Monday, March 2, 2015

A Marriage of Mint and Chocolate

I'm not sure if it was an accident when the first person stumbled across the greatness that is the mint chocolate flavor combination..perhaps someone was once offered a piece of chocolate cake shortly after brushing their teeth, and the rest was history. Although that theory is probably highly unlikely (as are most of my theories, which is why I teach English and not science), mint chocolate is right up there with some of the other flavor combination greats like peanut butter and jelly, apple and cinnamon, chocolate cake and beer (you're going to thank me for that one), or maple syrup and almost every breakfast food. A few years ago when I was trying my hand at becoming a solid baker, I ran across a mint cookie brownie recipe for Saint Patrick's Day. I was unsure if I could handle the recipe at first because it called for making buttercream frosting from scratch. I laugh at my former naivety, and not just due to the fact that most of my baked goods are created from scratch now, but because I had yet to learn the greatest part about baking from scratch: taste testing ingredient amounts. For those of you that are unaware, buttercream is essentially just a ton of butter mixed with the crack cocaine of the baking world, powdered sugar. I liken it to cocaine because I assume it is equally as addictive, seeing as how since the first time I taste tested my homemade butter cream, I have not been able to put a spatula down and get a little twitchy if I go for more than a few days without it. I digress...continuing on in week 2 of my Saint Patrick's Day treat sharing, may I present to you the mint swirl brownie with buttercream mint frosting:
Sweet baby Jesus.
Shyeah, totally as good as they look, folks. It's like a marriage of mint and chocolate (hey, that's the name of the blog post!). You like Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies? These mint swirl brownies are like the mother of every single one of those cookies. Bonus, they're not at all hard to make as long as you have either a hand mixer or stand mixer! I ended up having to make my brownies from scratch because we had another snowpocalypse last Friday, and I was unable to get to the grocery store due to my insanely narcissistic vehicle choice. Chevy Camaro: Good in theory, great in speed, horrible in snow.
Usually I take solace in the snow, but guess who doesn't plow roads like EVER? That's right, the city of Clovis!
As beautiful and Christmas card-y my pine trees look with a ton of snow on them, I'm over it. It's March. This is not the kind of March Madness I had in mind. I should be working on tanning my legs on our dog walks, not covering myself in every available layering article I own. I'm told there's another chance for snow on Wednesday, and that really makes me want to cry heavily. Into a bowl. Filled with mint swirl brownies and ice cream. So let me tell you how to make these delicious little monsters.
If weather prevents you from making a grocery store run, make the brownies from scratch.
This brownie recipe is the same recipe from those ah-mazing cookie dough brownies I made a few weeks ago:
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ounces unsweetened Hershey's cocoa
  • 4 ounces bittersweet Baker's chocolate
  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
Now, you can TOTALLY use a box brownie mix for these mint brownies. It's fine. I would've done it, too, if Mother Nature would've allowed it. But apparently she prefers me to make fudge brownies from scratch. So here's the quick rundown:
  • Preheat oven to 325 if baking from scratch. If using a box mix, heat to whatever is recommended.
  • Mix together the butter and both chocolates by melting in a bowl in 30 second increments until you can fully blend them. Just reminder not to taste test this yet, or you will hate yourself and everything on this planet for a solid week.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
  • Mix the chocolate and butter mix with the sugar and vanilla. NOW feel free to taste test.
  • Mix in the dry ingredients with the chocolate mix, and one at a time, mix in each egg until fully blended.
  • Pour into an 8x8 pan.
Box brownies or homemade brownies, you will need a can of marshmallow creme. More on this in a moment.
If you're going the box brownie route, I still recommend the 8x8 pan. These are really rich brownies, and making an entire 9x13 pan of them will take you forever to eat. I mean, I could see where you might wonder how in the hell this could be a problem, but things do go stale after awhile. Now, back to the marshmallow creme. I hate this stuff almost as much as I hate people who wear Uggs with shorts. Not the taste, the taste is amazing. But it is SO STICKY. As someone who prides herself on being extremely cleanly, sticky things make me squirm. The end result is worth it, so do as I did and power through. Hot water and soap are just a moment away.

