Hi. My name is Andrea and I am addicted to Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark during the month of December. Cost Plus World Market carries the dark chocolate variety, so I stock up every year. I don’t gorge myself on it, but I savor a square here and there as if peppermint bark was the most treasured treat in the world.
Back when I ate gluten, I would simply use Ghirardelli brownie mix to make delightful peppermint bark brownies. They were perfect to bring to parties and holiday gatherings. Since I no longer eat gluten, and everyone was talking about the gluten-free Katharine Hepburn version, I thought it would be easy to find a recipe that would be everything the Ghirardelli mix was. I was wrong.
Finally, after several attempts at making a gluten-free brownie, I came up with the recipe that tastes amazing, doesn’t crumble and has a smooth texture. I started out with what I believed were the best ingredients available: organic coconut oil, Dagoba chocolate which was labeled “gluten free,” and an excellent quality gluten-free blend of flours. The results were disappointing. The flavor was delectable, but the texture was grainy and just plain unacceptable.
On my second try, I switched to using butter instead of coconut oil. I added almond butter in place of almond flour. The brownies never seemed to get done until they were overcooked, and while the flavor was downright awesome, these crumbled apart.
After several days off from trying to bake brownies, I attempted it again. I noticed that the Dagoba chocolate melted with a funny texture rather than smoothly in both coconut oil and butter, so I traded it in for Baker’s dark chocolate squares. Baker’s is a Kraft product, which normally would not be a good thing to me, but Kraft doesn’t lie about gluten content and their pure cocoa baking chocolate has none. I also decided to switch flours. The minute I pulled the third attempt brownies out of the oven, I knew I was holding success in my hands. I could see it just by looking.
The other modification that I made was to grind the organic turbinado sugar in my mini food processor to get a finer, almost powdered, grain. I wanted to try making the brownies with piloncillo instead of sugar, but that will happen next time.
5 ozs. dark baking chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup turbinado sugar, ground in the food processor to a fine consistency
1/2 cup Pamela’s gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (add 3/4 cups instead for more cake-like brownies)
1/2 cup natural almond butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp. pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 splash almond extract (optional)
1 1/2 bars Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare a glass baking dish (8×8) by rubbing butter on the sides and bottom, or use parchment paper to line it.
2. Over low heat in a nonstick sauce pan, melt the baking chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t burn or stick. Remove from heat immediately once melted.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the gluten-free flour, sugar, almond butter, salt, baking soda, beaten eggs and vanilla and thoroughly combine.
4. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and stir until it combines and thickens.
5. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan and place in the preheated oven. Arrange squares of 1 bar of Ghirardelli Peppermint bark over the surface in a checkerboard pattern. Save the other half bar for later. Cook for 15 minutes.
6. Remove from the oven. Gently drag the tip of a butter knife through the surface of the brownies in both directions to create a pattern with the melted peppermint bark candy bar. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 25 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and let cool. When almost cool, crumble the remaining half candy bar over the surface of the brownies.
8. Enjoy this gluten-free dessert with a cold glass of your favorite milk. Mine is almond-coconut blend.
*Note: Most chocolate bars contain no gluten ingredients, but many are processed on shared equipment that creates a risk for cross-contamination exposure to gluten. Ghirardelli makes only one product that contains gluten, and they clean the equipment thoroughly after running a batch of that product. If you have celiac disease or are highly gluten sensitive, exercise caution when eating any chocolate products.
Read this article about gluten in chocolate bars for more information.