Thursday, October 25, 2007

Recipes for Homemade Halloween Treats: Mint Meltaways

Halloween is fast approaching, and I have been working on improving some old recipes for homemade Halloween treats. I never buy packaged cookies. Almost every label of a packaged cookie indicates that they contain partially, or now fully hydrogenated vegetable oils. They have to- the hydrogenation keeps them from spoiling on the shelf. But even before the evils of trans fats were realized, I rarely ate a cookie from a package. I stick to the mentality that they are too easy to access if you buy them- you must want them badly enough to go through the trouble of making them from scratch- that's right, no mixes either. Having said that, I am going to contradict this ideal by using packaged cookies in the recipe- a sleeve of graham crackers is in the bottom crust. To make them completely trans fat free, you could either make your own graham crackers or, you could buy trans fat free crackers from Trader Joes or a trustworthy natural food store, double checking the ingredients for partially hydrogenated oils. Unfortunately, hydrogenated fats could be lurking in the ingredients without specifically being listed...

On a recent trip to Safeway, I found that their "honey Graham crackers" indicate they have "0g Trans Fat Per Serving" right on the front of the box. Well we all know that doesn't mean they used no trans fats, there is just less than half a gram per serving. I checked the side of the box for the ingredients and found "interesterified" oil. Wondering what in the heck that was, I brought the box home to investigate. Turns out "interesterified oil" is fully hydrogenated oil mixed with un-hydrogenated oil and no that does not make it partially hydrogenated and so technically there are no trans fats. It still sounds unhealthy to me. Perhaps my best option would be to recreate the crust from scratch, but for now I will publish the recipe using the graham crackers. It is only a trace amount of hydrogenated oil and these are really good!

Mint Meltaways are a triple layer dark chocolate and mint bar cookie that my mom used to make every year for the St. Patrick's day bake sale at my grade school. They were appropriate for that occasion because the middle layer is a bright green. It happens to also be the spooky green of a witches face, which is why I like them for a Halloween spread. The peppermint makes them an easy choice for a fast Christmas treat or for a Holiday cookie swap, so if you don't get around to making them for Halloween, you've got two other Holidays these will be appropriate for.

I was tempted to try bittersweet chocolate for the topping, but it just isn't as good. The bitterness of the unsweetened chocolate contrasts with the sugary sweetness of the mint frosting. Also, an easy way to make graham cracker crumbs without getting a food processor dirty is to place them in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin or heavy glass to crush them into crumbs.

Mint Meltaways

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup sweetened coconut (I used Angel Flake)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring
2 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch of salt
Green food coloring

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

To make the crust, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat in a medium saucepan. Stir in sugar, salt, egg, and vanilla. Add the cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Mix well and press into a prepared 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and then place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

For the frosting, beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the food coloring until it is the green of a witches face. Spread over the cooled crust and then refrigerate until the frosting has set.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and immediately pour over the cooled layer of frosting, spreading to cover the bars with a thin coat of chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate has set and cut into squares.

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