There’s a bit of story and history behind these Gluten-Free Peppermint Bark Brownies… I first made Peppermint Bark Brownies way back in 2006 in the early days of Cafe Johnsonia. Back then CJ was called Just Recipes. That was a very long time ago in blog years! The idea for the brownies came from my friend, Tania, who brought me dinner after my second baby was born. Along with a delicious soup, she also included the most delicious brownies topped with Andes Mints that had melted together then set back up into a hard topping. I made her recipe several times and we simple could not get enough of them. When December rolled around, I decided to use a homemade peppermint bark instead of the Andes Mints. I took them to party and they were a HUGE hit. And I never stopped making them. They’ve become a staple for the holidays.
Over the years, these brownies have continued to be legendary. Every time we’ve moved to a new place, a new crop of friends and neighbors become recipients and fans when the holidays roll around.
When I became gluten-free several years ago, I started tinkering with my favorite recipes. I perfected my gluten-free brownie recipe and naturally I had to make Gluten-Free Peppermint Bark Brownies too.
Christmas is tomorrow and today I’m spending time with my kids baking up a storm. We’ve got (potential) plans for Linzer Cookies, Sugar Cookies, Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies, Oat Shortbread, and my husband’s favorite, Pfeffernusse. And we may just make another batch of these Gluten-Free Peppermint Bark Brownies too.
Peppermint bark, as just about everyone knows, is a candy made from layers of dark and white chocolate topped with crushed candy canes or starlight mints. And it is utterly addictive in all the good ways. In my recipe, I start with a layer of thick, fudgy brownies then top with semi-sweet and white chocolate chips and a sprinkle of “candy cane dust,” as my daughter calls it.
Sometimes I cut them into small squares that are perfect for eating in two bites; other times I make bigger squares. I can’t quite decide which I like better. This year I decided that I really like popping a square into the microwave to melt the chocolate on top. SO GOOD. I can’t believe we’ve never done that before! So they’re great with that hard peppermint bark on top or a melty puddle of sweet minty chocolate.
In any case, these will always, always be one of our favorites. I hope my kids have good memories of their mama making these every year as I have of making these for them.
Gluten-Free Peppermint Bark Brownies
Brownie recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
For Brownie Layer:
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter
8 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (I like Trader Joe’s the best)
2 cups brown sugar, packed
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (gluten-free)
1 cup gluten-free flour blend (see below)
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour (or other nut blend)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1. For brownie layer: Prepare a 9-by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil that has been greased well, leaving a little overhand to function as handles. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a large heat-safe glass bowl, melt butter and chopped unsweetened chocolate using a double-boiler (or set the bowl over a pan of simmering water), or microwave on 50% power for 30-60 second intervals, stirring often as it melts. Set aside.
3. Place brown sugar and eggs into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes until very light in color and thick. Alternatively, use a hand mixer.
4. With the mixer on low, add the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Stop and scrape down sides, if needed.
5. Add the gluten-free flour, almond meal, and salt. Mix until well-combined. Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is dry and the center is almost set when tested with a toothpick. (If they bake too long, they may become crumbly.)
6. Remove the pan from the oven and quickly sprinkle the semi-sweet chocolate chips over the hot baked brownies. Place back into the oven for a few minutes to allow chips to melt. Spread the chips into an even layer over the brownies. Set the brownies aside to cool before proceeding with the white chocolate layer.
7. When the semi-sweet chocolate is set, melt the white chocolate chips in a double boiler (or carefully in the microwave on 50% power as directed above). Drizzle the white chocolate over the semi-sweet chocolate layer. Use an offset spatula to spread white chocolate to the edges and corners. (If the chocolate layer isn’t quite set, you can also make a swirly pattern with the two chocolates.) Sprinkle the crushed candy canes over the top.
8. Either refrigerate or freeze the brownies until the chocolate is hardened. Use the parchment or foil handles to pull the brownies from the pan. Peel away the parchment or foil. Place the brownies on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to score the surface of the chocolate and then go back and cut through to the bottom. (I used my big chef’s knife.) Depending on the size, you could get anywhere from 20 to 30+ brownies. Serve.
Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Can also refrigerate.
I prefer to use candy canes that are made with natural, vegetable-based dyes rather than artificial ones. But you can use any brand that you like. Starlight or other hard peppermint candies can also be used instead. You’ll need about 1/2 cup crushed candies.
If you would rather make your own gluten-free blend, this one works very well:
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup sweet rice flour (also called glutinous rice flour)
1/4 cup potato starch (or tapioca starch)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
Peppermint Bark Brownies are a very good thing. :)