For the first time, I'm taking a shot at a Sugar High Friday. This one is hosted by David Lebovitz, who writes fabulous books about food, especially chocolate. Or maybe that's just what I notice the most.

I wanted, of course, to use some kind of off-the-shelf candy in my entry. So I asked the web what to make.

The web said to me, "How about making brownies with Junior Mints? Cooking Light has a recipe."

"How the hell," I replied politely, "do they get away with calling that cooking light? What exactly is light about that?"

The web said, a little defensively, "I don't know, but it's right there on the same page with a Frozen Butterfinger Pudding. Um... it says they alternate that with layers of yogurt and peanut butter. So... I guess that makes it low-fat?"

I pretty much had my whole face scrunched up by this point, but the worst was yet to come. I should never have clicked on any of these links.

There was a "make-ahead" trifle with "cappucino" oreos. Like, first of all, trifle is supposed to be made ahead so the flavors can meld. And second of all, there's no point to letting the flavors meld if instead of layering a trifle, you cook a pudding FROM SCRATCH and then mush it up with chopped-up "reduced-fat" oreos and a bowl of "reduced-calorie whipped topping." Oh right, and some alcohol. Because not only are there no layers and therefore this is not a trifle, but also: there is no food in this dessert.

But that's about on a par with the butterfinger pie. No. The worst thing was something they called Kit Kat Slush.

You take chocolate milk... chocolate milk that they are so insistent must be low-fat that they call it "1% low-fat chocolate milk." One percent of it is low in fat! One percent of the recipe is low-fat milk! I don't even know what's happening here!

Then you take one cup of chocolate LOOWW FAAAT ice cream. Which I think would have to be called "ice milk." Chocolate low-fat one percent ice milk.

Then you put the two things in a blender. Then in a bowl. Then in the freezer. Then three hours later, you stir it with a fork "until slushy," and stir in two chopped Kit Kat bars. And, because they know you are still waiting to hear when this is going to turn into food, they have to tell you: "Serve immediately."

Don't stand around waiting for us to explain to you that this is your dessert! Serve it! If people try to ask you pointed questions about how to eat it or what all this brown slushy stuff is, pretend you are getting them more bowls and run out of the room! Run! Run like the wind! It will burn off some of those obsessive anorexic calories that you think you got just by making the ice milk dessert slush!

Because with this recipe, Cooking Light revealed its true nature to me. I finally understand who their target market is. It's all of us wacky American anorexic compulsive eaters. It's the people who, basically, will binge-eat whipped topping and reduced-fat Oreos and one-percent brown ice crystals just because they are sweet and labeled low-carb or low-fat or low in, god help us all, GUILT.

Oh my god, all those commercials that tell me how guilt-free the artificially flavored whipped chocolate yogurt with aspartame is. Or how sinful it is to eat semi-expensive chocolate ice cream with less air whipped into it and no fat removed. This is what they are trying to drive us toward. We're not supposed to eat whole foods with nutritional value, or think about the actual health effects of artificial sweeteners, artificial flavorings, sugar, or all the great ingredients you get to hear me rant about every day. I'm still baffled by that sodium lauryl sulfate in the fudge.

It is just bizarre to me that there are so many magazines that have so many cover stories - or in this case, every story - focused on telling us that fat is bad and how to lose fat fast and how we shouldn't want to be fat and fat isn't pretty and fat will somehow kill us and bariatrics isn't a quack science and if we just listen to the nice mass media with their badly researched stories telling us that fat is the one thing we need to worry about in food, we will all be totally fine and awesome and healthy and happy. You notice they never have any stories about Overeaters Anonymous or Anorexics and Bulimics Anonymous and how to develop a healthy relationship with food. No, it's all about buying into all this shame, brought to you by Snackwell's.

But I digress.

I had to look elsewhere for my recipe. I finally had the genius idea of finding a way to use up one of the four bags of really horrible candy that I sampled and rejected. I thought the Andes Mocha Mint Indulgences might make a good pudding, if I had any cream, or maybe a good sidewalk drawing product if you only wanted to color things in tan. But then the Hershey's Chocolate Mint Kisses and the York Vanilla Mint Patties caught my eye.

The kisses were just mediocre. Or, actually, they were tough and sour and sticky like Hershey's tends to be, and also, a testament to the fact that I will approve ANYTHING with chocolate and mint in it. (Those Andes things being the exception to this rule, due to a critical lack of any flavoring.)

That's why I have yet to review them here. The patties, on the other hand, cry out to be reviewed. They taste just exactly like someone took a mini York peppermint pattie, dialed down the mint a little, and then dredged it in melted vanilla ice cream. If that sounded good, I must be explaining it wrong.

But you know what has vanilla in it? A brownie. You know what should be kicked up with mint, fast? A brownie. You know what I could use to get rid of the shitty bags of leftover candy? You guessed it.... And thus was born:

Experi-mint-al Brownies
These brownies were never mint to be!

(Puns courtesy of Annie Gowan.)
STOP THE PRESSES.
She just renamed them: DR. FRANKENBROWNIE'S MINTSTER.

