Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chocolate Mint Sticks

"Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It's chocolate, it's peppermint -it's delicious!" -- Kramer, Seinfeld

I know one person who does not like the combination of chocolate and mint, but to be fair, he does not care for peppermint-type flavors in general. Doubtless there are a handful of other people who also do not care for the combination, but the vast majority of people simply adore it. The freshness of mint complements the rich and intense taste of chocolate (particularly of dark chocolate) and makes the two a winning pair.
Junior mints and York peppermint patties are two of the best examples of this flavor combo, but Maida Heatter's Chocolate Mint Sticks might even be better. The little bars are dense, but tender, and intensely chocolaty. On top of the chocolate layer is a thin glaze of peppermint, which in turn is topped with a drizzle of melted, bittersweet chocolate for contrast. It tastes like a little candy bar, only better.
As if the outstanding flavor weren't enough, the "sticks" are even better when they are cold, so store them in the fridge or freezer and use them as a treat to cool off with on a hot summer day (or a hot winter day, if you have also been experiencing this year's rather odd temperature shifts!).

Chocolate Mint Sticks
(adapted from Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts)
2 ounces dark chocolate
1/2 cup butter
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9-inch square cake pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease.
Melt chocolate and butter together in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring after every 30-second interval until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, salt and vanilla extract until smooth. Beat in chocolate mixture, then stir in the flour at low speed. Mix in chocolate chips, then pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack.

Mint Icing
2 tbsp butter
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbsp milk or cream
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Spread evenly on cooled chocolate base, then refrigerate for exactly 5 minutes while you make the chocolate glaze.

Bitter Chocolate Glaze
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1 tbsp butter

Melt together chocolate and butter in a small bowl, in the microwave, stirring after every 30-second interval until smooth. Immediately pour the hot glaze (it should be fairly fluid) over the chilled chocolate/mint base. Tilt the pan around to coat the mint layer as much as possible, or drizzle over evenly. Some white will show through; this is ok.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before removing foil and chocolate bars from pan and cutting into 24 thin bars with a sharp knife.
Sticks can be served at room temperature, but are best when chilled or frozen.

Makes 24.