Dessert First!


Not that we ate dessert first at the most recent outdoor dinner party—it’s that it was my FIRST attempt at making ice cream—and not just your simple run-of-the-mill chocolate or vanilla either. Oh no, I had to up the ante and make Carmel Fudge Ripple Ice Cream! But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

One of Russ’s previous coworkers from Jefferson Health, Lorraine Winsey, mentioned to us her son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Kelly Menapace, lived in Newtown (the next town over) so we told her next time she’s in for a visit with them to let us know and we’ll have them over for dinner. — BTW, Jeff’ is an author and his novel BAD GAMES was a #1 Kindle bestseller in March of 2014, and is now being optioned as a feature film. How exciting!

Lorraine, Kelly and Jeff enjoying cocktail hour.

Backing up even further, weeks beforehand we decided the menu would be Russ’s infamous Baby Back Ribs, fresh corn on the cob with roasted garlic aioli, and an Asian slaw; and of course the aforementioned ice cream with Honey-Roasted Peanut Blondies for dessert (recipes follow.)

Because it is a two-day process, we made the ice cream on Thursday and Friday. Then Friday night Russ’s friend Earl Harris was in for a visit from Colorado so we engaged his services to make the Asian Slaw on Saturday morning while Russ and I attended to other culinary duties, including the Melon Balls with Spanish Serrano Ham topped with sprigs of fresh rosemary for an appetizer.

Earl slicing veggies for the slaw, while behind him Russ makes the brownie batter.

Chopped and diced veggies for the Asian Slaw.

Melon ball appetizer on the “wave” plate gifted from Rosanne.

A few blogs ago I wrote about a dinner invitation to Diane and Dave’s in Radnor township. Knowing Dave would already have driven down to their new house in South Carolina, and that Diane was house sitting in the Northeast (of Philly that is) until her retirement at the end of August, we invited Diane to join us for the dinner party. And coincidentally, seems Lorraine and Diane had met previously through a work connection.

Diane arrived first (after some troubles in finding our place) with a couple bottles of wine and her cheery demeanor. Shortly thereafter Lorraine and crew made it—after they also had a few issues locating our home… it’s a common theme on a first visit… They brought a gorgeous cheese, olive and nut platter along with a “little gift with a German tradition behind it. Salt so that your food always taste good, a candle to light your way, wine so that you always have something to drink… and bread so that you always have something to eat, but (Lorraine) didn’t make it to Wegman’s in time!” … for the bread, that is…

The traditional German house warming gift that included Pink Himalania Rock Salt and a baby grater.

Beautiful and tasty appetizer platter.

The infamous grilled baby backs.

Resting before dessert is served, clockwise from left, Kelly, Jeff, Lorraine and Diane.

Close-ups of the brownies and ice cream.

After dinner ended, let’s just say no one went home on an empty stomach!

Honey-Roasted Peanut Blondies with Caramel Fudge Ripple Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter? This pairing of chewy, not-too-sweet oatmeal peanut blondies and rich, fudgy caramel ice cream is a sophisticated dessert for the kid in all of us.

For the blondies
  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, softened; more for the pan
  • 3-1/2 oz. (3/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the pan
  • 3 oz. (3/4 cup) honey-roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not steel-cut or quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup smooth salted peanut butter, preferably natural
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract




Make the blondies
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Grind the peanuts and granulated sugar in a food processor to the consistency of moist sand. In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the peanut butter until smooth, and then beat in the egg. Add the maple syrup and vanilla; beat until light, smooth, and fluffy.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the flour mixture. Add the ground peanut mixture and using a wooden spatula, stir until combined. Spread into the prepared pan.
  5. Bake until puffed and browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife along the edge, turn out of the pan, invert onto the rack, and continue cooling until barely warm, about 1 hour.

Soften the remaining fudge if necessary and drizzle over the whole blondie. Cut into 8 pieces. Top each with scoops of the ice cream, running the scoop along the length of the ice cream (rather than digging down in it) to create fudge ripples in the scoops.

Make Ahead Tips

The blondies may be baked up to 2 days ahead. Wrap well and store at room temperature.

Serving Suggestions

In order for the ice cream to readily melt and mingle with the blondies, either the blondies should be a bit warm from the oven or the ice cream should be slightly soft. If you’ve made both elements ahead and the ice cream is very hard, let it sit briefly at room temperature.

Carmel Fudge Ripple Ice Cream

This ice cream is a perfect pairing for the Honey-Roasted Peanut Blondies. In fact, you’ll have a bit of leftover fudge sauce after you ripple it through the ice cream; save it for drizzling over the blondies.


  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups plus 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  1. Heat the milk in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until beginning to steam, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm without simmering.
  2. In a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan, melt the sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first and then less and less as the sugar melts, and then cook until amber, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Carefully whisk the hot milk into the caramel in a thin, steady stream. Cook, whisking constantly, until the caramel dissolves again. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1-1/2 cups of the cream. Keep warm.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, and 1 tsp. of the vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Whisk in about half of the hot caramel mixture. Whisk this mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until it reaches 170°F on an instant read thermometer and can thickly coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes.
  4. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 2 days, covering with plastic wrap once cold.
  5. Meanwhile, put the chocolate, butter, and remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla in a large bowl. Set aside.
  6. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup cream, maple syrup, brown sugar, and cocoa powder in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Whisking constantly, simmer for 5 minutes to meld the flavors.
  7. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate mixture. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day, covering with plastic once cooled.
  8. Churn the caramel ice cream mixture in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions until it’s the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.
  9. Stir the fudge until smooth. (If hardened, soften over a bowl of hot water, stirring until pourable but not hot.) Spread about a quarter of the caramel ice cream in a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Spread 2 Tbs. of the fudge over the frozen custard. Repeat twice and end with a layer of ice cream. Serve or cover and store in the freezer for up to 1 week.
  10. Reserve the remaining fudge for serving.

Both recipes by Bruce Weinstein, Mark Scarbrough from Fine Cooking

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