Get a really hot spoon and mix in 1/4 teaspoon of mint extract with a few drops of green food coloring into the tub of marshmallow creme. You will curse the gods and wonder if marshmallow creme should be safe for human consumption since it feels like you're mixing together Super Glue. Since I couldn't get to the store, the jar I was using was an unopened jar leftover from last year's round of mint swirl brownies I never needed. Yet it still had not passed its expiration date. If the zombie apocalypse is ever nigh, I am stocking a backpack full of this stuff to give me my sweets fix.
Now, take your Super Glue mix and drop a few spoonfuls into your brownie batter. This can be random and ugly. Much like how I put on my make up in the morning, I've got tricks to smooth things out.
Take a knife, and draw lines back and forth nice and slowly into your batter. I drew lines back and forth horizontally and then again vertically to create a nice swirl pattern and distribute the marshmallow creme throughout the batter. Now you're ready to bake! Follow times on your box if not baking from scratch. If baking from scratch, put into the oven for 30-32 minutes. IN EITHER CASE: Test with a toothpick; there should be some crumbs, but no soaking batter when finished cooking.

Leave to cool on a cooling rack. Things will not look pretty, as the marshmallow creme kinda caves in when it cools. Doesn't matter, we're gonna spackle on a layer of frosting to hide this. Insert another metaphor about my make up use here. If you're a bare-faced individual who doesn't mind a little unevenness, you really could just eat the brownies without the mint frosting. But I could (read: have) eaten the mint frosting by the spoonful because it is just that good.
Oh yes, more butter. Lots more butter.
To make the frosting, you need the following:
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar (get ready to start the addiction, folks!)
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 cup of white baking chips (essential that they are white- you don't want to try to mix in chocolate baking chips or your frosting will turn into a sickly green shade. Regardless if it tastes good, things also still need to look good)
  • The rest of the marshmallow creme mix
  • An additional 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract
  • Additional green food coloring (I used 8 drops) 
  • Optional: Mint Oreos or mini chocolate chips for topping...I do half and half to please all crowds. Baker for the people!
Start by making the base buttercream. Put the whole stick of butter, one cup of sugar, and one tablespoon of milk into your stand mixer (Hi, yeah, you're going to need this again. Just after you cleaned it out after making your brownies. Shameful.). Let this mix for a minute, scrape the bowl, and then add in another cup of sugar and another tablespoon of milk. Mix and repeat one more time.
Have a few chips, you know you want to. While your buttercream is mixing, melt a cup of baking chips according to package directions.
Add the melted baking chips, the remaining marshmallow creme mix, the additional mint extract, and the green food coloring to your buttercream. Blend for a minute, scrape the bowl, and blend again.
While your mixer is working its almighty magic, grab a plastic bag and shove a few Oreos in there and then smash with a spoon to get some solid crumbage (real thing). I used six Oreos in order to top half of my brownies. Now, find your favorite spatula and get ready to spread the love frosting. Same thing.
Frost away! I use an excessively thick amount of frosting because I simply cannot get enough of it (I have real problems). You could use a thinner layer if preferred and just send me your leftover frosting to eat (Again, someone help me). Things don't have to be perfectly smooth because you're going to put your chocolate topping of choice over the frosting.
I took my bag of crushed Oreos and uniformly sprinkled them on one side and mini chocolate chips on the other. Press the toppings into the frosting so they won't just fall off and land on the floor near your drooling dog. Chocolate is bad for dogs, so you're doing your pooch a real favor here. Place into the fridge for 30 minutes to let things set before cutting into squares.
Tada! Check that mint swirl in the middle, yo.

And now you're done and ready to enjoy an amalgamation of all the mint and chocolate your taste buds can handle. You can thank me after you're done rejoicing. These are one of those treats that will seriously impress anyone (who doesn't like mint chocolate??!), and I usually take a tray of these to whatever St. Patty's party we attend. Bogart a few for yourself because leftovers will be few and far between. Also bogart a few for yourself because you can make Cold Stone Creamery fear for its existence by adding one of these babies to a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce and mixed together:
America truly is a wonderful place. Full of freedom with a side of calories.
Yeah, we had that for dessert last night, and not one single regret was had. Since it isn't ever going to stop being winter here, who needs to be bikini ready? Amiright? Damn, even I can't make myself really believe that, so I'm off to walk the dog whilst wearing five parkas. Get ready for parts three and four of the Saint Patrick's Day dessert blogs next week, where I will surely make you faint from food porn hunger with Guinness cake frosted with Bailey's and also green velvet cupcakes. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!

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