A pinch more of this, an additional dash of that, and an extra splash of you know what.. How do you re-create recipes? I don’t think I’ve ever used a recipe “as is”. Call me a rebel, a know it all – I don’t care, I’ve been called worse. It’s not in my nature to follow the norm, I have to at least “try” to make something better, just ask my husband. We all know that in the kitchen you can be as creative as you would like to be with savory foods, lending your own creative twist without much risk. But in the pastry kitchen, it’s a different story all together; it’s more like a science experiment. A delicious result is based on both accuracy with temperatures and measurements alike. Even with a perfected “tried-and-true” recipe … technique prevails. I know, I know, we are just talking brownies and cookies, it’s not the cure for cancer. But you get what I’m talking about, everyone has a baking disaster story or the all too common exclamation from those who have given up, “I don’t bake”!
Typically I will look at four or five recipes for the same thing, get the overall jist of the measurements, and then go for it. There are, however, a few things I almost always change in any recipe when baking.
- I always increase the salt by at least 1/2 teaspoon (you need salt in sweet recipes to bring out the sweetness).
- I increase or add vanilla in all baking recipes (vanilla is to the pastry kitchen what salt is to the savory – you have to have it).
- I will switch out half to a third of the sugar with brown sugar ( brown sugar has more of a caramel flavor because of the molasses and it adds another dimension of sweetness).
- I will double the the topping or glaze (most recipes just never make enough)
- I look for ways to fortify the flavor by adding more (if the flavor is orange, I add orange zest, almond- I might add in almonds to the recipe).
- I always set the timer and under bake the dessert by 10 minutes (most recipes over bake, check it yourself).
This is a recipe that I adapted from an old vintage Betty Crocker cookbook and Fine Cooking Magazine. It’s my absolute favorite because the crumb of the brownie is soft, velvety, rich, and decadent. The method of combining the tea into the sugar as well as using peppermint extract makes these brownies taste like they are bursting with minty chocolaty goodness. I initially added the peppermint candy to the top for looks, but it actually add a sweet crunchy finish that I wouldn’t leave out. The great thing about this recipe is that you can easily change it by keeping the base the same and changing the main flavor element. For instance, I use the same basic recipe and change it to Hazelnut brownies by using Frangelico in place of the peppermint extract, hazelnut tea, and chopped hazelnuts on top. You could also do almond, Kahlua, cherry, or orange- the possibilities are endless.
Tips for using tea leaves in flavoring desserts
When making custards, (brulees, ice cream, flan, pot de creme) steep the tea into the hot liquid for 10 minutes- strain out tea.
When baking, (cookies, brownies, blondies, pound cake, quick breads, or muffins) place the tea and sugar into a food processor, pulse to blend and release the oils from the tea leaves into the sugar- leave the tea in
When making making ganache, (frosting, truffles, sauces) steep the tea into the hot cream for 10 minutes – strain out tea.
When making simple syrup, ( for lemonade, cocktails, or soaking cakes) steep tea into boiling water – strain out tea.
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
8oz. unsweetened baking chocolate
2 tsp. peppermint tea leaves (from about 2-tea bags)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed golden brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
4 oz. butter (1/2 stick)
small pinch of salt
2 candy canes – crushed
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees (no convection) – adjust oven rack into the middle of the oven.
- Line a 9×13 inch baking pan with foil or parchment paper- leaving an overhang of about 2 inches all around, spray with nonstick cooking spray. (this will help to remove the brownies from the pan)
- Place metal or glass bowl over a pot of boiling water and melt together the chocolate and butter.
- Once melted, remove from heat and set aside – cool to just warm.
- Place the granulated white sugar and tea leaves into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds.
- In a medium bowl combine eggs, tea sugar, brown sugar, peppermint extract, vanilla extract, and salt- whisk well until completely combined.
- Slowly add in chocolate to sugar and eggs- whisk well until completely combined.
- In thirds- fold in the flour with a spatula until completely combined and no flour is visible.
- Pour brownie mixture into prepared pan, spread to even out with the back of the spatula.
- Place into oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool.
- In a microwave safe bowl melt together remaining 4 oz of butter, semi sweet chocolate chips, corn syrup and a small pinch of salt. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals, stopping to stir. When completely melted and combined pour and spread evenly over the top of the cooled brownies. While the glaze is warm top with crushed peppermint candies.
- Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 7 days.