Tuesday, December 28, 2010
A Sweet Farewell
Christmas is over and with it my mania for baking sweets. When the calendar flips over to December it's as though a starting gun goes off and I race to the kitchen and pile the counters high with cookbooks, looking for the perfect cookies to give, pies to please, and new candies to try. Bowls litter the counters, flour dusts the flour, and marvelous smells pour forth from my oven. We might not get an actual dinner on the table, but there are at least 4 different things to choose from for dessert!
Add to that baked bounty the gifts that come in from friends and neighbors and by the time I'm cleaning up wrapping paper and writing thank you notes, I'm done with sugar! I shut my cookbooks and put them away. Any items left unchecked on my "to bake" list will just have to wait until next year.
You probably feel the same way, too, but bear with me while I share one more sweet treat. This was a recipe that sort of evolved from a couple of different sources and it turned out wonderfully! I made it with no clear idea of what I was going to do with the brownies, but it was great to have a pan of treats on hand. Company dropped by - "Here, take a plate of brownies with you." Our favorite mail lady who's so thoughtful and always has a smile and a wave for us - "Put a plate of brownies in the mail box for her." I have a meeting at work - "Take in a plate of brownies; maybe they'll let you out early." The brownies are so rich, that a panful went a long way.
You might not want to make these now, so bookmark the recipe for next year. But if you've still got room for one more peppermint and chocolate indulgence, go for it! I'll bet you can find candy canes and cookies on sale now, too.
Peppermint Fudge Brownies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 tsp peppermint extract
4 large eggs
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
16-20 peppermint sandwich cookies (I used Trader Joe's Jo Jos), crushed
1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup confectioners sugar
2/3 to 1 cup crushed candy canes
1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
2- In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter then add the sugar and stir to combine. Heat briefly, just till it's hot and shiny looking, but not bubbling. Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl.
3- Add to the mixing bowl the cocoa, salt, baking powder, vanilla, and peppermint extract. Add the eggs, beating till smooth. Stir in the flour and the crushed cookies, beating till well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
4- Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack to cool to room temperature.
5- While the brownies cool, make the frosting by heating the white chocolate chips and cream in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chips are dissolved. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the confectioner's sugar. If the mixture seems to runny, you can add in up to another 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar to achieve the right consistency. Be aware, though, that it will firm up as it cools.
6- Spread the mixture over the cooled (or barely warm) brownies, smoothing the top. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the top evenly. Allow the pan to sit undisturbed till the frosting has set up before cutting into squares.