Combining chocolate and mint is controversial: some people love it, some hate it. Very few are neutral on this classic combo. I call it classic because many of the world’s best-known candy makers combine these flavors—Frango mint, anyone? Or how about Brach’s, M&Ms, Ghirardelli or Klondike chocolate mint candies? If I sound a bit defensive, it’s because some of my friends make a “face” when I rhapsodize about peppermint brownies, one of my and my family’s favorite treats.
When we became a gluten-free household and I wrote Cooking for Your Gluten-Free Teen, one of the first baked dessert recipes I developed for the cookbook was Easy Mix Brownies. I had tried most of the prepared brownie mixes on the market and most turned out gummy and/or bitter. This recipe is perfect. But then came the holidays and we all wanted peppermint brownies, so I thought: Why not just add crushed peppermint candies to the recipe?
Not so simple. When I searched for gluten-free peppermint candies, they were really hard to find. Almost all labels revealed that the candies were manufactured in a plant that also processes tree nuts, dairy and wheat. Then I tried crushing lifesavers (which I judged to be safe) and adding them to the recipe. Disaster. They were hard to crush in uniform pieces and when baked into the brownies they were a dental disaster waiting to happen.
Then I discovered a wonderful gluten-free product that I plan to use often: Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips. With them I created a new recipe that yields 36 brownies, enough for a holiday party and leftovers to freeze for the school lunch box. And when we had a big family party last Saturday, I watched my friends (the ones who say they don’t like chocolate with mint) scarf the brownies down!
A few helpful hints:
As in many gluten-free baking recipes, the dough becomes very thick when mixing the dough with a hand-held mixer. So mix only until the dough beings to climb up the mixer blades, and stop. Then scrape down the blades and continue mixing by hand.
Always line the baking pan with parchment paper lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
When spreading the thick dough in the pan, use a silicone spatula to spread it out as evenly as possible, then either wet your fingers lightly with cold water or spray them with nonstick cooking spray and lightly press the dough into an even layer.
- 1 cup softened butter or solid nondairy alternative, preferably Earth Balance
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups 1,2,3, Gluten-Free Flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 (10-ounce) package Andes® Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a 4-quart bowl beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
- Add the vanilla and beat to mix. Reserve.
- In a separate bowl combine the GF flour, baking cocoa, salt, baking soda and whisk to mix well.
- Add GF flour mixture to the reserved butter-egg mixture and beat with a hand-held mixer until batter becomes too thick and begins to climb up the beaters. Remove and scrape down the beaters and continue mixing by hand using a silicone spatula.
- Add the peppermint chips and fold in.
- Spray a 9 by 13-inch glass or metal baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and line bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray parchment lightly.
- Transfer batter to pan and spread as evenly as possible with a silicone spatula. Then wet fingertips lightly with cold water or spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray and pat dough into an even layer.
- Bake until a cake tester inserted in middle comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
- Remove pan from oven, transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature.
- Invert baked cake onto a cutting board. Remove and discard parchment paper.
- Using a ruler, measure in half lengthwise and make 2 knife cuts on opposite sides. Repeat making 3 equally spaced knife cuts in each half for a total of 6. Then repeat the marking and scoring on the short sides of the cake for a total of 6 marks.
- Using a very sharp serrated knife, cut the cake 6 by 6 into 36 brownies.
- Serve on a platter for parties, or wrap individually and freeze for later use.
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