  • 8 ounces Hershey's mint chocolate kisses, unwrapped (please.)
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or you could leave it out, like me, because you forgot to buy any! I'm sure the artificial vanilla flavor in the peppermint patties will be enough, anyway.)
  • 1/2 cup granulated fructose (I admit it. I totally used sugar. Apparently I am out of fructose.)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used organic Dagoba brand, because organic fair trade chocolate is fucking awesome)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup York vanilla peppermint patties, broken into rough bits

    Set oven to 300 F (candy burns) and place a rack about a third of the way up from the bottom. Butter an eight-inch square pan.

    Microwave kisses and butter for 60 seconds on high. Stir and repeat as necessary until smoothly melted. Stir in vanilla (ha!), fructose, cocoa, and eggs, one ingredient at a time until mixed in. Stir in the broken or chopped patties, then scoop and spread batter into pan.

    Bake for about forty minutes, until a knife poked into the center comes out crumby but clean. (Note: I did not do this. You may prefer to experiment with a higher temperature, say 350 for twenty minutes. I adapted this recipe from Scharffen-Berger's brownie recipe, and they adapted it from Maida Heatter's - and they said to give it 35 to 40 minutes. They also remembered to use flour, but I don't think it needed any.) Makes sixteen 2-inch brownies. For the love of god, don't eat more than one of these at a time (if you can help it). You might die from saturating your blood cells with sugar!

    You are going to hear all about what they taste like later today. I am terrified of tasting them. I mean: chocolate mint! But: horrifying ingredients!

    So, Hershey's makes both the kisses and the patties. This is, sadly, a Hershey's brand brownie, just because their foodstuffs are so horrible that I couldn't eat them straight. Isn't that an awesome reason? I felt a little bad putting in the Dagoba cocoa because I think it's really going to save Hershey's ass here, and that's more than they deserve. But you know what? I am totally the one who has to eat these, and I like my chocolate dark. And minty!

    I have good memories of Hershey's chocolate. My dad used to keep a jar of Hershey's kisses in his office and sometimes when I was little my mom would bring me to visit him during the day and I would get to have one. Nobody can come up with more ways to eat a piece of candy than a child who just gets one and is determined to make it last for as long as possible. I nibbled them all the way down, I sucked on them, I let them sit in my mouth until they dissolved, I rolled them around on my tongue like a barrel....

    And he used to buy cases of Hershey's bars at the Price Club and sometimes we'd get to split one. In fact, sometimes us three kids would sneak into the candy drawer while our parents were taking a nap, and steal Hershey's bars and artfully rearrange the candy in there to make it appear as though nothing was gone. That candy drawer, by the way, was clearly the grandparent of this site. Revere the candy drawer.

    But, like, then I discovered actual chocolate. I mean, by the time I was in high school I had already moved on to eating bowls of chocolate chips, in the absence of any decent chocolate experience. I didn't know from cacao content or whatever. Eventually my friends and I started having chocolate parties, where we would descend on someone's house bringing an interesting chocolate bar we wanted to share, and watch British television. We had discovered the chocolate section at the local Davis Food Co-op, and could now brandish organic dark chocolate bars filled with crushed dried raspberries, or green tea chocolate bars. And they may have been more expensive but they also lasted a lot longer and gave a lot more pleasure. We had reached the pinnacle of chocolate-eating.

    And here I slide dramatically down that candy slope, to cook with Hershey's. Did you know that peppermint patties swell up in weird and dramatic ways when cooked even at a low 300 degrees? Well, they do. And it's weird. It makes it look even more like a rocky road brownie than it did in mere batter form.

    Candy USA, the National Confectioners' Association, had a page of tips and idea on cooking with candy. It got a little creepy though, in their increasing obsession with candy.

    "Start with a favorite candy product. What form comes to mind... a crunchy topping? A gooey filling? Should it stay in pieces or be melted to liquid form?" Hmm, good questions.

    "Cheesecakes work well with peanut butter cups, semisweet chips or various chunked candy bars." All right. But I'm not going to make a cheesecake. That's for next time.

    "For sauces, think of cocoa powder or melted down candy bars." Nnn...nnno.

    "Be careful about adding too much sugar to the batter. Candy is sweet and can replace some of the sugar that might normally serve as an ingredient." I like that... they CAN replace some of the sugar! But don't be too quick to take sugar out! Think it over carefully! And remember! Candy is sweet!

    But it was helpful to be reminded to reduce the sugar, and to learn that "Generally, desserts with candy as an ingredient will require a lower baking temperature and a shorter time in the oven." The problem is, the rest of the recipe still has to have time to cook. I probably could have gotten away with just leaving it at 300 for a longer cooking time, but when I saw all that peppermint stuff swelling up I decided to crank it up to 350 and let it finish quickly, before something terrible happened.

    At first try, I liked the mintiness and the chocolate flavor. It was moist, with intermittent bursts of extra chocolate. Excellent, rich, dense stuff. But the melted and baked peppermint patties were tough to chew. Still, I figured, they had obviously given extra mintiness to the batter as they partially dissolved.

    But after they mellowed for a day, the chewiness became more subdued. Now the peppermint bits just give the brownies a little extra chew, instead of being crunchy and twisty and a struggle to get through. My roommate had another one tonight and exclaimed that they were the best use of evil candy ever. And you know, I think she's right. I'd make these again.

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