Picnic Brownies

I usually listen to audiobooks when I’m out on my morning walks. The  characters in each novel are like friends to share the joy with—mist over my neighbor’s field, the sound of sheep munching their breakfast, and the occasional deer or flock of turkeys crossing the road ahead. Today, I left my book friends―Prince Myshkin, Mrs. Ramsay, Reverand Ames and Lila―at home. I needed to clear my head and thought the silence would do me good. I have a number of projects that are pulling me in different directions, and our family suffered another loss this  week. My Aunt S. died. In her mid-eighties, she was my mother’s baby sister. She suffered a great deal toward the end of her life. While I’m glad she’s no longer in pain, I know my cousins―her children and grandchildren—are experiencing their own pain as they grieve. I’ve written about the bond I share with my cousins many times. Our connection goes to the core of who I am, to the core of who we each are. So when I think of them as feeling sad, it’s hard to focus on anything else.

Still, the beauty on my walk brought me great comfort. In the quiet I could hear bird songs. I could hear the sound of trees swaying in the wind and the flow of the stream. The fragrance of the wildflowers intensified, and by the time I got home I felt the calm I had been craving. With my mind quieted, I could send my love and support to my extended family. I could get back to work with renewed focus.

These Picnic Brownies are perfect for my mood today. A rich double layered brownie―a peanut butter cookie crust topped with a fudge layer and sprinkled with crushed honey roasted peanuts―they’re a lovely mixture of sweet and salty, smooth and crunchy. I’m calling them Picnic Brownies as I imagine the summer ahead. They’ll be wonderful for trips to the beach or in a backpack when out for a hike.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors and wildflowers, soon.


Picnic Brownies

Yield: 24 Brownies


For the bottom layer:

  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups peanut butter chips

For the brownie layer:

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup butter, at room temperature
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 large eggs

For the topping:

  • ¼ cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line a 13 by nine-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Butter liberally.

To make the bottom layer:

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In another large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and honey until they are light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until they are well blended. Mix in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture until it is blended. Scraped down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the peanut butter chips.
  3. Spread the batter evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.  Set aside.

To make the brownie layer:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the chocolate chips and vanilla.
  3. In a saucepan, combine the butter, sugar, and water. Bring the mixture just to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chops and stir them until they are melted. Add the eggs, one at a time, mix in well after each additions. Stir in the flour mixture and mix it till it is just combined.

To assemble and bake:

  1. Pour the brown layer over the bottom layer and spread it evenly.
  2. Sprinkle with the crushed honey roasted peanuts and sea salt.
  3. Place in the center of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with a moist crumb.
  4. Allow to cool completely.
  5. Cut into 24 squares.
  6. Serve and enjoy.


  1. This recipe is adapted from Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook by Kathleen King. Her recipe has is called Kara’s Blondie Brownies. It has a traditional blondie as the bottom layer.
  2. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

One year ago: Banana Split Shortbread Bowls

Two years ago: Rice Salad with Shaved Radish Rounds

Three years ago: Rice Pilaf with Braised Greens

Four years ago: Market Morning Salad

Dena Testa Bray has been writing Gathering Flavors, a culinary blog, since 2011. She is a trained chef & ran a home based cooking school. Dena now designs websites, focusing on work with creative people. You can see her website work at www.denatestabray.net. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and family.