Blackberry & Mint Brownie Parfait
The faint sound of a stirring permeate the thin, dirty glass hanging mere inches from my weary body. Stacked pillows and raised blankets do little to keep my slumbering mind dancing in marvelous thoughts and dreams. My tired eyes open with little shock to darkness, the barely blue and gold morning light struggling to reach around the planet and into my room. I give up my fight for sleep, far too curious about the sounds pounding at my window. My feet kick about to shake and free myself from the layers of blankets I’ve carefully constructed throughout the night. Too late to catch the noisy culprits, the distant glitter of a sun-kissed tree line capture my attention.
With my tired eyes half closed, I struggle to pull the nearest pair of jeans up over my legs as I hop about my room. I put yesterday’s shirt on backwards, then on correctly, and drag myself to my bedroom door, grabbing my camera as I pass by my desk. In a race to make it outside, to catch a time of day I rarely ever see, I skip my morning chores, hot cup of coffee, a bite or two of breakfast – not to mention the search for clean clothes – and dart out my backdoor. I close just the screen door to give my cats a change to enjoy the burgeoning morning as well.
Eager feet carry me through the tall St. Augustine and wild flowers that litter my backyard. I fight with the half-century-old gate, dodging low hanging poison oak as I leave my yard and enter the greenbelt. I am welcomed with taller grasses and more menacing wild flowers until I find the barely worn path lining a familiar creek residing feet from my home.
Open fully for the first time, my eyes peer out over the gullied landscape just as the morning sun begins to peak over the distant pines. I trek east towards a bend in the creek and witness bright gold light beginning to scrape the fog forming above the damp, dew-laden grass and slow-crawling creek. A few early risers leapfrog me on the worn dirt path as I lazily move about the blossoming Texas wild flowers dotting the sloped creek bed. I move down the shallow valley to escape the patter of running shoes and the polite hello’s and how-are-you’s of passing neighbors; the whir and gargle of rushing water falling over rocks now fill the air. I watch the flourishing morning and contemplate my own.
I pass around one bend and reach another when I remember the camera hanging off my right shoulder – I forgot about it in my frivolous wandering. I bring the eye piece up to my eye right eye and peer through the lens. My index finger and thumb finger away at the aperture and shutter speed dials, tweaking each until the light meter reads the way I want it to – having learned the quirks of my canon from two years of toting it around I know I need this shot two stops underexposed. I push my damp, grass-clinging Nikes into the soft soil slowly to avoid slipping as I take a couple steps up the slope, looking for that perfect spot. My eye is glued to the camera the entire time as I watch the change in perspective and composition as I move about.
Finally happy where I am, I kneel down just slightly, unmoved by the banana spider sitting on her web to my right and the clicking, hissing bugs to my left. I wait until the sun peaks above a puffy cloud and depress the shutter. I pause – hesitating to pull my eye from the shot composed in my viewfinder – before I drop the camera from my eye. My eyes continue to enjoy the real thing, staring east as fog and mist dance around in the warming morning air, as the sun marauds upwards towards the bright blue heavens, as the once lonely, quiet greenbelt roars to life. I finally glance away and take a look at the screen, smirking in response to the image I’ve managed to capture.
On my way back, an hour or two later – moments I didn’t spend wondering about how much time I was wasting – as the sun sat higher in the sky and the gully lit up, I began to notice fruiting dewberry, strawberry and blackberry plants littering the valley – early fruiting a welcome perk of the unseasonably warm winter. I risk the thorns and hiding creatures to pick a few blackberries, popping most straight into my mouth. As I get closer to my home I begin to collect the berries in both hands, conjuring up thoughts of desserts. Back through my gate, ducking under the poison oak and past the growing grass and wild flowers, I approach my herb garden and notice a burgeoning, out of control, mint plant. I drop the berries in a near-by, unused clay planter and begin picking a few of the leafy branches from my Kentucky mint plant.
