Mintnight in Paris

It’s awards season, and of course, the creme de la creme, the Oscars, was on last night. What better way to celebrate watching beautiful celebrities look their best and be honored for their talents than to gorge yourself on delicious foods that are named after the nominees? The answer is: there is no better way. I’ve been hoping to get an invite to an Oscar party with this type of theme ever since I fell in love with the kitchen a few years ago, but everyone I know who throws the idea around usually abandons it before the Academy can say “And the nominees are…”.

But this year was different. My boyfriend works with a group of women who annually throw an Oscar party that’s planned months in advance, and it gets bigger and better each year. Each guest chooses or is assigned a nominee that he or she must creatively turn into a dish, like  “George Blue-ney” (blue cheese), “The Brie of Life”, “Brad Pitt-ed Olives”, etc. To top it off, the best dish (voted for by the party guests) wins a prize. So without further hesitation, I now present…

…the award-winning Mintnight in Paris brownies. 🙂 That’s right, I won the “Best Food” honor for my first year in attendance! This could be the start of something new for me. Perhaps I could win contests at parties all over the place-Grammy parties, Super Bowl parties, birthday parties…I mean, I did win while celebrating the biggest event of the year. It could only get bigger from here.

The funny thing was, I wasn’t terribly impressed with these brownies. I had a plan to make gorgeous, layered brownies and then whip up some green mint meringue kisses on the side. It would all be so beautiful, but what really happened? I forgot ingredients on my shopping list and had to push my baking time back by two days, my peppermint patties melted into the brownies instead of keeping their shape, and my meringue was, at best, a frothy mess. I was nearly embarrassed to bring them. Of course, I put an extreme amount of pressure on myself, and normally, people love what I make. If I didn’t put that kind of pressure on myself, I would question how much I really loved doing it. Luckily, I have no doubts.

Mint Chocolate Brownies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 16 brownies

  • 8 Tbsp, or 1 stick, unsalted butter or Earth Balance buttery spread, cut into chunks
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 oz unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs or 3 eggs’ worth of egg replacer
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Approximately two dozen small peppermint patties
  • 8″ x 8″ square cake pan, parchment paper

How to Do It

Mintnight Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a square pan with enough parchment paper that it provides small handles on the sides.
  2. Place the butter and chocolate in a small metal mixing bowl, and place it over a simmering pot of water on medium heat. Stir the ingredients periodically as they gradually begin to melt, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and set the bowl on a heat proof surface.
  3. Add the sugar and salt to the chocolate, and whisk until the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, and whisk the mixture rapidly to blend the eggs without cooking them. Mix throughly before adding the next egg.
  5. Gently fold the flour and cocoa powder into the mixture until the ingredients are just blended. You can do this with a whisk or with a rubber spatula, but do not overmix. Brownies get tough easily!
  6. Pour 1/2 the batter into the prepared pan. Cover the surface of the batter with peppermint patties, and pour the remaining batter over the candies. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven, and test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in between the patties. Let the brownies cool completely in the pan, and remove them by using the parchment paper handles. Use a sharp, serrated knife to slice off the uneven edges, and cut four brownies across and four brownies down to get 16.

Recipe adapted from MarthaStewart.com.

Mintnight in Paris

Tip: I served mine with a horribly-gone-wrong mint meringue that I turned into a mint frosting, but don’t be afraid to add other fun, minty additions, like whipped cream made with peppermint extract and green coloring or chopped up Andes mints.

Meringue Mistake

Dessert to Serve to Your Naughtiest Friends

I’ve completely ripped off this recipe from another blogger, The Londoner, and now I’ve heard reports of it circulating Pinterest too. This is so easy and so naughty that it deserves its title, Slutty Brownies, and it should only be reserved for the naughtiest of your friends-people who couldn’t care less about calories. I love the idea of layering different desserts, and think it’s so brilliant to see a pie inside of a cake, or a piece of candy inside a cookie, or in this case, to see cookies layered inside other cookies and brownies. I’m getting inspired just thinking of all the possibilities that could come from such an innovative technique so I think I’ll play with that idea a bit from now on, especially if I’m too short on time to do anything fancier. I kind of like how excited people get to see the final product too. I brought some of these treats into work today, and they were gone before lunch. Clearly, no one told my coworkers not to ruin their appetites by eating sweets before a meal. Oh well, who lives by that rule anyway?

Slutty Brownies

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 1 8″ square pan of brownies, portion sizes are up to you

  • 1 box of chocolate chip cookie dough mix
  • 1 box of fudge brownie mix
  • 1 package of double stuf Oreos
  • Ingredients to make the cookie dough/brownie batter-usually one egg, 1/3 cup of canola or vegetable oil, and 2 Tbsp of water per package
  • Square cake pan-either 8″ or 9″
  • Parment paper (optional)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven between 350 and 375 degrees F if you have the option. If you don’t, preheat it to 375 degrees F. Cut a piece of parchment paper that’s large enough to cover the bottom fo the pan and still have 1-2″ paper hanging over the sides.
  2. Follow package directions to make the chocolate chip cookie dough, and line the bottom of the pan with the dough.
  3. Create a single layer of double stuf Oreos across the cookie dough. There should be a few left over in the package for you to snack on, but don’t go nuts. It takes almost an entire package to cover the cookie dough if you’re not stingy.
  4. Follow the package directions to make the brownie batter, and pour it over the layer of Oreo cookies. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter evenly if it doesn’t cooperate.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a fork or wooden tester comes out clean when stuck into the middle of the batter.
  6. Remove from the heat, and let cool in the pan slightly. If you’ve used parchment paper to create handles, you can pull it out of the pan to cut. If you haven’t, you can cut pieces from the pan while it’s still warm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream to make them really fabulous.

