Sometimes, in our fast-paced instantaneous society, we get so caught up in trends, in the new and the hip, that we forget about the traditional and classic and that's a shame, 'cause classic food is classic for a reason and not just because of nostalgia, but because IT TASTES SO GOOD!! So today, for this Famous Fridays post, we take a look back at the cherished American desserts of yesterday through the scrumptious pages of Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, with these amazingly delicious Grasshopper Bars, a takeoff on the original grasshopper pie that was very "in" during the 1950's-70's and then like all fads, fizzled out to the dessert hinterlands. And speaking of traditions, if you love the traditions of springtime Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies and Junior Mints at the movies, then today's your lucky day because these decadent bars combine the time-honored combination of chocolate and peppermint in a way that'll knock your socks off. Plus, these would be perfect for another upcoming tradition, St Patty's Day. Fudgy brownie, green colored minty buttercream filling topped with a decadent layer of chocolate ganache--what more could you want?!!
Have you ever had the Baked Brownie? It's straight from the pages of Matt and Renato's first cookbook, Baked, and it (and their amazing Brooklyn-based bakery) catapulted them to culinary fame a few years ago. It's also one of the first things I ever posted on this site--check it out here for a sinfully rich brownie. To date the two have written 4 baking cookbooks in total and this one, Baked Explorations, focuses on signature American desserts that may have fallen out of favor and popularity for one reason or another but are totally still deserving of attention...and eating, of course!! Things like New York Style Crumb Cake, Mississippi Mud Pie, Cowboy Cookies, Black and White Cookies, Tomato Soup Cupcakes and Strawberry Jello Salad fill the pages and many have been handed down from generation to generation with some gentle tweaking and modernizing by Matt and Renato. The recipes are easy to follow with lots of great photos and definitely intended for the home baker. If cooking up yummy treats is your thing, this is a great book to add to your collection.
Now on to these bars which come together surprisingly quickly. You start by making a very simple brownie base.
Then it's time to make some green filling (no grasshoppers were harmed as a result of this recipe). The green comes from the creme de menthe and turns the silky smooth buttercream filling into a really lovely pale shade, which you eventually slather on top of the brownie layer.
You finish things off by topping the whole thing with a rich, finger-licking-good chocolate glaze that hardens after a stint in the fridge so that when you bite into the bars you get chewy brownie, creamy filling and crunchy chocolate topping. Perfection!
These are just pure fun and everyone seems to love them, even people who don't love mint all that much (ok, I mean me). They're fudgy and sweet and no one flavor overpowers the other. They would go over amazingly at a bake sale and earn you major points if you showed up at a potluck dinner with them. My little niece gobbled down almost a whole one in record breaking time!
So if you're looking for some fun nostalgic weekend baking, pick up a copy of Baked Explorations, get yourself into the kitchen and while we're struggling politically to figure out the direction of our country, remind yourself of some of the things that make America great! Have a good one everybody!
Baked Exploration's Grasshopper Bars-Famous Fridays
24 small bars or 12 very large
Prep Time for Brownie Base: 15 minutes (plus cooling time); Cook Time: 12-15 minutes; Prep Time for Filling: 15 minutes; Prep Time for Glaze: 10 minutes; Assembly Time: 10 minutes (plus a few hours of chilling time)
For the Brownies
- 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder ( I used Hershey's Special Dark)
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter , cut into 1 inch slices
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 light brown sugar, packed
- 3 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Filling
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool and cut into cubes
- 3 tablespoons creme de menthe (make sure you buy the green kind so as to tint the frosting)
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
For the Chocolate Glaze
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
1. To make the brownies: Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter a 9x13-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment and set aside.
2. Place the flour, salt and cocoa into a medium bowl and whisk together.
3. Place the butter and chocolate in the bowl of a double boiler set over barely simmering water and stir every now and then until fully melted. Turn off the heat but leave the bowl over the water. Whisk in both sugars until completely combined. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool to room temperature. ( I cheated and put the bowl into the fridge for a few minutes, because I got impatient--just make sure the chocolate doesn't harden. If it does, reheat over the hot water again briefly.)
4. Once the mixture is cooled, add the eggs and whisk until just combined. Add vanilla and whisk until just combined. Sprinkle the flour mixture on top and use a rubber spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet until there is just a trace of the flour still visible. You don't want to over mix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 12-15 minutes, turning the pan halfway through the process so that the brownies cook evenly. Brownies are done when a toothpick inserted at a angle into the middle, comes out with a few crumbs on it. You want the brownies to be a bit undercooked but not gooey. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a rack.
5. To make the Filling: Whisk the flour and sugar together in a medium-sized heavy weight saucepan. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking every now and then, until the mixture has come to a boil and is thickened. This should take about 5-7 minutes.
6. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high speed until the mixture is cool. Then lower the speed and add the butter, combining thoroughly. Raise the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.
7. Add the creme de menthe and peppermint extract and mix well. If filling seems too soft, chill if briefly.
8. Once brownies are completely cool, spread the filling across them evenly and place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes to set.
9. To make the chocolate glaze: Place the chocolate, corn syrup and butter in the bowl of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Stir with a rubber spatula until the mixture is completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the water and stir vigorously with the spatula for 1 minute to reduce the heat.
10. Pour the glaze over the chilled filling and use an offset spatula to smooth it out. Place the pan back into the fridge to chill for at least an hour. If not serving right away, cover and chill for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, remove pan from fridge about 15 minutes, before you're ready to cut them. Heat a knife under hot water and dry it. Have a piece of paper towel handy to wipe knife clean between each cut so that the brownies cut neatly. Cut into squares and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.