added two tablespoons of the black currant liquer, Crème de Cassis, plus 1/4 cup of black currant jam. The double-crust pie has no cream cheese filling,


The crust was a classic,buttery, Pâte brisée.


I cooked, cooled, then arranged the strawberry filling on top and put it in the fridge overnight.


We ate this at home on the weekend, keeping it all to ourselves.

I plan on making a very similar pie for the weekend ahead of us, the Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie with Graham Cracker Crust. But that is still a few days away.


Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcakes (#77) with Vanilla Buttercream (#78)

““Everyone was always asking us which was the most popular cupcake at the bakery. Most people were surprised that it was what we called the vanilla vanilla—the vanilla cupcake with the vanilla icing (and the most popular color for the icing was pink).”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l



My daughter and I baked these beauties last weekend. School work was caught up (or so it seemed), we had everything we needed and it just seemed like the right thing to do. After all, this recipe represented 50% of the book completed for my project – which is obviously running behind schedule —- but still running.

Nothing unusual – butter, sugar. “You know the routine.”


Only this time, we multiplied by 3.

Do the math: 12 x 2 x 3 =


What to do with 72 cupcakes?

Have a party! Make new friends! Make an old friend smile!

I think that cupcakes are the the quintessential “smile desert”.


IMG_1584 copy


  1. Bananas: Not all of the 72 cupcakes were simply vanilla. I had some bananas that were headed south, so we threw them into the mix of a later batch. Every one brought a smile to someone’s face.
  2. SIGNATURE FROSTING DESIGN ! Oh no!@#$#! Although I need to develop my own style, I thought I’d try to copy the Magnolia signature style. It ain’t that easy. According to a Magnolia baker, it requires about 40 hours to master the style. Well, I’ve put in one of those hours.
  3. FROSTING QUALITY – Even though everyone said they were great (Thank you all of you sweethearts!), I know that the icing was not what it needs to be. Still too grainy and not stiff enough. What to do? Research tells me that I need to 1) beat the butter-sugar longer, 2) don’t be afraid of very soft butter, 3) let it sit for a few hours. I’ll let you know in a future post.511g9RsiBWL__SL500_AA300_

#81 Cherry Jamboree with #76 Sweet Vanilla Whipped Cream

“We started making this at the bakery when a staff member remarked that her grandmother made a dessert just like our cream cheese chocolate pudding squares but with cherry pie filling instead. It turned out to be even more popular with our customers.” Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l



This recipe reminded me a lot of a desert my mother used to make called “Cherry-O-Cheesecake”. The crust in this recipe is NOT the graham cracker crust my mother used, and “cheesecake” was not the right word for her delicious desert. This desert comes from the Icebox Deserts section of Magnolia – the crust is the only part that is cooked.

If mom had only known about adding nuts to crusts. We had a pecan tree just outside the kitchen door.

This desert is definitely layered: Crust-filling-crushed pecans (my addition)


-cherries-whipped cream


pecans for deco.



Hmmm. What did I do differently from the recipe? Not much. I added a layer of crushed pecans between the cream cheese and cherries (probably not a worthwhile addition) and splashed a couple of tablespoons of Spanish brandy onto the cherries (Mom would probably not approve).

What about that tart pan? The cookbook says to put this in a glass pie dish. But I LOVE my fluted tart pans – L O V E ! ! So I took a chance (sometimes the only way to learn) and, voilà, it worked. The bottom of the tart pan is removable. The “pie” slipped right out of the mold and was lovely to behold – thankfully.



#80, Rum Mocha Cheesecake with #79, Chocolate Glaze (and Raspberries)

“The rum, espresso, and chocolaty-creamy filling atop a dark chocolate cookie crust makes this cheesecake pure decadence.”

(Add to that a layer of Chocolate Glaze and Raspberries and … what comes after “decadence” ?)

………Rum – Espresso – Vanilla……. ……….Say no more!……….


Are you familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son? The part I’d like to mention is how the father does not care to hear excuses from his son when he returns from a far-off land (being a naughty boy!). The young man starts to ask for forgiveness and the father butts in to start giving orders for a party. OK. So, I’ve been gone from the blog for quite some time — Party time! OK?

What party? Well, a reading party in the ASD MS/HS Professional Reading Library to be exact.

Lots of new books are on display for the teachers, and Patisserie Chezbonneau was asked to offer some treats to pull in some reading customers. So………..

Teachers can find the following in their professional library today:

  1. Mocha Rum Cheesecake (with Chocolate Glaze and Raspberries) – the subject of this blog.
  2. Banana Bread with Toasted Pecans and Coconut
  3. Blueberry Coffee Cake with Vanilla Glaze
  4. Magnolia’s Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Icing


This was only my second cheesecake ever. I was excited about the flavors and that’s why I chose to bake it for this special occasion. Yes. It’s riskly to do something new for the public, but I had no time for a trial run and the whole year is a risky one for this Learner-Baker.

