Mint chocolate bars that are all about the filling
A chocolatey base is topped with a fondant filling. Try them straight from the freezer
Mint chocolate bars. Photograph: Harry Weir
We’ve been counting down to the annual global greening with some Irish home bakes in this column over the past few weeks. Are we allowed to mention St Patrick’s Day yet? These triple-layered bars would make a nice contribution to the festive spirit. While green beer (why?) is just a weird concoction, the coupling of mint and chocolate is a winning flavour combination. My test kitchen buddy calls these bars “grasshoppers”, but I call them “Paddy’s Day bars”.
This recipe is based on a nostalgic childhood favourite, with a chocolatey cornflake base (most grasshoppers have a soft, brownie base). Here, a fondant style filling gives a millionaire shortbread-like consistency. There are many different versions of this smooth and minty centre. A simple buttercream (butter and icing sugar) or a white chocolate ganache (white chocolate mixed with melted cream) would both set firmly once chilled to give a neat slice. The type of filling you choose to make will also depend on your baking skills.
The filling in this recipe requires patient stirring on a stove top. If you like to cut them neatly (who doesn’t?), a brief stint in the freezer ensures a clean unsmudged slice. A judicious amount of peppermint essence (or extract) provides that wonderfully refreshing mint taste. A bitter dark chocolate topping offsets the sweetness of the bar. Use gel or paste food colouring for a cool minty hue. The other end of the spectrum is Kelly green. My kids love the name grasshoppers, but while the green machine is ratcheting upwards, I continue to call them “Paddy’s Day bars”, at least until after next week! They taste great served chilled, sliced straight from the freezer!
MINT CHOCOLATE BARS
Makes 12 fingers
100g caster sugar
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
75g crushed cornflakes
125g plain flour
For the mint-fondant centre
150g caster sugar
30g plain flour
150ml full fat milk
75g butter, room temperature, cubed green food colouring (paste or gel)
½-1tsp peppermint essence (or extract), to taste
Topping: 175g dark chocolate (55 per cent cocoa solids)
Preheat the oven to 180°.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together. Stir in the cocoa powder, then the crushed cornflakes. Gradually stir in the flour.
Transfer the mixture into a non-stick square baking tin (clean and reuse the saucepan to make the fondant).
Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until it starts to brown around the edges. Once baked, set aside to cool down fully.
For the fondant centre: Place the flour and sugar in a medium heavy based saucepan. Whisk in the milk and cream. Increase the heat to just below boiling, then keep stirring for at least 6 to 8 minutes over a fairly high heat until the sauce has thickened to a custard-like consistency (use a wooden spoon to scrape around the inside edges of the saucepan where the mixture might catch, removing the pan regularly from the heat source as you do so).
The next step is to cool down the mixture rapidly (otherwise the filling may split when you incorporate the butter). To do this, transfer the sauce to a clean mixing bowl and whisk vigorously to reduce the temperature and cool fully.
Once the mixture is completely cooled down, whisk in the cubed butter until the mixture is smooth and light.
Use the tip of a cocktail stick dipped in food colouring to mix colour through. Add in peppermint essence (or extract), adjusting the amount to suit your taste. Spread the fondant evenly over the base and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the fondant is firm.
For the chocolate top: Melt the chocolate in a bain marie (a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water) until there is a smooth consistency. Pour the chocolate over the firm mint filling using a spatula to spread it into an even layer. Refrigerate until the chocolate layer hardens. Before cutting, remove from the fridge, wait 10 minutes and cut as desired into neat bars, squares or triangles with a very sharp knife. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
Vary the bottom layer with either a chocolate brownie or chocolate cookie base.