What is it with mint in desserts? I’ve never understood its appeal. Mint chocolate chip ice cream? For me, it’s like eating toothpaste with chocolate. Sure, there have been a handful of times when I had a thin mint after dinner because someone offered them, but it didn’t feel like dessert. It was more like chewing gum after dinner. (As I am writing this I am realizing that I sound very much like our French friends who complain about Americans’ obsession with cinnamon in desserts. Je vous comprends mes amis, finalement!)
So when Melissa Clark posted a new video on the New York Times website where she made mint chocolate squares, I watched it (because I will watch anything with her in it) and then forgot about it. I was never going to make them. But a couple of days later I had a sudden inspiration. Why not replace the mint in the recipe with something else? And what goes better with chocolate than orange? So after a few easy replacements, these chocolate orange squares were born.
This isn’t a difficult recipe but it does happen in three steps, so it takes a little bit of time, though most of the time is just waiting for things to cool down or chill in the fridge. The great thing about these, though, is that you can pop them in the freezer in a ziploc bag and whenever you want a sweet bite (emphasis on ‘bite’; these are rich so you won’t be eating them by the handful), you just take one out and leave it on the counter for 20-30 minutes to lose its chill before eating it.
Chocolate Orange Squares – Adapted from the New York Times
Makes 36 squares (or 16 larger ones)
For the chocolate shortbread:
1 cup/125 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
2 tablespoons/15 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
For the orange filling and chocolate top:
3 ¼ cups/405 grams confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons/43 grams unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup/60 milliliters heavy cream
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
9 ounces/255 grams bittersweet chocolate (at least 60 percent cocoa solids), chopped
½ teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of paper to hang over the sides.
2. Make the shortbread: In a food processor, pulse together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Add butter and process until a smooth dough forms. Press dough evenly into the bottom of prepared baking pan. Bake until firm to the touch, and sides of the crust are beginning to pull away from the pan, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.
3. Make the filling: In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine confectioners’ sugar, butter, cream, orange juice, and zest. Beat until mixture forms a thick, smooth paste. Press filling evenly over shortbread. It will be a little sticky. Use an offset spatula and your fingers to coax it into place. Cover with plastic wrap and chill to set the filling for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
4. Use parchment paper overhang to lift the shortbread and filling out of the baking pan and onto a cutting board. Cut into 1 1/2-inch squares (there should be 36 squares). Place squares on a rack placed over a parchment-lined sheet tray, and let them come to room temperature for about 15 minutes.
5. In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt 7 ounces chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat, add remaining 2 ounces chocolate and let sit for 2 minutes.
6. Add coconut oil, if using, and stir the chocolate until smooth. Spoon 1 teaspoon chocolate on top of a cut square, using the back of the spoon to spread chocolate to the edges. Be sure to fully cover the top of the square with chocolate. (Leave the sides exposed, though it’s O.K. if some of the chocolate drips down.) Repeat with remaining squares.
7. Let squares sit at room temperature until chocolate is set, at least 1 hour. Serve them at room temperature or chill in the fridge first. You can also store them in the freezer. Let sit on counter for 20-30 minutes before eating if you freeze them.