Risk #1, the crust

Crust of chocolate Graham Crackers (lucked out when I saw these at the store!) and butter. Baked for 10 minutes, let cool, then it was time for risk #2.

Risk #2, the filling

Visual flavor

In the end, it all came together.

And then came apart! In the best sense.

So far so good. Chocolate has a way of attracting followers.


Actually, this cheesecake frightened me a bit. While in the oven, it puffed up in a very uneven way. The surface never broke, but the cake began falling around the perimeter and created a kind of moat all round at the edge. That’s when I decided to add the chocolate glaze and ring the perimeter with raspberries.

Yes, the final touch was damage control. However, the damage control took the cake to a higher level. Chocolate, cheesecake and raspberry. Here’s what the taste looked like:

rat taste
Speechless in Doha.


And have a sweet day.

#70 Caramel Apple Pecan Cheesecake

Every Thanksgiving at Allysa’s cousin Polly’s house they used to gather the evening before to do the holiday baking, and every year Allysa was called upon to create a new cheesecake. This is a recent year’s recipe, and it was loved by all.



I was asked to bake something for a special meeting of foreign language teachers from our school and another nearby expatriate school.

I decided it was time to try my hand at a cheesecake. I had never baked one in my life. Wisdom dictates to do something you’re good at for such occasions and not to try new things. I defied wisdom, once again, and was modestly successful.

Looks pretty good. Details discussed below.

DETOURS and DISAPPOINTMENTS: Having defied conventional wisdom, I decided to go whole hog – no, I didn’t add pork. “Whole hog” is an expression for “all the way”, but you CAN visualize it. See!?

whole hog

DETOUR #1 and a disappointment: The crust. OK. I was in a metrics mood that morning. I was thinking, “In the future I’m not gonna fiddle with tablespoons, sticks, and ounces anymore. It’s gonna be grams and milliliters.” So, like a good scientific baker, I used a pastry recipe for the crust that measured things in grams. I must add, that I didn’t like the flour-butter-brown sugar recipe proposed by Magnolia from the start. I had never heard of such for a cheesecake – and this was gonna be my FIRST cheesecake. Well, anyhooo, it turned out kind of how I’d imagined it – flour-y, close to a regular American pie crust. I will never use this recipe for a cheesecake again. To make matter worse, and to take blame for a crust that nobody wanted to eat, I did NOT do a good job forming the crust in the pan. It was too thick, especially at the edge where the bottom and sides meet.

DETOUR #2 not a disappointment: The filling. It turned out FABULOUS. I’d like to make a new word at this point fusing FLUFFY and FABULOUS, but FLUBULOUS doesn’t work. It was NOT a flub. I also don’t want to coin the word “FLABULOUS” because no one would want to eat the cake thinking of all that flab they would be creating around their tummies. So I’ll just leave it at FLUFFY and FABULOUS. But why? After all, I made a detour from the experts. OK. Here’s the detour – The recipe called for 1 pound of cream cheese. I had 1/2 pound of cream cheese and 1/2 pound of “cream cheese spread”. The spread is the same cheese but fluffed up with air. Well, I ended up with a TALL, FLUFFY cheesecake which is something I’d always wanted to make. Philadelphia Cream Cheese comes in flavored, spreadable forms nowadays that might serve well a number of confectionery creations in your kitchen. So, success on this issue — and it seems to be the issue that most people (including myself) care most about when considering a cheesecake.

DETOUR #3 a little disappointment: The pecans on top. I decided to leave them whole and cover the top of the cake with them. It looked pretty, but I’m not sure I’ll repeat it. Pecans get lost from some bites.

ROASTING PECANS: I also roasted the pecans a little too long this time and they developed a slightly burned taste. Don’t go beyond 10 minutes (even 9 could be smart) for roasting your pecans at 350 F. They continue to cook a little bit after removing them from the oven. Roasting brings out deeper flavors of the nuts, but too much is damaging. Be careful and be glad.

REWARDS OF OBEDIENCE: I want to thank the authors of the Magnolia cookbook for the directions concerning baking the cake. I followed these directions carefully; placed the cake on a cookie sheet to bake, then turned off the oven after an hour and propped open the oven door to leave the cake there to cool very slowly for one hour. The cheesecake that emerged was golden and without any cracks. That brought a smile to this novice baker’s face.

I am glad to end my story with a smile.

I hope you have a smile today too.

After all, this was, in the end, a blessing.


#69, White Chocolate Coconut Cookies with Hazelnuts

“All the exotic tastes of a tropical island wrapped up in one yummy cookie” (Allysa Torey)

DETOUR: i substituted Hazlenuts for the Macadamia nuts called for in the recipe, “White Chocolate Coconut Macademia Cookies.” I never think to look for these nuts when I’m shopping, and I had hazelnuts ready to go, so I sent in the sub.

