Hands down, my favorite holiday flavor combination has to be the blissful marriage of chocolate and mint. Of course there are other traditional holiday cookies and sweets that we all love. You know them by heart – the chocolate peanut butter balls, sugar cookies, gingerbread, and peanut butter blossoms with the chocolate kiss pressed in the middle. But unlike most holiday flavors, my love for chocolate and mint transcends the month of December. It’s a combination I unabashedly covet year-round.
And though I don’t limit my chocolate/mint baking to the last month of the year, it is in this final window of time that my obsession falls most acceptably into context. So naturally, I take it up a notch conceiving of every possible concoction imaginable. Cakes! Cookies! Fudge! Cupcakes! Bars! Bites! And new this year,these lovelies paired with hot chocolate mix and gifted to a few lucky people on my list. For your sakes, I pledge to attempt some variety over the next few weeks, but don’t be surprised if you get more than a single dose of chocolate-meets-mint before the new year rolls around.
This week I thought I’d go a little old school with a recipe from a former neighbor, dear family friend, and (bloodlines aside) member of my family. Susie Lowry’s Chocolate Creme de Menthe Bars made an appearance every year at our joint family celebrations. As a girl who never had much of a tooth for anything other than chocolate, I cruised right past the sugar cookies with their fancy sparkles, merry shapes and one-note flavor and straight for the richest, most chocolate covered item on the table. Susie’s bars always fit the bill and are no doubt where my infatuation began.
The recipe below is largely unchanged, though I have added a few edits to reflect my personal taste. The original does not require you bake the bottom layer and though that fact doesn’t bother me, I know the inclusion of raw egg in a recipe can send some into a panic. Additionally, I suggest adding a few tablespoons of heavy cream to the chocolate topping as it becomes easier to spread and bestows that appealing sheen of a traditional ganache.
Chocolate Creme de Menthe Bars
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup green Creme de Menthe
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 large egg
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
2-3 TB heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray. In a medium saucepan, melt 1/2 cup of the butter and the cocoa together. Add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar and the vanilla and whisk until smooth. Remove mixture from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and temper it with a few spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture. Add the tempered egg back into the saucepan with the cocoa mixture and whisk to combine. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs until completely incorporated and coated in the chocolate mixture. Press the mixture evenly into the 9×13 pan and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
3. In a medium saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from the heat, whisk in the Creme de Menthe and then the remaining 3 cups of confectioner’s sugar. Mix until completely smooth and pour onto the cooled graham cracker base. Spread mint filling evenly over the base, cover and chill until just set, about 45 minutes.
4. In a double boiler or a heat proof bowl set over top of simmering water, melt together the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and 1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips. Gradually add splashes of heavy cream until the mixture is smooth and thin enough to spread. Pour on top of the chilled mint filling layer, spread evenly, cover and return to the refrigerator until set, about 30-45 minutes.
5. To cut, remove the pan from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to take the chill off. Using a sharp knife dipped periodically in warm water, carefully cut small squares and serve. Store cut bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator.