A grasshopper walks into a bar and hops up onto the counter. The bartender says, "We have a drink named after you." The grasshopper replies, "You have a drink named Carl?"
While the joke is certainly a little dated, the image of a grasshopper walking into a bar is a guaranteed smile-maker.
The grasshopper is a vintage cocktail made with crème de menthe, crème de cacao, and fresh cream—it definitely falls into the dessert-in-a-glass category of cocktails. It was this sort of dessert-readiness along with a certain gelatin-based pie that inspired these Grasshopper Bars from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's Baked Explorations.
These bars get rid of the gelatin, opting instead for the creamy mint element from a peppermint and crème de menthe enriched buttercream. The chocolate comes in the form of a gooey brownie base and a dark chocolate glaze that finishes the bars. While the flavors are updated, that great mint green color stays if you use green crème de menthe. If that's not your thing, there's always the colorless version.
My batch had a bit of a consistency issue with the buttercream—when the recipe specifies that the base should be cool before you add the butter, it really does have to be. Adding butter to an even slightly warm base results in a broken buttercream. But fear not, if your buttercream does break, a brief chill in the fridge and another spin in the KitchenAid should bring it back to creamy deliciousness.
How were the finished Grasshopper Bars? They made me smile even more than that ol' grasshopper joke.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Baked Explorations to give away this week.
Adapted from Baked Explorations. Copyright © 2010. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
- For the Brownie Base:
- 3/4 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
- 5 ounces good quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- For the Buttercream:
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, softened but still cool, cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons crème de menthe
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- For the Chocolate Glaze:
- 6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
For the Brownie Base: Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
Butter sides and bottom of glass or light-colored metal 9-by-13-inch pan. Line bottom with sheet of parchment paper, and butter the parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and cocoa powder.
Configure a large size double boiler. Place chocolate and butter in bowl of double boiler and stir occasionally until chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined. Turn off heat, but keep bowl over the water of double boiler and add both sugars. Whisk sugars until completely combined. Remove bowl from pan. Mixture should be at room temperature.
Add 3 eggs to chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.
Sprinkle flour/cocoa/salt mix over chocolate. Using a spatula (do not use a whisk) fold dry ingredients into wet until there is just a trace amount of flour/cocoa mix visible.
Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top with an offset spatula, and bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Brownies should be just a tad underdone (not too gooey, but ideally, just 1 minute from being cooked through completely). A toothpick inserted into brownies at an angle should contain a few loose crumbs. Remove brownies from oven and let cool completely while you make crème de menthe filling.
For the Buttercream: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk sugar and flour together. Add milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, 5 to 7 minutes.
Transfer mixture to bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until filling is light and fluffy.
Add crème de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined. If filling is too soft, chill slightly in refrigerator and then mix again until it is the proper consistency.
If filling is too firm, place bowl over pot of simmering water and re-mix to proper consistency. Spread filling evenly across the top of brownie layer and place pan in refrigerator, for a minimum of 45 minutes, while you make chocolate glaze.
For the Chocolate Glaze: In a large non-reactive metal bowl, combine chocolate, corn syrup, and butter. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and cook, stirring with rubber spatula, until mixture is completely smooth. Remove bowl from pan and stir vigorously for 1 minute to release excess heat.
Pour mixture over chilled crème de menthe layer and use offset spatula to spread it into even layer. Place pan back in refrigerator for 1 hour, or until glaze hardens.
Remove pan from refrigerator, wait about 15 minutes for glaze to soften slightly, and cut bars with warm knife. Cut into squares and serve immediately.
Note: The bars can be stored in the refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.