The Cookie Jar: Grasshopper Squares

You may have seen these beautiful bites over at Epicurious.com’s “25 Days of Christmas Cookies” – that’s exactly where I saw them, too, and ran home to make them. These are based with a very dense, very intense chocolate brownie. The middle layer is a mint ganache, and none of that hard crap either. The ganache is gooey and delicious and sort of gets all over your fingers. I’m not complaining about that, though. Everything is topped off with a chocolate topping that solidifies back to medium-soft after it cools, keeping the ganache in tact. Overall, it is as delicious as the picture alludes.


Photo courtesy of epicurious.com

Pretty, right? Should be easy to make them look just like the picture, right?

I’m afraid not.

I have a few thoughts after making them, so let’s work our way through it, talking about the pros and cons.

Pros: Definitely the taste. I’ve made more than my fair share of mint pastries and the mint always comes up short: tastes too much like extract, can taste the so-called tasteless food coloring, etc. These deliver on the mint flavor, and the ganache is out of this world. I was also shocked at how easy these were to make. If you are looking to make something that is relatively efficient, this is a good way to go because you make one big pan of it, and you’re done. There’s no rotating of cookie pans or doing a million steps to get a pretty batch of cookies out.

Cons: Trying to cut this up into pretty little squares. The mint ganache is so soft that it requires the whole thing be chilled, but then the brownie became difficult to work with. What helped was cutting everything with a clean, warm knife, similarly to what you’d do with a cheesecake. After one cut, run the knife under hot water, wipe it off and make another cut. What also might help is if I had greater strength than a wet noodle. I also felt there is more ganache in the picture than actual, so the next time I make these (and I guarantee I will) I will probably increase the ganache ratio to 1.5 of what the recipe calls for.

And now, without further ado… here’s how I worked through these.

Grasshopper Squares
Courtesy of Gourmet

For brownie layer
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not extra-bitter or unsweetened and no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

For mint ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
10 oz fine-quality white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons green crème de menthe
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

For chocolate ganache
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped

Ok, it’s a three-parter, but don’t be alarmed. Making the ganaches are all about throwing this into a double-boiler (or a pot with a heat-proof bowl on top) and letting it melt, and that’s it. We’re going to make another one of those foil slings just like with the Ultimate Turtle Brownies, butter the foil, then start on the bottom layer.

Melt butter and chocolate with brown sugar in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate 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 batter evenly in baking pan and bake until set and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs adhering, about 20 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

If you can still read this after looking at that glaring photo of aluminum foil, then read on!

Make mint ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over white chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth.

Stir in crème de menthe and extract and chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour.

Make chocolate ganache:
Bring cream to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and remove from heat. Pour over bittersweet chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes.

Assemble layers:
Spread mint ganache over top of cooled brownie in a thin even layer using offset spatula, then chill until firm but still slightly sticky, about 30 minutes.

Spread chocolate ganache over mint and chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Lift dessert out of pan using foil overhang. Run a heavy knife under hot water and wipe dry, then trim edges of dessert (1/4 inch off each side). Cut dessert into squares and peel from foil.

As you can see from the photo, I did have some trouble cutting it. The squares around the edges came out wonky, but everything in the middle came out looking really pretty. So, DH got to eat the edges, and everyone else got the nice stuff. See how I am?

I would highly recommend these. The skill it takes to make them is relatively low… if you don’t count the cutting at the end. Good luck and ENJOY!

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