Mint Julep Brownies

This past Saturday, May Day, was not only the Kentucky Derby but also Shaun's birthday. To ring in the big 2-8, we threw a Kentucky Derby cocktail party at our Jersey City apartment. In addition to dips, spreads and tea sandwiches, I wanted to cook up a special treat to mark both occasions.

When Shaun mentioned that a good, fudgy brownie was his dessert of choice, I got to work on finding a super brownie recipe in which I could add a Derby twist. The result? Mint Julep Brownies - triple chocolate brownies laced with bourbon and topped with mint whipped cream and pecans. I have to admit, along with my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes, these Mint Julep Brownies are one of the most mouthwatering desserts I've ever concocted. To ensure that these were extra delish, I hunted down a serious throwback recipe from now-defunct Gourmet magazine. Check it out...

Triple Chocolate Bourbon Brownies
*Adapted from Gourmet circa 1992
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3/4 C unsalted butter
1 1/2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
1 tsp salt
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
2 tbsp bourbon
1/2 C chopped pecans, for garnish

In a double boiler* slowly melt the bittersweet chocolate and the unsweetened chocolate with the butter, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. This is one instance where my favorite appliance won't be necessary.

Since brownies are based on a 'stir until just combined' mantra, the stand mixer is just overkill. Instead, use a little elbow grease and get 'er done yourself. Stir in the sugar, vanilla and bourbon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Stir in the salt and the flour, mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips (Note: I had like 4 boxes of semisweet Baker's chocolate in my pantry. Instead of springing for a bag of semisweet morsels, I just chopped 2 oz of the Baker's chocolate and gently stirred it into the mixture. Delish). Pour the batter into a generously buttered and floured 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Smooth the top and bake the mixture in the middle of a preheated 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Let the mixture cool completely in the pan on a rack and cut it into squares. Serve with mint cream and garnish with pecans.

Mint Whipped Cream
2 C heavy whipping cream
1/2 C confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with an electric hand mixer, beat the heavy cream and sugar together. (Note: I used my stand mixer with the whisk attachment - not the paddle...a nice change, if you ask me). Add vanilla and mint and mix on medium speed until peaks begin to form. Mix until whipped cream like, but don't overmix, as the cream will eventually turn to butter. The whole process took about 3-5 minutes, but keep a close eye on it. Dollop onto brownie square and prepare to add Mint Julep Brownies to your all-time favorite dessert list. Oh, and don't even think that you'll ever be going back to canned whipped cream after this. Just toss that can of Redi-Whip right away. Whether mint or regular, homemade is really the only way to go.

So what do you think? Do you have any special Kentucky Derby traditions? What did you do for this year's race? And more importantly, what did you eat?

*Since I don't have stainless steel mixing bowls, I used a giant saucepan on top of a small saucepan filled with simmering water. Perhaps it wasn't the prettiest set up, but it got the job done-zo.