Two Riffs on Peppermint Bark

With Christmas fast approaching, peppermint bark season is in full swing throughout grocery stores, chocolateries, and home kitchens the world over.  And oh what a glorious season it is!  If ever there was a match made in flavor heaven, peppermint and chocolate are certainly it.

Generally speaking, I’m not a huge chocolate person.  Now, don’t get me wrong–I fully appreciate its overall amazingness and recognize that for most people, it is the pinnacle of dessert perfection.  But, call me a weirdo, I just personally tend to prefer other flavors for my day-to-day sugar rush.  Like almond.  (Have I mentioned how much I love almond?)

That said, give me a tin of peppermint bark and I will inhale that stuff faster than a Dyson sucking up a pile of glitter (or whatever other ambiguous multicolored substance people are always spilling all over the floor is those commercials).  Something about the way the crisp coolness of the peppermint cuts through the dense deliciousness of the dark chocolate just speaks to my soul, as if the peppermint were the Jane Eyre to the dark chocolate’s Mr. Rochester…*sigh*

Anyway, it’s no wonder then that when the holiday season rolls around and visions of peppermint bark are dancing in my head, I gravitate toward baked goods that mimic its flavor perfection.  Below are two riffs on the classic holiday treat: peppermint bark brownies and deconstructed peppermint bark cookies.  Only the brownies are pictured here because, well, I just didn’t get around to taking pictures of the cookies.  (In my defense, I did make them at a cookie party and was too busy catching up with some of my favorite fellow baking enthusiasts to worry about memorializing them for Instagram posterity.)  But that just gives you all the more reason to test out the recipe so you can see them for yourselves. 😉  Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark Brownies

Ingredients:

For the Brownies:

  • 10 tbsp (1 stick plus 2 tbsp) butter (I suppose this is a good time to mention that when I say “butter” I pretty much always mean “unsalted butter.”)
  • 8 oz. (2 bars) semisweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (I prefer Ghiradelli, but use whatever floats your boat)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

For the Ganache:

  • 12 oz. (3 bars) white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped (again, Ghiradelli is my go-to)
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • approx. 6 regular sized candy canes, coarsely crushed

Directions:

For the Brownies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with parchment paper and butter the parchment.  (You can also do this without the parchment paper–just make sure to thoroughly butter the baking pan before pouring in the batter.)
  2. Place the chopped semi-sweet chocolate, butter, and cocoa in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of boiling water.  Make sure the pot isn’t so full that the bowl is actually sitting in the water–you want enough heat to melt the chocolate and butter but not so much that the chocolate seizes up and becomes unusable. Stir constantly until the butter and chocolate have almost completely melted, remove from the heat and continue stirring until they are completely melted, then let cool for a few minutes.
  3. While the chocolate is cooling, beat the eggs, sugars, and extracts together until combined.  Once the chocolate has cooled (it doesn’t need to be cooled completely–just not so hot that it will scramble the eggs), beat it into the egg mixture until combined.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt, and again beat until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and spread evenly.  Bake for about 35 min., until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out mostly clean. (It’s fine if it picks up a few crumbs on the way, but if it comes out coated in wet batter, let the brownies cook a bit longer).
  5. Set the pan on a wire cooling rack and let the brownies cool.

For the Ganache:

  1. Place the chopped white chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of boiling water.  Again, stir constantly and be very careful not to overheat the chocolate.  I’ve found that white chocolate tends to be more finicky to work with and more liable to seizing, so you definitely have to keep a close eye on it.  If it does start to seize, remove the bowl from the heat immediately, add some extra fat (olive oil works surprisingly well, but you can also go with butter, shortening, coconut oil, etc.), and stir until it returns to a smooth texture.
  2. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, remove from the heat and stir in the peppermint extract and about 1/4 of the crushed peppermint. (I used a sieve to separate the finer, dust-like pieces from the larger chunks and stirred the smaller particles into the ganache.)
  3. Pour the ganache over the cooled brownies and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the remaining peppermint bits over the top and place the whole pan in the fridge to let the ganache set.  Once it has, cut the brownies into relatively even squares and then halve each square into two triangles.
Peppermint Bark Brownies
The key to these super fudgy seasonal brownies is brown sugar and a heaping dose of melted baking chocolate in the batter.

 

Deconstructed Peppermint Bark Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 8 oz. (2 bars) semi-sweet baking chocolate, coarsely chopped and divided in half
  • 4 oz. (1 bar) white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • approx. 6 regular sized candy canes, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. (Depending on how big you make your cookies, you’ll end up with 3-4 dozen.)
  2. Place 1/2 of the semi-sweet chocolate and the butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of boiling water, stirring constantly until melted.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, beat together the sugars, eggs, and vanilla for about 2-3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in the cooled chocolate until combined, then beat in the dry ingredients.  Mix in the rest of the chopped semi-sweet chocolate, the white chocolate, and the peppermint pieces.
  4. Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, scoop dough out onto baking sheets, spacing cookies about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake approximately 15 min.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 3-5 minutes before transferring to a wire baking rack to cool completely.

And there you have it–two great ways to enjoy the divine flavors of peppermint bark without having to fight through the masses in the Godiva store.

(P.S. – If you’re only going to make one of these recipes this holiday season, I strongly recommend the brownies.  The cookies were definitely good, and certainly required less effort, but the brownies were absolutely next level in fudginess and far more impressive in appearance.)

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