Maida Heatter sounds like a delightful woman. The more I read about this tiny little South Florida spitfire, the more I like her. And I really like her recipes – they are always good and always work perfectly, a rarity. I was particularly charmed by a little paragraph in a Saveur article on how she keeps a stash of cellophane wrapped brownies in her purse to give to people she meets. She gave one to a man she met in the late 1940’s who later became her husband. I like to think the brownie had something to do with it. I can’t remember if I bought one of her cookbooks, read about her in a magazine or heard of her elsewhere first. But I do know when that issue of Saveur landed in my mailbox in 1997 – Issue #22 – the cover photo of a chocolate beauty called Queen Mother’s Cake was mesmerizing. I had to make it. So I did – and the chocolate cigarettes too. Then I made her Polka Dot Cheesecake, the East 62nd Street Lemon Cake and finally the Palm Beach Brownies studded with peppermint patties. They were all outstanding and it was probably the first, and only, time I made every single recipe attached to an article.
This brownie recipe was in that magazine issue, which has since gone missing somewhere in this apartment. I know it’s here somewhere but the slot where issue #22 should be in my semi-organized magazine archives is mysteriously empty. Pisser. So while I can’t quite recall why these were originally called “Palm Beach Brownies”, today is National Peppermint Patty Day (Did you know that? Another made-up food holiday and a good excuse to bake.) I thought it a great time to dust this one off. I’ve made a few changes but kept the spirit of the original recipe. And you should know, they really are much better cold, or even frozen. Yeowza.
STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: TERRIFIC! There’s something really great about making brownies – the house smells fantastic and everyone adores them. This recipe makes a lot so I just might wrap them all individually, store them in the freezer and stock my purse each morning. My friends think I’m a little nuts anyway with all the treats I offload on them so what’s a few minty brownies slipped into their coat pockets?
On this blog three years ago: Fancy Pants Valentine’s Day Cookies
On this blog two years ago: Chocolate Churros
On this blog one year ago: Chocolate Dulce de Leche Swirl Ice Cream
Hey! Did you know tomorrow is Paczki Day? Yes, yes it is. Plenty of time to make your own – use this recipe!
PEPPERMINT PATTY BROWNIES – a slight variation of the original Maida Heatter recipe
Makes 32 brownies
If you can’t find peppermint patties or are feeling particularly motivated, David Lebovitz has his version of the same recipe with a homemade peppermint patty layer as well as a great story on Maida’s gifted brownies to her publishers staff. So charming. Just don’t use cheap, dollar store versions of peppermint patties. They’re terrible and dissolve during baking.
one 19.75 ounce bag chocolate-covered peppermint patties – about 41 mini patties
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
16 Tablespoons unsalted butter (8 ounces/2 sticks)
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
3 ¾ cups sugar
1 2⁄3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Line a 9″×13″×2″ pan with foil or parchment and lightly spray with cooking spray. Set aside until needed.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, vanilla, salt, espresso powder and sugar at high speed for 10 minutes until stiff and foamy.
- Meanwhile, place the chocolate and butter in a large bowl and melt until smooth. Microwave: In a microwave safe bowl, melt the mixture at 50% power in 45 second bursts, stirring between bursts until smooth. Double boiler method: Place the bowl on top of a pot of simmering water, stirring until smooth.
- Unwrap all the peppermint patties and set aside until needed. (This is tedious; I apologize. Make the kids do it.)
- Back to the mixer: after 10 minutes when the mixture is stiff and foamy and the batter holds a ribbon when drizzled on top, reduce the speed to low and add the chocolate/butter mixture until just mixed.
- Still on low, add the flour slowly until just mixed. Remove from the mixer and give a few stirs with a rubber spatula to mix fully.
- Pour half the mixture (about 3 ½ cups) into the prepared pan and smooth.
- Place a layer of the mints across the top of the pan then stagger the next row, to fill in the gaps. Fill the entire pan in this manner. If you have a few extras, you can cut them in half and fill in the edges. Or you can eat them. Your call.
- Pour the remaining brownie mixture into the pan and gently smooth to cover the mints.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The brownies should have a firm crust on top, but a toothpick inserted in the middle will come out wet and covered with chocolate. They’re done. Do not bake any longer.
- Remove the pan from the oven; cool completely on a wire rack.
- Gently tug at the parchment/foil to remove the brownies from the pan.
- Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the brownies to firm up and make cutting much easier.
- To cut, use a long, heavy knife with a sharp blade. I prefer to cut off the edges, as they bake up a bit crunchy, then cut the brownies into narrow bar shapes rather than squares, as Maida recommends. (And I do what Maida says.)
- Pack brownies in an airtight container or wrap individually in clear cellophane or wax paper and store in a Ziploc in the freezer. They freeze perfectly and can be served very cold or at room temperature.