Holiday baking is one of the joys of the season. It’s also an exercise in selectivity – in terms of caloric budget and time to prepare the goody. If I’m going to indulge, go big or go home is my philosophy. Dense, rich, creamy and chocolate is my preferred route.
This month’s Fine Cooking magazine featured a gorgeous looking Mint Chocolate Bar. It won me over on appearance, but mint flavouring is not in my top 10. I do love chocolate and orange combinations, though! So I substituted Grand Marnier and zest from a clementine for the creme de menthe and peppermint essence the recipe called for. And I topped the confection with candied clementine peel. Its jewel-like dazzle provided the final touch.
The grandkids originally eyed these brownies with a combination of enthusiasm and deep suspicion. The orange peel set off their alarm bells, but they were persuaded to try it. The next thing I knew, one of them (who shall remain nameless) was busily filching the peel off everyone’s brownie and downing it with vigour. They were a hit.
Also, if you’ve ever been put off by the slightly gloppy, slimy texture in the creamy layer of a Nanaimo bar, have no fear with this recipe. This buttercream is smooth and light, with no funny business.
For the brownie base
- 4 oz (113 g or 8 tbsp) unsalted butter; more for the pan
- 8 oz (226 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 oz (28 g or 1/4 c) good quality cocoa powder
- 5 oz (142 g or 1 c plus 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp table salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 c (125 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 c (300 g or 10.5 oz) granulated sugar
- 1/2 c (100 g or 3.5 oz) light brown sugar, packed
- 2 tsp (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
For the buttercream
- 8 oz (226 g or 16 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) Grand Marnier
- 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp clementine or orange zest (zest from 1 clementine or 1/2 orange)
- Pinch table salt
- 7 oz (200 g or 2 c) confectioners’ sugar
For the ganache and topping
- 6 oz (170 g or about 1 c) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 3/4 c (213 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
- Pinch table salt
- 2 oz (57 g) candied clementine or orange peel, chopped into 1/4″ dice
Make the chocolate brownie base
- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 325°F Convection Bake or 350°F. Butter or baking spray a 9×13-inch pan, then line with parchment such that the parchment hangs over the short ends of the pan by a couple of inches. This way the parchment will act as a “sling” when you go to remove the brownies from the pan.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat, and add the cocoa powder, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and baking powder.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, both sugars, and vanilla. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until just combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the sides of the brownie have set, the top is beginning to crack and look glossy, and a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs (22 to 27 minutes).
- Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then refrigerate while you prepare the buttercream.
Make the buttercream
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the Grand Marnier, the vanilla, the zest and the salt. Beat on medium speed to combine. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar, mixing until combined. Beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed (5 to 7 minutes).
- Spread the buttercream evenly on top of the chilled brownie. Return the pan to the refrigerator and chill for one hour.
Make the ganache
- Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium-low heat until just about to boil (be careful here, you don’t want it to boil). Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Cool to room temperature before using.
Final assembly of the bars
- Pour the cooled ganache over the chilled buttercream layer, and spread in an even layer. Dot the candied peel evenly over the ganache. Refrigerate the brownie for at least one hour.
- Remove the pan from the refrigerator and let sit for 10 minutes, allowing the ganache to soften slightly, before cutting into squares.
- I used clementines to make the candied peel, because I always have a bowl of them hanging around at this time of year, but candied orange peel would work just as well. You can purchase citrus peel at the grocery store, or make your own.
I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.