Wednesday, March 16, 2011

David Lebovitz's Mint Chocolate Brownies

I never met my great-grandmother, although I've written about her so much I feel as if I know her. My mother spent some of her happiest afternoons playing in the gardens of my great-grandparents' home. My mother always said I inherited my storytelling ability from my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother was Irish and although she had no education--she emigrated as a teenager from county Sligo to America at the turn of the century--she apparently was a great one for the craic, while she was sewing doll clothes or tending her garden. The doll clothes weren't a hobby--my great-grandfather worked 'in the city' while my great-grandmother sold handmade toys and ran a boarding house from their large, sprawling home. Like many immigrants, neither of them were comfortable unless they were working and making money--constantly.

So perhaps, in her own strange way, my great-grandmother would understand how the holy holiday of St. Patrick's Day has become a marketing bonanza in America.
Flickr: brixton
My great-grandmother was a devout Irish Catholic, yet she married a Jewish-American man who, like her, only had a grade school education. Their sons became successful lawyers and businessmen, and my grandmother...alas, I'll save that story for another time. Despite the dire warnings about intermarriage that you still hear today, my great-grandparents had a very happy marriage. For a long time, my grandmother thought that everyone had a father who went to shul and a mother who went to church, because it seemed so natural to her.

It's said that my great-grandmother died at 90 not out of sickness, but because she regretted losing her sight from all the sewing. My great-grandfather, who was also in his 90s, stopped eating after her death and died nearly a month later.

My mother remembered the tender greens picked from my grandmother's garden, but of my great-grandmother's food...well, let's just say she was a frugal Irishwoman cooking for a large family and tenants, and leave it at that. There's an old saying that Irish cookbooks have two pages--Guinness on the one side, and a picture of a potato on the other, and my great-grandmother wasn't a drinker, so her cookbook was even shorter.

Whenever my grandmother used to cook, it usually involved throwing a chicken carcass and some cut up vegetables into a pan, so I assume that pretty much sums up my great-grandmother's good, old-fashioned Irish cooking. Baking chicken until there was no longer any danger of contamination and cooking vegetables until they blended into one another.

Is it any wonder I preferred McDonald's Happy Meals and Shamrock Shakes growing up?

St. Patrick's Day has developed its own, odd traditions in the United States, embracing green beer and mint-flavored foods as well as slightly more traditional corned beef, potatoes, and cabbage.  When I saw this recipe on David Lebovitz's blog, I had to make it. And it feels, well, somewhat Irish and seasonal, in my twisted American mindset.

Please check out the original version here!  I made it pretty much as David specified, only I used only one pound of peppermint patties rather than two, as he suggests.  I was making it for a friend of mine from yoga class, so I thought restraint was called for.

An American making a mint chocolate recipe for an Irish holiday, cribbed from an American blogger living in Paris.  Who then brings the brownies to a class where an ancient Eastern practice is observed--in New Jersey.  I can think of no better way of honoring my great-grandmother's status as an Irish-American.


Ingredient list is available here.

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a 9X13 pan with foil. Butter the living daylights out of the foil.  Trust me on this one!
2. Put on an apron.  (I didn't and regretted it immediately, after putting in the 8 ounces of unsweetened Baker's chocolate and 8 ounces of unsalted butter into a bain marie).
3. Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.  Cool.

4. Remember to unwrap the peppermint candies beforehand, so you don't have everything ready to go and suddenly realize why it's not nice to make fun of ingredient lists that specify UNWRAPPED candies as a gentle reminder to disorganized cooks.
5. I mixed the five beaten eggs, two tablespoons of real vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon of salt salt, one tablespoon of instant coffee, and 3 1/2 cups of sugar by hand.

6. Then, I added the chocolate butter mixture.

7. I slowly added in one cup of sifted flour to the wet ingredients. I used white whole wheat flour, rather than all-purpose.

6. Pour half the brownie batter into the pan. Top with the candy
7. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating once.  Some small peppermint patty explosions may occur at the corners.
8. Do not over-bake--there should be a crust on the top of the brownies, but you don't need to withdraw a 'clean' toothpick.

9. Cool for an hour, then chill overnight to cut more easily.  These brownies aren't ultra-fudgy, but are still quite dense.

10. For people who are very fond of end 'bits' with brownie crust, this brownie should be added to your 'must try' recipe list.  Even if you're not fond of mint brownies. 

The next time I make this, I may try I different type of candy.

Although I doubt my great-grandmother would approve of the extravagance of the chocolate used and the chocolate stains all over my clothing, I do know that she would have appreciated the effort I expended cooking for a crowd.

1 comment:

  1. My children would definitely love this brownies together with their float drink. I hope my new oven will arrive soon before our family reunion because my last breville bov800xl smart oven was worn out due to flood. Then I'll try to make some brownies again.