I have a lot in common with my Dad. We both love weather, especially tornadoes. We're hooked on police dramas. We share a fascination with the natural world. We both have celiac. But, most importantly, we both revere the sublime pairing that is mint and chocolate.
Ah, the bonding, the memories of shared mint-chocolate experiences! My family's favorite one being the time I made truffles for Dad which contained Vandermint liqueur, he proceeded to eat the entire batch in one sitting, and later claimed he got tipsy. Off a couple of tablespoons of alcohol. Sure Dad, blame the booze. 'Cause it couldn't have been the effects of that massive sugar-and-caffeine-rush, right? Just to help him realize a life-long dream, some day I'm going to challenge him to a mint chocolate chip ice cream eating contest. It will be close, but I'm betting I'll win. But until then, I'll continue to get my mint chocolate fix the Responsible Adult way - one normal-sized portion after another. And another . . . As for Dad, well, I can't speak for him. But I'm sure that if I gave him these brownies, he'd struggle just as hard as I did to leave some behind for the next person.
These brownies. I made them last weekend. At first, I didn't plan on posting them. Even with the chocolate-mint magic happening, they just didn't quite work for me (which is a difficult thing for me to say about a brownie). Something was off. I blamed it on the glaze, and the fact that, out of necessity, I had to use some Taza chocolate for it, which is good for eating, but, to my taste, too grainy and unrefined for baking. (It was Saturday morning and I was still in my pajamas. I was working with what I had at hand.) They tasted fine, but I didn't crave them non-stop all day the way I had expected to. So the brownies got to see another day, which is unheard of in these parts. But that extra time is what saved them.
It's common knowledge that some foods need to sit around awhile before they reach their peak of perfection. Cheese, wine, a pot of soup, to name a few. But brownies aren't usually improved by the aging process. They dry out, the edges get stale, the intense chocolate flavor dulls. No one likes a dull brownie.
So imagine my surprise when I cut myself a sliver after breakfast the next day, and found I liked it even better! Seems that this particular brownie, like a fine wine, just isn't done yet when it's still all fresh and new. But give it a day, and it really comes into itself. It settles in, gets comfortable, finds the right balance between rich texture and deep flavor, and just is. Even the once soft - yet grainy - glaze had figured out what it wanted to be, and firmed up into a nice, thick, fudge-like topping, something you could really sink your teeth into. A chocolate that had once made a sauce intended to be smooth feel irritatingly gritty now provided the structure for the glaze to hold up to cutting and biting. In short, it was all good.
And, of course, don't forget about the mint and chocolate. Now that the brownies felt right, I could concentrate my attention on the flavor, which was fantastic. It wasn't very sophisticated, or even that surprising. Chocolate and mint usually aren't. But it was perfect. The bitterness of the chocolate and the zing of the mint were in harmony, and it managed to be both comforting and refreshing. Just right for a blustery Spring day.
Mint Chocolate Brownies
Yields about 9 large brownies, or 16 regular-sized ones
For the brownies:
1/2 cup (1/4 pound) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Tara's gf pastry flour blend
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the glaze:
6 ounces semisweet (60-65%) chocolate, chopped
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
Make the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350º. Lightly butter a 9x9-inch metal baking pan.
Melt the butter and chocolate in a double-boiler set over low heat until smooth, stirring often. (Alternately, you can use the microwave, in 10-second intervals on full power, stopping before the chocolate is completely melted and then stirring it to fully melt it. This is what I did.) Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until thick and light-colored, about 5 minutes. Add the chocolate mixture, flour, xanthan gum, salt, and both extracts; stir until just blended. Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. (Mine had just started to come away from the sides of the pan when I took it out, and it was perfect.)
Cool on a rack, then invert onto a serving plate. Slide strips of parchment paper under the edges of the brownies, allowing it to overhang on all sides (this will catch any drips from the glaze without creating a mess on the plate).
Make the glaze:
In a double-boiler over hot, but not boiling, water, combine chopped chocolate, butter, and corn syrup. Stir until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Off the heat, stir in the peppermint extract.
Spread the warm glaze over the brownies, allowing it to drip down the sides. Depending on how thick you want the topping, you may have some glaze leftover. (I didn't, but that's me. Always up for excess.) Once the glaze is done dripping, you can remove the parchment strips. Allow the brownies to sit at room temperature for at least an hour, to allow the glaze to set up.
Eat some the first day you make them, but be sure to save at least one for Day Two, so you can find out if yours, like mine, really do improve with age.