I don't know about you guys, but the month of December has completely gotten away from me. I had all these big plans - get my baking started earlier than usual, don't wait until the last minute to finish the Christmas shopping, get down to New York City to see the tree in Rockefeller Center... The list goes on. Needless to say, I haven't made quite as much progress as I'd have liked on those tasks. It's also taken me longer than usual to get into the holiday spirit this year. I guess we may be partially to blame for the lack of holiday cheer around here. We're not hosting on Christmas day as we have the past few years, so we got lazy and didn't get a Christmas tree. We also haven't pulled the other Christmas decorations out of the boxes in the basement. I think the decorations will come out this weekend, then I'm going to turn on some Christmas music and get in my kitchen to start putting together cookie trays. The week before Christmas is one I always look forward to, even if it's hectic with plenty of last minute to-do list items, as it surely will be this year :)
Unlike me, Shane hasn't been lacking in any holiday cheer. Yesterday was his holiday party at work, and he had a great time, complete with his Buddy the Elf t-shirt (I SO wish I had a picture to show you - I may have to get one up here this week). My contribution to the event was these brownies. I find brownies are always popular at parties, and I figured there would already by plenty of cookies provided by others. I put a slight holiday spin on traditional brownies by making them peppermint flavored with a bit of peppermint extract and some crushed candy canes on top. These brownies fall into the fudgy camp, and though the peppermint flavor is present, it's not strong. I would recommend upping the peppermint extract to 3/4 teaspoon if you want them really minty. The recipe is quick and easy and brownies freeze perfectly, so make them ahead and you'll have brownies for next weekend!
adapted from Ghirardelli
4 oz unsweetened chocolate
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup crushed candy canes (about 3 candy canes)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on opposite sides (so you can easily lift the brownies out). Spray the prepared pan with cooking spray.
Add the unsweetened chocolate and butter to a heatproof bowl, and set it over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter have melted completely. Cool the mixture to room temperature. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, peppermint extract and salt until well combined. Add the chocolate mixture, whisking to combine, and then use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour.
Pour the batter (it'll be fairly thick) into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the chopped semisweet chocolate evenly over the top of the brownies. Return the pan to the oven for 1 minute, or until the chocolate softens. Use an offset spatula to spread the chocolate in an even layer over the brownies. Sprinkle immediately with the chopped candy canes.
Cool the brownies completely in the pan then use the foil handles to lift the brownies from the pan and cut them into squares.