Tip: Be creative with this if you want. I’m going to try additional attempts at this, but there are so many different brownie and cookie batters, that you can’t possibly go wrong.

I Prefer My Creme de Menthe in Brownie Form Please…

…though liquid form would be fabulous too.

On a whim, I decided I wanted to make something peppermint for the unseasonably warm Christmas season. I came across a video of Paula Deen making brownies, and after the addition of her second stick of butter, I knew they had to be delicious. Granted, I’m not a huge fan of consuming butter, and I’ve actually been replacing butter in many recipes with vegan-friendly Earth Balance instead, but I have to admit that butter in desserts usually adds to the richness of flavor and texture. Ask Paula Deen-she adds it to everything.

These brownies were almost as easy as making them out of the box, but the quality of taste is so much better. They’re rich without being sugary, and they burst with chocolatey goodness with only a hint of mint. After the brownies are cooled, they’re frosted with a decadent chocolate buttercream (to which my boyfriend responded “why are you putting chocolate on chocolate?”…why WOULDN’T I put chocolate on chocolate should be the correct question on any other occasion). Note that I said-after the brownies are cooled…I made these late in the evening and was desperate to get to bed, so I frosted them when they were still slightly warm. Amateur mistake! The frosting is made of butter, which melts when it’s heated…silly. Paula suggests topping the frosting with chopped Andes mints, which would be amazing also, but I felt that was too much mint and couldn’t find them at the store anyway. I used the green cream cheese frosting I made for the gingerbread cupcakes, and piped thin diagnol lines across the surface to make them a little more festive. I did this using a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip.

My last comment before we get to the good stuff…I will admit, I used my stand mixer to make the batter, but it was mostly because I was too lazy to dig out my hand mixer (I have terrible storage space in my apartment). Brownies are best made using an electric hand mixer or even folding the batter by hand. Batter tends to get overworked in a stand mixer if it’s not carefully monitored, and brownies should be fudgy and soft, which may be compromised if the batter is mixed too much. If you use a hand mixer or mix by hand, you’ll pay more attention to how the batter feels. It should be thicker and creamer than a cake batter, but not as stiff as a bread dough.

Onto the good stuff.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen small brownies

For the Brownies

  •  1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (or 2 sticks of Earth Balance)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 10 oz package mint/chocolate baking chips
  • 13″ by 9″ by 2″ cake pan
  • Parchment paper

For the Frosting

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unslated butter, softened to the point of being a little melted
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp milk

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13″ by 9″ by 2″ pan with butter (or Earth Balance), and place a piece of parchment paper snugly over the bottom and the sides of the pan. Leave enough of the parchment paper hanging over the sides of the pan that you’ll be able to easily pull the brownies out with it later. This makes removing the brownies from the pan tremendously easier.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a mixing bowl, and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl, and beat at medium speed until creamy. After the ingredients are blended, add the eggs, one at a time, and beat the mixture well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, and blend.
  4. Gradually add the dry ingredients in three steps, and be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl in between each addition. When the batter is mixed, fold in the mint chips with a rubber spatula. Do NOT beat them in, or you may break the chips.

    Fold the chips in using a rubber spatula

  5. Spoon the batter into the greased pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly across the bottom. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick inserted into the center comes out free of batter.
  6. Cool the brownies slightly in the pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack (by carefully using the parchment paper handles you made!) to finish cooling.
  7. While the brownies are baking and cooling, make the frosting. Add the butter, cocoa, vanilla, and milk into a mixing bowl, and beat until the ingredients are moist and blended. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar, and whip until the frosting is a spreadable texture. Add a little more milk if it’s too dry.
  8. When the brownies have cooled, spread the frosting on top, and cover with shaved or chopped Andes mints, mint/chocolate chips, or pipe with green frosting.

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen’s Creme de Menthe brownies.

Almost gone...

Raspberry-Almond Blondies

This recipe is for fans of shortbread or other not-so-sugary treats. It’s satisfying if you’re not having a major sugar craving and aren’t looking to fall asleep after your meal. I love blondies that are loaded with chocolate, coconut, and nuts, but I came across this recipe and thought it would be lovely for a lighter summer meal. I did not dust them with confectioner’s sugar as recommended by Martha Stewart because I thought that would make them too sweet. In hindsight, that would have been an excellent idea. They were still tasty without it!

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 8 large or 16 small blondies

  • 9 Tbsp (1 1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, and more to grease your pan
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting, optional
  • Parchment paper or foil
  • 8-inch square pan

How to Do It

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan with butter, and line it with foil or parchment paper, allowing 2 inches overhang on the sides (this will allow you to pull the blondies out more easily, but technically, you do not HAVE to do it). Lightly grease the lining with butter as well, and set pan aside.
  2. Whisk together your dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl (flour, baking powder, salt).
  3. Put the softened butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or use an electric hand mixer and a large mixing bowl. Cream the ingredients together at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  5. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat on low speed. Be sure to intermittently scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients. When the batter is thoroughly mixed, add ¾ cup almonds, and mix until just incorporated to avoid breaking the almonds into several pieces.
  6. Pour the batter into the square pan, and smooth with a rubber spatula. Scatter the raspberries and remaining almonds over the batter. Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with few crumbs but no batter.
  7. Cool for 5-10 minutes in pan, and using the lining edges, transfer the blondies to a wire cooling rack or countertop to finish cooling. Dust with confectioner’s sugar before cutting into squares to serve.

Recipe from MarthaStewart.com.

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