Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peppermint Brownies

One of the best things about Christmas is that it’s associated with some of my favorite flavors and tastes – gingerbread, orange, chestnut, and peppermint. Last weekend I was craving Killer Brownies but wanted to make them seasonal, so I created a holiday version infused with peppermint. This is a combination I’ve tried once before – check out my Pepppermint Perfection Nanaimo Bars.

Peppermint is prized for its leaves and stems which are used to flavor and scent tea, candies, chocolates, chewing gum, cosmetics, and toiletries. Peppermint has a long tradition of medicinal use. It has been shown to repel insects, enhance memory, treat headaches, relieve skin irritation, act as a decongestant, relax muscles, kill bacteria and viruses, and mitigate digestive disorders.

The plant is indigenous to Europe and Asia and is a sterile hybrid of watermint and spearmint. It has been widely cultivated in the New World and is now considered invasive in Australia, New Zealand, Galapagos Islands and the United States.

Makes 48 squares

6 ounces peppermint candy canes
1 lb unsalted butter (4 sticks)
33 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
7 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon peppermint extract
1 1/3 cup unbleached flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Unwrap and break candy canes into 1-inch pieces. Crush with a mortar and pestle. Alternately, lay pieces flat in a large Ziplock bag and use rolling pin or wine bottle to crush. The goal is to break candy canes into smaller pieces (1/8-inch in length) and not to crush into a powder. Set aside.
2. Butter and flour a 3/4 to 1-inch deep 12 x 18 inch baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350F.
3. In a medium pan over lowest heat, melt butter and 12 ounces chocolate chips. Mix thoroughly and set aside to cool slightly.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs (with a fork, do not use an electric beater), then add sugar, vanilla, and half the peppermint extract. Add chocolate mixture and mix well using a spatula. Allow to cool to room temperature.
5. In a small bowl mix all but 2 tablespoons of flour, baking powder and salt. Using a spatula, fold flour mixture into the chocolate mixture.
6. Toss 3 ounces crushed candy canes and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in reserved 2 tablespoons of flour. Fold these into the brownie batter with a spatula.
7. Pour batter into the baking sheet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, remove baking sheet and drop on countertop or floor several times to remove air bubbles. Be careful not to overbake these brownies – they should be moist and chewy (not cakey).
8. When brownies have cooled to room temperature, melt remaining 9 ounces of chocolate chips in microwave. Mix in remaining 1/2 tablespoon peppermint extract. Using a knife, spread thinly on baked brownies. Immediately garnish with remaining 3 ounces of crushed candy canes.
9. Cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut into squares.
10. In an airtight container, brownies will last in the refrigerator for two weeks. To freeze, wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to six months.