Peppermint Squares

This post goes out to my brother, not only because this is one of his all-time favourite things to get from Cheshire Gap bakery, but also because he has a broken leg at the moment, so obviously deserves lots of cakes and chocolate!

These peppermint squares have a chocolate shortbread base, a fondant- type peppermint layer and a dark chocolate topping. They’re the perfect bake, partly because they only contain 7 ingredients and partly because they’re very simple, but very tasty! If you’re not so much of a mint fan, then this recipe can be easily adjusted to make chocolate orange squares, or maybe even cherry squares (because cherry and dark chocolate is amazing!), a bit like the Quality Street combinations. If you’re making these for a party, why not make some of each, with the addition of different food colouring so guests can tell them apart? Or maybe even without, making a chocolate squares roulette?!

This recipe was adjusted from a Waitrose recipe card (how middle class of me!), but I found that their recipe made the layers too thin, and that I needed to adjust the quantities of some of the ingredients. This recipe does include a lot of chilling time, so make sure you have plenty of time, or do something in the middle (some suggestions: wash up, dance around the kitchen, make tea, pretend to be Adele while singing, watch 2 episodes of Friends…)

Peppermint Squares

Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooling/ Chilling Time: 1 hour and a half or so (between stages)

Makes approx. 28 pieces

Ingredients

350g Butter
170g Light Brown Sugar
400g Plain Flour
4 tbsp Cocoa Powder
600g Icing Sugar
5-6 tbsp Water
1/2 tsp Peppermint Extract
400g Dark Chocolate
A small amount of butter (roughly 20g)

Baked in a 25 x 38cm brownie tin.

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line the tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Mix together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour and cocoa powder until all the ingredients are fully combined.
3. Spread out in the tin, pressing down with the back of a spoon until the base is level and covers the whole tray. Bake in the oven for 15-20 mins until spongy, but only just set, then place to one side to cool.
4. To make the peppermint layer, beat together the icing sugar, 5-6 tbsp of water and peppermint extract until you have a mixture which is smooth and quite firm. It should resist when your stir it, and not be of easily pour-able consistency.
5. Spread the peppermint mixture over the shortbread base, spreading right to the edges of the tin and until level. Chill to firm (about an hour is ideal, but probably could be done in half an hour if needs be).
6. Break up the chocolate and heat in the microwave until melted. Melt the butter in a separate bowl in the microwave, then add to the chocolate and mix until fully combined. Once the peppermint layer has firmed, pour the chocolate over the filling, and spread until the chocolate covers all of the base layers. Chill for 30 mins or so before serving.

Handy Hints

Light Brown Sugar– Alternatively, use Caster Sugar and 1 tsp of Vanilla Essence.
Peppermint layer– You may need to adjust the amount of icing sugar in order to create the right consistency for this layer. If it’s too runny, add more icing sugar. If it’s too stiff, add a tiny bit more water. The balance will change more depending on the extract used, and if you use any colouring or not.
Base layer– When transferring this into the tin, it can be a bit of a pain to spread out to make it cover the whole tin. Use your (washed I hope!) hands to press down sections of the base, and grease the back of a metal spoon if using this to press the mix down.
Cooling time– Make sure you take the time to let things cool properly- if you add the middle layer while the base is too hot, it will make the icing runny, if you add the chocolate when the icing isn’t set, it will mix with the peppermint when you try to spread it.
Chocolate layer– Let this cool a little bit before pouring over the rest of the bake- if it’s too hot it will melt the middle layer!
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Peppermint Square (top), Orange Square (middle), Cherry Square (bottom). As you can see, my squares are not particularly even (Mary and Paul would be disappointed) and my icing is running out on the bottom layer, hence the comments about being patient with the cooling process!

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The easiest bake ever- Toffee Marshmallow Crispies

Before I start this post properly I just want to say I’m sorry this post is a little bit late- I moved back to uni a week ago today so I’ve been catching up with my flatmates sorting all my uni stuff out! It’s great to be back, despite the 9am start I had today, and it’s great to be blogging about student baking when I’m actually back at uni! I’m on campus again this year so the other night we decided to go and play pool in the bar and then have a film night so I suggested that we bake something to eat while we watch the film, because obviously snacking is an essential part of any film night. So, having just got back we needed something we could buy the ingredients for in the Spar on campus, which although has a good stock of general stuff doesn’t have that much for baking. I had the idea to bake something that I used to make when I was little, which is toffee marshmallow crispy cakes! They’re so easy to bake and only have 3 ingredients, so we decided to pop to Spar and see if we could find them. We did have to improvise a bit on ingredients (a big part of student baking if, like me, you’re not very good at planning ahead), so I’ll put in the recipe what you need to get, then explain what we used instead.

Since this recipe is so easy, and because I have flatmates whose phones have good cameras, I’ve decided to try a new kind of post to present my recipe. I took a picture of each key stage of the bake, so I’m going to put the pictures alongside the steps of the recipe as a kind of visual aid. Let me know if you like this method and if you think it works better then my usual posts; if you prefer just a written recipe with a picture of the finished bake at the end; or if you’re indifferent.

Toffee Marshmallow Crispies:
Preparation Time: 2 minutes
Baking Time: 5-10 minutes
Price: £3.20

Ingredients:
150g Marshmallows
150g Toffee Sweets
Rice Crispies
A bit of Butter or Oil
200g Chocolate for topping (optional)
Sweets for topping (optional)

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Method:
1. Unwrap all the toffee sweets and put in a pan with a little bit of butter or oil.

10588821_10152336616260423_1256786914_n2. Keep the pan on a moderate to high heat (I used number 4 on our hob, so not too hot but not simmering either) and wait for the toffees to melt to a thick liquid consistency. Then, add the marshmallows.

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3. Stir in the marshmallows and keep stirring until the toffees and marshmallows are all combined and melted.

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(the mixture should look, at this stage, should look more like the melted toffees on their own, and should have a stringy, sticky consistency:)

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4. Take the pan off the heat. Then, add as many rice crispies as you like, depending on whether you want more dry kind of slices, or more sticky toffee-like crispy cakes.

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5. Stir to combine the rice crispies and the toffee marshmallow mixture. You know you’ve got the right consistency when it’s hard work to stir the ingredients together! You’ll want to give up at this point but power through- they turn out nice in the end! When they’re all combined, spoon them into whatever container you have (I just used a brownie tin).

6. Leave to cool in the container. While cooling, melt the chocolate in the microwave. When cooled, spread the melted chocolate on the top as much as you can.

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7. If you’re using sweets to decorate (I cut up fudge sweets into little pieces as a topping), scatter them on the chocolate before it melts.

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8. Fridge for a bit, or cut up immediately and serve!

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Handy Hints:

Toffee sweets- We couldn’t find any toffees so we used Cadburys Eclairs. I think pure toffees work better but feel free to experiment a bit- as long as they’re sticky they’ll hold it together.
Stirring- The toffee and marshmallow mixture needs to be constantly stirred or it will stick to the bottom of the pan and be a nightmare to clean off!
Cooling- Don’t keep these in the fridge for too long or they will go really crunchy and are hard to eat!