Triple Layer Chocolate Mint Brownies

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For the last several weeks, I have been actively researching how mint became so closely associated with the holiday season. I was hoping that the ever-popular candy cane would provide some answers. Little did I know that the first candy canes were not mint-flavored? As it turns out, they were just sticks of sugar up until the early 20th century! So that became a dead end.

Perhaps mint is so popular because the leaves are green. Maybe it’s the cool tingle the herb gives off, reminiscent of delightfully cold winters.

Or maybe the Peppermint Pig helped propel mint into the holiday food matrix. In the 1880s, a merchant in Saratoga, New York made a pink pig made out of peppermint candy. The pig, a symbol of wealth, was smashed into pieces at the end of a Christmas dinner and shared among the guests for good luck in the coming year.

So I cannot tell you why mint appears EVERYWHERE during Christmas. At least I can share a bit about the history of mint. The herb dated back to the ancient Greeks, who used the leaves both for cooking and religious ceremonies. In fact, the name derives from “Menthe,” a nymph in Greek mythology who caught the attention of Hades, god of the underworld. Persephone, the wife of Hades (and the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest), became jealous and turned Menthe into a plant so that people would trample her to death. Hades could not undo the curse, but gave Menthe the gifts of pleasant scent and infinite growth. As any gardener will tell you, mint fittingly grows like crazy and must be contained. It thrives in practically every climate and soil, which is why it has travelled to so many lands and cultures, the most popular varieties being peppermint and spearmint. The herb was, and to this day is, thought by many to contain healing properties.

Did you know? Basil, oregano, sage, and thyme are all members of the mint family.

For further reading:
Prance, Sir Ghillean, and Mark Nesbitt. The Cultural History of Plants. New York: Routledge, 2005.
http://newyorktraveler.net/the-peppermint-pig-of-saratoga-ny/
http://foodservice.lbpsb.qc.ca/myfiles/Mint.pdf

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This recipe makes alot, so plenty for sharing!

Cooking Thyme

This is my mom’s recipe for chocolate mint brownies, which she has graciously agreed to let me share with all of you! We like to play with the color of the mint icing to match the appropriate holiday ie green or red for Christmas season, red for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, and so on. These take a bit of time and patience as the layers have to cool, but I promise they are worth it! Plus there are more opportunities to lick the bowl.

Layer 1
Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
4 eggs
1 can (16 oz) Hershey’s syrup
1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder

Directions: In a large bowl, mix ingredients. Pour batter into a greased 9×13 jelly roll pan and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Refrigerate for an hour.

Layer 2
Ingredients:
1 stick butter or margarine, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (I sometimes add closer to 1 ½)
Food coloring (green or red)

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The Hand really wanted to make a frosting angel. I was a grinch and said no.

Directions: Mix all ingredients except food coloring. Add 3 drops to start, then more as needed, making sure the frosting is mixed thoroughly. Spread evenly over the cooled brownie layer and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Layer 3
Ingredients:
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup chocolate chips (My mom uses semi-sweet, I prefer dark)

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Spreading the chocolate evenly becomes a bit of a game. And I always win!

Directions: Place butter and chocolate in a glass pyrex measuring cup. Melt in microwave, stirring every 20-30 seconds to avoid burning. Pour over the mint frosted brownies and spread carefully my moving pan back and forth, and lightly using spatula when needed. Refrigerate for 10 minutes, and then lightly cut brownies. Return the tray to fridge to finish cooling completely.

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About thymetravelers

Bringing passion for history to all through delicious food.
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