There's a little thing out there, like a quest, but for the foodblogging community. It's called Sugar High Fridays. And since I started a website about candy, I thought participating would be a great way to get free advertising. All I'd have to do for this one would be to make a dessert with some kind of chocolate involved and then post a writeup about it on my website.
Was it a coincidence that thunder cracked overhead at that exact moment, and a bolt of lightning just barely missed our chimney? I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now....
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
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
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 the sodium lauryl sulfate in my 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 actual
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 patty, dialed down the mint a little, and then dredged
it in melted vanilla ice cream. If that sounded good, I must be explaining
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
These brownies were never mint to be!
(Puns courtesy of Annie Gowan.)
STOP THE PRESSES.
She just renamed them:
DR. FRANKENBROWNIE'S MINTSTERS.
1 cup (250 ml) Hershey's mint chocolate kisses, unwrapped (please.)
6 tablespoons (75 ml) salted butter
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) 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 (125 ml) granulated
fructose (I admit it. I totally used sugar. Apparently I am out of
1/2 cup (125 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder (I used organic Dagoba brand,
because organic fair trade chocolate is fucking awesome)
2 (2) large eggs
1 cup (250 ml) York vanilla peppermint patties, broken into rough bits
Set oven to 300 F (about 150 celsius, because candy burns easily) and place a rack about a third of the way
up from the
bottom. Butter an eight-inch (20 cm) square pan.
Microwave kisses and butter for 60 seconds (300 yards) 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
batter into pan.
Bake for about forty minutes, until a knife poked into the center comes
crumby but clean. 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!
I was 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 really saves 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 fond 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
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 recipe. 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 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
"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
"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.
sauces, think of cocoa powder or melted down candy bars." Nnn...nnno.
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. Here's my horrible secret: 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. If it didn't mean I'd have to go out and actually buy that awful candy on purpose.