Memories of Mint

My sister and I had an affinity for mint candy when we were kids.  On Friday night our parents often took us to dinner at the Norfolk Pub, after, we were allowed to go get a treat at the Pharmacy (Norfolk’s equivalent of a convenient store) to enjoy while watching TGIF.  Popular choices where Brachs Pillow Mints and  Junior Mints.  When we went to the mall our favorite choice at the candy shop was the gourmet mints, in blue, yellow and pink.   And of course our favorite was enjoying Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream at Grandma Kate and Papa Henry’s house while watching Newsies and Meet Me in St. Louis.

Over the years I don’t often indulge in these favorite mint treats (with the exception of the 500 Cadbury Mint Crisp bars I ate while abroad in Ireland in 2001).  Rarely do I actually buy “treats” anymore, I don’t buy ice cream on a regular basis and mint has not been a dominant flavor in my baking repertoire, until now.  The other day our baking club had an email chain going back and forth about mint brownies – references to the 1997 recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit got me thinking.  Bryan had asked if I would make something for his work holiday party and I thought that mint brownies would be perfect.  After a little research I decided on the December 2005 recipe that appeared in Gourmet for Grasshopper Squares.  This recipe called for a mint flavored white chocolate ganache layer sandwiched between a dense brownie bottom and a rich dark chocolate ganache topping.

These took me two days to complete.  This recipe takes some patience, each layer needs to set before you add the next.  It worked well to make the brownie layer, chill it overnight and then add the chocolate layers the next day.  The completed bars also benefit from a night in the refrigerator.

As I have gotten older some of the excitement of the holidays has morphed into stress about getting time off, spending money and finding the perfect gifts.  I can tell you all of that melted away as Bryan and I enjoyed one of these sitting in front of the Christmas tree smiling at the delight that these little treats brought us.  I was instantly reminded of my younger years and the excitement of “treats”.  I think I will be enjoying another treat while I watch Meet Me in St Louis this afternoon.

Wishing you a MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS!!!

Grasshopper Brownies
from Gourmet Magazine 2005

For brownie layer
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not extra-bitter or unsweetened and no more than 60% cacao if marked) chips or chopped
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

For mint ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 oz fine-quality white chocolate, chopped
2  tablespoons peppermint extract (this may vary depending on what extract you use, I felt like I used a lot, taste as you go)
a few drops green food coloring

For chocolate ganache
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Preparation

Make brownie layer:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 13- by 9-inch baking pan and line with parchment or foil.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours. (these will be on the thin side, don’t worry you will be adding lots of topping).

Make mint ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over white chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Stir in  extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1/2 hour.

Make chocolate ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers:
Spread mint ganache over top of cooled brownie in a thin even layer using offset spatula, then chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.

Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill until firm, about 2 hours. If desired, decorate with sprinkles.

Lift bars out of pan using parchment/foil overhang. Run a heavy knife under hot water and wipe dry, then trim edges of dessert (1/4 inch off each side). Cut dessert into 1 1/2 inch squares.

These will keep for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

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