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Hi!

Welcome to The Basil & Cinnamon Sagas! I'm Alexa, and I am a food and travel blogger who loves cooking, baking, eating, and storytelling. Enjoy reading and eating your way through the Sagas found here!

Fresh Mint Brownies with Mint Buttercream

Fresh Mint Brownies with Mint Buttercream

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We're getting into that spring/summer farmers' market season, which is still something of a novelty for me. Growing up where I did, we didn't really have farmers' markets near us. One summer, they held a tiny little farmers' market in our town in my church's parking lot, and it was glorious but short-lived. Otherwise, my farmers' market experiences were reserved to vacations to warmer, less arid places, or trips down into the city.

Luckily for me, I've noticed that farmers' markets seem to be a novelty to almost everyone, even people who visit them week after week. There's a certain air of mystery that surrounds them, akin to the feeling you get when you wake up on Christmas morning--you know that there's something good waiting, but you're not sure exactly what it's going to be until you get there and see it.

That's a farmers' market. While your favorite farmers and artisans may return again and again, the products they have available each time change with the shifting seasons. And sometimes new booths open up, bringing something entirely unexpected. You can go to the same farmers' market routinely and still see, hear, and taste something different each trip.

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I have a few farmers' market favorites. I always love the pasta stands, because hello, I'm me. Pasta is my lifeblood. I love looking through the different flavors that they're able to come up with and incorporate into pasta dough, and sampling the ones that pique my interest. Tomato and basil, spinach, roasted red pepper, garlic and cracked black pepper, even wilder options like squid ink and fruit pasta--these are gems you really only find at farmers' markets (at least in America, anyway).

I also always find my way over to the honey stands. Honey mesmerizes me. It is astonishing how different it can taste based on where the bees harvested the nectar and pollen from. Cheri from Blue Pearl Farms is a local farmer and beekeeper near Charleston, and her honey is incredible. Last time at the farmers' market, I tasted three of her honey varieties: three varieties from the same producer, from the same general area in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, and all three of them were wildly diverse in taste, texture, and thickness (all three of them were also delicious). The simple fact that the bees harvested their nectar from the swamps vs. the blueberry patches changed everything about the individual honey variety, and I love that. It makes honey into diamonds, a result of its environment.

One last thing that always enchants me at farmers' markets are the colors of the fresh herbs. This might give you pause: for the most part, herbs are green, and this color doesn't really stand out in comparison to the exotically colored fruits and vegetables found in most farmers' markets. So why do I always notice them?

Its because they're not just green, they're green. Each fresh herb has its own vibrant shade, and the natural subtleties in the plants captivate me: the lush, rainforest green of basil leaves; the muted, almost blue-tinged green of rosemary; the feathered green of dill; sage's softly purple-tinted leaves; the tropical lemon-lime of lemon thyme. The fact that one color can organically appear in so many varied shades seems like something of a hidden miracle, privy only to those who take the time to stop and notice. The different shades of green feel bigger than the herbs they reside on; to me, they serve as a reminder of the wild beauty and power found in nature. A human artist would have to labor over pigments and dyes to make these specific and differentiated shades, but nature creates them effortlessly. 

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Green makes me feel irrevocably connected to the natural world, centered. And while I'm particularly partial to basil (obviously), there's nothing quite like the green found on mint leaves. In sunlight it is bright, nearly to the shade of a lime; in low light, it takes on a cooler, darker, almost-forest hue. The color of mint is fearless and grounding. It soothes. And this is all only regarding vision: when your other senses enter the picture--the sharp-tang taste and fragrant-spiced smell--mint becomes exponentially more alluring.

Why am I waxing poetic about mint leaves? Because while it is touted as a winter flavor, and certainly it is a delicious indulgence in the cold-weather months, spring is actually a time when mint grows in abundance. I've seen its captivating shade appearing on grocery store shelves and in farmers' market booths more and more frequently as spring arrives in earnest. 