Inside I find my eyes staring intensely at the green and dark purples and blacks of my catches – my eyes stare while my mind flips through the recipe book stored deep inside my mind. Eager to try one of my favorite combinations – tart berries with fresh, bright mint – with something new, I decide to repurpose the brownies I baked the night before. With little hesitation I jump into the preparation, confident of the treat these three flavors will create.
If you haven’t noticed, I love pairing strong flavors together in desserts. Here, not only do blackberry and mint shine through in a deliciously pairing that plays with sweet, tart and minty flavors, but the rich chocolate of the brownies creates a wonderfully dark base for the dessert. With your first bite you will get the smooth, rich and chewy bite of scrumptious chocolate and the delicious sweet and tart pop of blackberry – all very normal at this point – and then suddenly the fresh, herby tones of mint and the smooth, creaminess of the mint-infused whipped cream come into play. Together these flavors and elements have created one of my all time favorite desserts.
Blackberry & Mint Brownie Parfait
6-8, 8 ounce tumblers
Stand mixer with whisk attachment (or bowl and whisk)
1 brownie recipe (below)
12 ounces blackberries
3 ounce sugar
2 tablespoons mint leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6-10 mint stems with leaves
3 tablespoons sugar
1. Prepare the brownies according to the recipe and set them aside to cool completely.
2. Prepare the blackberry macerate by putting the blackberries, 3 ounces sugar, 2 tablespoons mint leaves, honey, vanilla extract and water in a bowl. Mix with a fork, mashing some of the blackberries, until everything is evenly distributed. Set aside at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
3. Prepare the mint-infused whipped cream by placing the cream and the mint stems and leaves in a heavy-bottomed pot. Heat the mixture over medium heat just to the scalding stage – don’t let the cream come to a simmer or a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool at room temperature before placing in the fridge to chill completely.
4. Once ready to whip – making sure the cream is cold – strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve – saving the cream but discarding the mint. Place the cream in a bowl and whip at high speed. Once the mixture begins to thicken, slowly add the 3 tablespoons sugar and continue whipping until the mixture forms stiff peaks – this will take longer than whipping normal heavy whipping cream. Set aside.
5. To assemble the parfaits place a few brownie chunks in the bottom of a cup. Spoon the mint-infused whipping cream on top of the brownies and then spoon blackberry macerate onto of the whipped cream. Repeat these steps until the cup is filled to the top (I placed a couple large chunks of brownie and some fresh mint leaves on top for decoration).
Only assemble the parfait just before eating. Store the parts separately refrigerated for up to a couple days (you will have to rewhip the cream a bit if you let it sit longer than a few hours).
While you can use any brownie recipe of your choosing, I suggest using a very fudgey, rich brownie recipe. I’ve used the recipe from my Fudgy Brownie Bites recipe. This time I baked the brownies in one sheet pan to make it easier to cut portions for the parfait.
Fudgy Brownie Bites
Recipe adapted from a Brian Samuels – of A Though for Food - recipe.
Glass or metal bowl
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped
14 ounces sugar
3 1/2 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces 70% cocoa chocolate bar, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, cold
3 3/4 ounces cake flourInstructions:1. Butter a 9×11 pan; preheat an oven to 325°F with a rack in the bottom third of the oven.2. Place the butter in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water (bain marie). When it begins to melt, add the sugar, cocoa powder and chocolate bar. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have completely melted and mixture is completely mixed together–it may still appear a bit grainy.3. Remove the bowl from the bain marie and allow the temperature of the mixture to cool slightly.4. Add the vanilla and stir. Then add each egg, one at a time, mixing well after each to completely incorporate it.5. Add the cake flour and mix until it is completely dispersed. Continue to mix for another minute to ensure the mixture is smooth. The batter will be very thick.6. Pour batter into the pan and spread it out evenly if needed. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 22 to 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out covered in crumbs and a paste-like substance, but not a liquidy looking substance (it should stick to the toothpick and not run or fall off).7. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature.