When I was growing up, my family had a vacation home on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire, and we would usually spend most of the summer there. Once every few weeks, my mom would take my brother and I along with her as she did her errands in the nearby quintessential New England town of New London. We didn't mind at all trading in our usual day of sandcastle building and canoeing for one that was sure to involve dry cleaning, oil changes, or groceries. We knew, if we behaved ourselves, that we would get the special reward of going to Peter Christian's for lunch.
Peter Christian's was not much more than a typical New England tavern, but it was a favorite of the locals, and it had really great food. Since I was fairly young when we used to go there, there are two specific things that I remember really loving about their food: their homemade mustard and their Grasshopper Brownie Chip Pie. The Peter Christian's mustard was sweet from added honey and slightly hot, and they put it on all of their sandwiches. I have tried to recreate it, but have never gotten it exactly right. This past fall, my parents took a trip to New Hampshire and stopped at Peter Christian's for lunch. They now sell their mustard and I had a jar of it waiting for me in my stocking on Christmas morning. It was like liquid gold to me, and we are trying to ration it out so that it lasts as long as possible!
The Grasshopper Brownie Chip Pie was our standard dessert whenever we went to Peter Christian's, and if they were ever out of it, it was devastating. The pie had a fudgy chocolate base topped with fluffy and creamy minty green layer studded with a generous amount of mini chocolate chips, and it was decadent. Instead of making an exact replica of the pie, I have taken all of the great flavors and turned then into an easier to share, but equally rich, bar version. Even a small slice of this will be enough to satisfy the biggest sweet tooth. I'll get back to you if I ever figure out that mustard recipe, but until then, mom, send more please! Here are some helpful hints for divine results:
- Square will keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, chilled in an airtight container, for up to 3 weeks.
- When cutting the dessert into squares, I recommend running a heavy and sharp knife under hot water and then wiping dry prior to making cuts. This will make the sides of the squares even and neat.
- I have mentioned in the past that Trader Joe's carries a "Pound Plus" bittersweet chocolate bar at a very good price. They also carry chunks of good quality white chocolate in various sizes, which are priced much lower than if you were to purchase it at the grocery store. White chocolate chips will not work well for this recipe--there is too much paraffin added.
- If you do not have green creme de menthe, just use the clear kind and add one drop of green food coloring to the mint ganache mixture.
Chocolate Mint Grasshopper Squares
12 tablespoons butter
10 1/2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
For Mint Ganache
1/2 cup heavy cream
10 ounces good quality white chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
For Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
Make brownie layer: Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Lightly butter a 13X9 inch baking pan and line it with foil, leaving a 2 inch overhand on all sides. Butter the foil. Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in eggs and vanilla until combined. Whisk in flour, cocoa, and salt until just combined.
Spread the batter evenly in the baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.
Make mint ganache: Bring cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the white chocolate, stir, and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Stir in the creme de menthe and the extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour.
Make chocolate ganache: Bring cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan and remove from the heat. Add the bittersweet chocolate, stir, and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until smooth. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.
Spread the mint ganache on top of the cooled brownie in a thin even layer using an offset spatula. Chill until firm, 30 minutes. Spread the ganache over the mint and chill until firm, 2 hours.
Lift the dessert out of the pan using foil overhang. Trim edges of dessert, cut into squares, and peel off foil.