Sunday, 18 March 2007

Mint and Chunky Chocolate Brownies

This is a modified version of a brownie recipe that originally came to me through my dear friend Kate. I met Kate when we did our masters degrees together. During the lead-up to our exams, a group of close girlfriends from the course started a study group together, and we very intelligently deligated people not only to lead each session, but also to cook for each session. Good food makes studying for masters degrees so much more bearable. During this time, we all got to know Kate's brownies very well. And when Kate left Oxford and returned to America, and secured her recipe, because no other one will do.

I've made two major changes to it since. First, I ran into a problem with her original recipe, which calls for chocolate chips, when I was living in Bosnia--they do not have this "chocolate chips" thing there. So I had to resort to chopping up blocks of chocolate, which it turns out adds an amazing touch to dishes like this. It's nice partially because the chocolate in chocolate chips is often not quite as impressive as that of other baking chocolate (and you'll see that the key to this recipe is A Lot of Chocolate), and second because the chunks are big enough that they don't totally melt and so while biting into a piece of brownie that is already incredibly chocolaty, you get this surprise of rich chunks of chocolate, making the whole thing that much more decadent. My second change is that one day I randomly decided to add in a splash of peppermint extract, and it turned out fantastic! I almost always make it with peppermint extract now--again, this dish is rich enough that it can handle it, and the peppermint is actually quite subtle, and not at all overpowering, in flavour. It just gives it a little kick.

Brownies may seem like a lame recipe to put up on a food blog--I mean everyone already has a brownie recipe, right? And I know that everyone claims that theirs are the best. But everyone is wrong and you should try these brownies. These guys have won over my housemates (even the one who was allergic to chocolate!), have helped me through masters exams, have cheered up a bunch of women's helpline volunteers after a tough training session, and are one of the dishes my friends ask for the most. I love them.

The recipe:

Mint and Chunky Chocolate Brownies

3/4 cup unsifted flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter (I use a butter substitute that works just fine)
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons water
350g chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325/160.
Combine flour, soda, and salt.
Throw butter, sugar, and water into a pot and cook until melted and combined. Remove the pot from the heat, add half of the chocolate, the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and stir until smooth. Transfer this mixture into a bowl and the eggs one at a time, beating well. Then add the flour mixture to all of this gradually.
Stir in the remaining chocolate.
Spread into a greased 9" square baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes.

What is healthy about this recipe:
It's not that bad as far as desserts are concerned, if you use dark chocolate and a healthier butter alternative. But they're brownies, so I'm not really willing to care that much about their nutritional value! They're healthy because they make people so happy.

What is seasonal in this recipe: Chocolate is always in season in my heart.

What I learned from this recipe: I now almost always cut up bars of chocolate instead of using chocolate chips in baking. I'm convinced that the giant chunks add so much to these recipes.

What I will change next time:
I keep wanting to try these brownies with dried cherries instead of the pepppermint. As for this version of the brownies, it does not need to change one bit.

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