SILLY EXCITEMENT: This is the first time I’ve used the kind of shredded coconut expected in the Magnolia recipes. It comes already sweetened.



Well, I had a little extra time on my hands this morning. We are having Parent-Teacher-Student conferences at school this morning beginning at 8 AM. No ducks that I needed to get in a row this morning, so I took the opportunity to bake.


These cookies are at my station and available to my students and parents who come by for a chat. If you are reading this blog and are at ASD, you too are welcome to drop by and put your hand into the cookie jar.

Wanna see what my morning looked like while everyone else was sleeping? Ok!

Vrooom. Vrooom.

Here’s a gif of our trusty mixer creaming butter with white and brown sugars.


Here’s what Hazelnuts, Coconut, and coarsely chopped White Chocolate looks like BEFORE getting mixed up with batter.

The volume of these ingredients was actually more than the rest of the cookie batter.

TAKING A PEAK! (Is it “peek” or “peak”? — still too early in the morning.)

I put this on Instagram as “A baker’s selfie”.


You can tell pretty early on whether your cookies are going to hold their shape or flatten out like a cow pie in the pasture (Sorry, but having been raised in a cow barn, that’s the most accurate image I could conjure.) As you can see in the photo above and here below, the cookies held their own.




#68, Apple Tart with Hazelnut Brown Sugar Topping

“This tart is a nice alternative to apple pie, and it makes a great dessert for a dinner party, especially if served with vanilla ice cream and perhaps some caramel sauce.”

Excerpt From: Jennifer Appel. “The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/idq2G.l



I am feeling homesick – for France. As I look at the photo above, I am thinking of all the apple trees at Chezbonneau that need pruning and the chestnut tree not far away from the kitchen window.

Wanna see a picture of our apple orchard? Sure you do.

 This photo is from our first summer at Chezbonneau, 12 years ago. 

Back to business. What about that tart?

LEARNING: Crust – filling – topping. I knew the crust would be the hardest part for me. Making great pie crusts represents an area in need of much learning and practice. I am still afraid and hesitant every time it comes time to making a pie for this reason. And, as it turns out, I hit a bump — getting the dough off of the table and into the pan without breaking it.

Feels “oopsy” to me. You know, like something “oops” is about to happen.

In the end, I managed, but not without tearing the freshly rolled out dough. Luckily, this recipe is very, very, pliable and forgiving.

At this point, it looks promising.

Time to stop complaining and worrying. It DID turn our great and I’m happy about this tart for a couple of reasons.


REASON #1: See that beautiful crust? You wouldn’t know that it was a very patched-up pie. I am considering making this my GO-TO-RECIPE for pie crusts. Could you use this crust for other things like a quiche? Yep. Just leave out the two table spoons of sugar (which I wasn’t supposed to put in anyway — but it was an accident).


REASON #2: This recipe is headed in the direction of my original inspiration for baking – somewhere between French and American pastry making. This is not a typical French or American apple tart. Actually, I would probably get a “you’re a foreigner” look for saying “tart”instead of “pie”. But I am sure that both French and American folk would reach for a second piece of this. Everyone in our family did.

#00 Banana Bread Muffins with Pecans and Peanut Butter Chips

Totally moving as fast as I can this morning to get to school early but with muffins I’d promised.

OK. So I’m not bringing the muffins that I actually promised but muffin flavors I was hungry for and for which I had all the ingredients.




The muffins this morning follow – for the most part – the Magnolia recipe for Banana Bread with Coconut and Pecans.

I have made the following changes:

  1. Instead of 3 cups all-purpose flour, I used
    1. 2 cups all-purpose flour
    2. 1/2 cup Barley
    3. 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
    4. 1/2 cup rolled oats
  2. I omitted the coconut
  3. Added 1 cup peanut butter chips

I was hungry for peanut butter and banana – one of my favorite snacks! So I put it in a muffin.

Also – up close and personal – anytime I make anything with bananas and pecans, I think of my father for whom Banana Nut ice cream was a favorite flavor. If you make this recipe sometime, eat a spoonful of the batter – if you too like Banana Nut ice cream.

Oooooooooooooh !!!!!! I am on the second floor of the house and I can smell those muffins RIGHT NOW!!!!

I HOPE they turn out as well as the muffins in the photo below.

Thanks to Nancy at https://nancysrecipes.wordpress.com for this photo.

If you are a follower of this blog, drop by Gail Seay’s office to see if you can grab one of these muffins – or at least see if they have turned out tempting. It really is a “I hope so” this morning.

I should also have some in my room 1106.

If you are not at my school but somewhere else in the world, keep my muffins in your prayers.