It's almost May, the time of year when I always wish I were in Kentucky. I miss the rolling hills, the bluegrass, the tranquil horse farms and the beautiful and abundant dogwood blossoms as well as the excitement and festivities that can be found all over the state at this time of year.
I also miss the food. For the very best dessert to serve at any Derby celebration I highly recommend my Aunt Hen’s Brownie Pie. I can’t help it, I always loved that pie. I do realize however that some people like variety and I admit that there are other perfectly good desserts that are completely appropriate for this season. One very nice alternative is Mint Julep Brownies.
Last year around the end of April we happened to be in Paducah, Kentucky at the time of the American Quilter’s Society Annual Quilt Show. It is a huge annual event featuring some of the world’s finest quilts. Just take a look at this quilt that won last year's show.
To celebrate this annual event, and to feed some of the many hungry guests that come to town for the show, Grace Episcopal Church holds an annual Quilt Luncheon. Since we have connections we were able to get tickets to this event. (Without connections I think you can just buy them at the door.)
The food was prepared by parishioners and was really good. An unusual and festive chicken and rice salad was the entrée, served with a roasted fruit salad and a Mint Julep Brownie for dessert. I had never had exactly the same sort of brownie before and I wanted to try making it myself. Luckily recipes were available for a donation of $1 each.
After a few adjustments here is what I came up with:
Mint Julep Brownies
from the 2008 Quilters' Luncheon
1 cup (two sticks) butter, cut into tablespoon size pieces
4 oz. dark chocolate, broken into bits
2 cups granualted sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 Tablespoons bourbon
Candied Pecans (recipe below)
In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
Place the eggs in a large mixing bowl and beat at medium speed for two minutes. Add the cooled chocolate mixture, sugar, flour, salt, peppermint extract and bourbon. Stir just until combined.
Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack until completely cool.
Cut into squares. Serve garnished with whipped cream, a sprinkling of Candied Pecans and a sprig of mint.
Note: For the adults at your gathering I suggest splashing the plate with a teaspoon or so of good Kentucky bourbon before plating and garnishing the brownies. It adds a more authentic Mint Julep flavor, just an undercurrent of spirited bite to play against the sweetness of the brownie and the candied pecans. Of course this is completely optional.
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup pecan halves
Melt butter in a small skillet over low heat.
Add sugar stirring until combined.
Add pecans. Cook and stir over low heat until the mixture begins to darken. (This will only take a few minutes.)
Remove skillet from heat and let sit for 10 minutes until pecans cool and sugar hardens. Break the sugar and pecans into coarse bits for garnish.