When I called Jennifer Penson to ask if she would contribute a holiday bar cookie recipe to StyleBlueprint, I knew two things about her: she used to be a professional baker and she’s a mom at my kids’ school. Other than that, she appeared to be just like one of us–zooming around like a crazy person with a couple of kids in tow.
What I didn’t know about her is that she worked at one of New York’s most prestigious restaurants, Le Bernardin, as a pastry chef and she was classically trained at the prestigious cooking school in Paris, Ritz Escoffier. If that didn’t get your attention, can you imagine being the caterer at Bill Gates’ house on the eve of the Millennium?
Her story is as fascinating as her mouth watering blond brownies.
In one single day, a series of events prompted her to change gears. She received a pink slip, an eviction notice and news that her Dad had a near death experience. (You know how you hear stories about people who have a premonition and DON’T get on the plane. Well, he was one of them and missed ending up at the bottom of the East River.) Feeling that someone was surely knocking at her proverbial “wake up and smell the roses” door, she made the decision to move to Paris, go to cooking school and pursue her dreams. Her Dad -a skeptic, even after his near miss- cut her off, her Mom grimaced and Jennifer headed across the Atlantic.
Following her training in Paris, she has spent the last 20 years working as a pastry chef and food stylist all over the country.
From her website:
“Jennifer has been working as a pastry chef and food stylist for over 20 years. After graduating from cooking school in Paris, she moved back to her native New York and worked at the 4-star-rated Le Bernardin. But her sweetheart won out over her sweet tooth, and she followed her boyfriend (now husband) to Los Angeles and worked at many trendy LA restaurants, including Bikini and Opus, with several Le Bernardin alums.
After working on movies, TV shows and magazine photo shoots, the Pensons moved around the country; with Jennifer cooking along the way in Connecticut, Seattle and back to LA. The family wound up in Nashville, where Jennifer has been baking cakes, pies, tarts, cookies and brownies for the city’s sugar craving population.”
I am sure you’ll agree once you’ve had a chance to try her blond brownies, that a recipe doesn’t have to be too complicated to be downright delicious. Or, if cooking anything causes you to break out in hives, visit her site: www.browniepointsdesserts.com and place an order!
Here’s Jennifer recipe. Enjoy!
- 4 oz. melted butter
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1t. vanilla
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t.salt
- 1/2 cup nuts (any kind-pecan, almond, walnut)
- Optional: 1/2 cup chocolate chips or butterscotch chips
- Preheat oven to 350
- Melt butter in small saucepan.
- Mix brown sugar and egg
- then add butter and vanilla
- Whisk until smooth and add baking powder, salt and flour
- Add in nuts and chips
- Spread mixture into a 8" square pan, which has been sprayed with cooking oil ( pam) and lined with parchment paper.
- Cook for 20-22 minutes