So naturally, I decided to add it to chocolate because everything is better with chocolate. Life is better with chocolate. And thus, I present this post's recipe: Fresh Mint Brownies with Fresh Mint Buttercream.

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Let's talk about the recipe for a second. Picture: gooey chocolate brownies made with butter infused with cool, fresh mint and studded with chocolate chips, topped with a spread of dreamy buttercream frosting that's also infused with mint. Sound alright? Thought so.

However, if the words "butter infused with mint" spooked you, allow me to assuage your fears. Infusing mint into butter is the easiest thing ever: it takes 35 minutes, and 30 of those are cooling time where you don't have to do anything but let it sit. The other 5 minutes require occasional stirring; once again, not strenuous. I believe in your capability to handle it. Besides, then you can sound like a total kitchen boss when you casually tell people that, "Oh, I infused mint into butter to make these brownies, no big deal." 

These mint brownies are spectacularly delicious all on their own, but if you're a frosting person or if you have extra time and feel like casually infusing more mint-butter like a boss, they're also good with the buttercream on top. If you're going that route, I suggest doing one batch of mint-infused butter and then doing the second while the first cools, so that the second batch has time to cool completely before you use it to make buttercream. That way you don't end up with loose, runny buttercream from the butter being too warm still when its mixed in--gross.

These brownies are a great Christmas treat, or a January/February/why-is-it-still-winter-outside treat. They're also an amazing venue for all that fresh mint flooding into farmers' markets in the spring. Honestly, the cooling effect of mint also makes them a pretty tasty summer dessert as well; I guess what I'm saying is these chocolate dreams are a year-round good idea!

Let me know if you make them! Shoot me an email, take a picture and tag me on Instagram @thebasilandcinnamonsagas + #thebasilandcinnamonsagas, or leave a comment--I'd love to hear what you think. I'm really excited about this recipe, if you couldn't tell. :) 

Happy spring, happy farmers' market hunting, happy mint-infusing!

xoxo Alexa

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Fresh Mint Brownies with Fresh Mint Buttercream


Makes: 1 pan of brownies (16 small brownies or 12 large brownies)

Takes: 1 hour and 15 minutes for just the brownies, 1 hour and 50 minutes for brownies and buttercream

The Characters:

For the brownies:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • A handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 heaping cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the buttercream:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • A handful of fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 & 1/2 Tbsp. milk

The Saga:

For the brownies:

  1. Put 1/2 cup butter and a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves into a saucepan over medium heat. Melt, stirring occasionally, until butter is frothy and slightly brown and mint is fragrant, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat and allow butter to cool with mint in it for 30 minutes. Then, strain the mint leaves out of the butter.
  3. Preheat oven to 350Β°. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9" baking pan with vegetable oil.
  4. To a bowl, add butter, vegetable oil, and sugar and whisk together.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.
  6. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir just enough to mix in.
  7. Add a heaping 1/2 cup of flour and mix until batter is smooth, then add cocoa and mix until batter is again smooth.
  8. Stir in chocolate chips and pour batter into the greased baking pan.
  9. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until brownies have set enough that a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs but not uncooked batter. Note: Do not overbake; brownies will continue to bake slightly in the pan after being removed from the oven. 
  10. Remove from oven and let cool before frosting and slicing.

For the buttercream:

  1. Put 1/2 cup butter and a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves into a saucepan over medium heat. Melt, stirring occasionally, until butter is frothy and slightly brown and mint is fragrant, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and allow butter to cool with mint in it for 30 minutes. Then, strain the mint leaves out of the butter. Allow butter to cool for another 20 minutes. Tip: Make the butter for the frosting before you mix together the brownies, so that the butter can cool while the brownies cook & cool.
  3. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix butter, vanilla, and milk together.
  4. Mix slowly, gradually adding in the powdered sugar until you have a smooth buttercream frosting. 
  5. Spread the buttercream over the cooled brownies. Slice and enjoy!

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