For those of you with a nose for culinary inspirations, this bar cookie has two origins: Canada and New Zealand. The cookie borrows mostly from the Nanaimo bar, a Canadian classic I learned about from a family in Vancouver, not far from its namesake town. It consists of a no-bake chocolate cookie base traditionally made with coconut and nuts, not too dissimilar from the British tiffin. This layer is then topped with a custard buttercream and finished with more chocolate. The buttercream filling is made with a traditional British ingredient, custard powder (really just a flavored and colored form of cornstarch) that isn’t widely available in a lot of countries, so I created a version that would be easy to make anywhere in the world. A memory of New Zealand peppermint slices helped me settle on a mint version.
These peppermint bars are definitely on the sweeter, richer side, but that just means a batch can happily serve a whole bunch of people. I’ll be boxing them up and dropping them off (at a safe distance, of course) to friends and neighbors, trying to hold on to some traditions where possible in a holiday season like no other.
If you’re not a fan of mint, these can be flavored a whole host of ways: spiked with Irish cream, infused with orange or spiced with gingerbread flavors. There is also the question of the coconut, which can be divisive. For those in the hate camp, you could simply replace with more graham crackers, but where is the fun in that? Instead go for something else textural, such as cocoa nibs, toasted oats, nuts or even crushed pretzels.
Recipe notes: You might enjoy these eaten straight out of the refrigerator, or better yet, the freezer, for a kind of icy peppermint patty experience. They’re definitely messier to eat — though no less delicious — if allowed to get soft.
Cutting the slab into diamonds makes the pieces particularly eye-catching, but rectangles or squares are fine, too.
The bars can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week or frozen for several months.
For the base
- 10 1/2 ounces (300 grams) graham crackers (about 20) or digestive biscuits
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks/170 grams) unsalted butter, diced
- 1/2 cup (50 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/3 cup (75 grams) packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
For the peppermint layer
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick/85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 2/3 cups (330 grams) confectioners' sugar
- 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
- Green food coloring (optional)
For the chocolate topping
- 8 ounces (225 grams) dark chocolate (at least 60 percent cacao), roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup or honey
Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch pan, then line with enough parchment paper to leave a generous overhang on the two long sides. Secure the paper in place with 2 to 4 metal clips.
Make the base: Place the graham crackers or digestives into a large freezer bag and crush into crumbs using a rolling pin (a few small chunks are fine). Transfer the crumbs to a large bowl.
Place the butter, cocoa and brown sugar into a heatproof bowl set over a pan with a few inches of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water and stir until the butter is melted and everything is smooth. Add the eggs and whisk for a few minutes, or until the mixture thickens. It will look and feel like chocolate pudding. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla, coconut and salt. Transfer to the bowl with the graham cracker crumbs, stirring until combined. Scrape into the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Refrigerate while you make the peppermint layer.
Make the peppermint layer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a large bowl and hand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until it is light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar in three additions, alternating with the cream, then raise the speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the peppermint extract, plus a drop or two of food coloring, if using, and beat until evenly combined. Scrape into the pan, spreading over the base in an even layer. Refrigerate for 1 hour before making the topping.
Make the chocolate topping: Place the chocolate, butter and golden syrup or honey in a heatproof bowl set over a pan with a few inches of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water, and stir occasionally until everything is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and pour the chocolate mixture over the peppermint filling, spreading into an even layer. Refrigerate until set, at least 1 hour.
To serve, use the parchment paper to lift the mixture from the pan, then cut into pieces using a sharp knife. To create the diamonds, cut a series of vertical lines along the long side of the slab spaced about 1 inch apart. Then, cut a series of diagonal lines running across the vertical cuts, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart along the short side, carrying the pattern all the way through the slab. For the cleanest slices, use a knife that's been heated in hot water, then dried, for each cut.
Calories: 152; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 22 mg; Sodium: 67 mg; Carbohydrates: 16 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 11 g; Protein: 1 g.
Adapted from “One Tin Bakes” (Kyle Books, 2020), by food writer Edd Kimber, the first winner of “The Great British Baking Show.”
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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