A Chocolate Mint Tea Room Treasure

Brownies doneBefore malls swallowed up main streets, department stores reigned during the Christmas season. People lined up at display windows around the country to gawk at elaborate renditions of Santa’s village as well as mannequins in sequined party wear. The tea rooms inside that did a brisk business in sandwiches during the year rolled out specialties for the holidays – and shoppers lined up for those, too, including these Chocolate Mint Sticks from L.S. Ayres in Indianapolis, Indiana.

L.S. Ayres Tea Room in its heyday. Source: Indiana State Museum

L.S. Ayres Tea Room in its heyday. Source: Indiana State Museum

Like many department stores, including Thalhimer’s and Miller & Rhoads from my childhood in Richmond, L.S. Ayres closed down in the 1990s. Yet the recreated tea room at Indiana State Museum still serves many of the old specialties. When I visited, I came home with the cookbook L.S. Ayres Tea Room Recipes & Recollections.

I adapted this recipe for Chocolate Mint Sticks because it looked festive — and I didn’t need to shop for the ingredients. These are basically brownies with a double layer of frosting on top. The mint in the bottom and top layer can be overpowering, so start with the mint in the brownies and add to the frosting after you taste a sample. If you don’t have mint extract, use vanilla or almond. Happy holidays!

L.S. Ayres Tea Room Chocolate Mint Sticks
Makes 48 pieces

Brownies in progress2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup sifted flour
2 eggs
Dash salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts [I omitted these]

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees [yes, two hundred fifty]. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler or at half power in the microwave [if you use the microwave, check at 30 second intervals and stir so it doesn’t burn].
3. In a bowl, beat the eggs until frothy and stir in the sugar, chocolate-butter mixture, and peppermint extract.
4. Add the flour, salt and nuts [if using]. Mix thoroughly and pour into the prepared pan. 5. Bake 20-25 minutes until just set in the middle. Cool completely, cover with foil, and refrigerate until ready to make the glaze and toppings.

For the glaze: Melt 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate with 1 tablespoon butter or margarine. Mix thoroughly and dribble over the brownies. Tilt the pan back and forth [or use the back of a spoon as a spreader] until the glaze covers the surface. Refrigerate for at least five minutes.

For the topping: Mix 2 tablespoons of soft butter or margarine with 1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar, 1 tablespoon cream or milk, and 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract [taste first before adding the extract]. Stir until smooth and spread a thin layer over the chocolate glaze. Cut into 48 small pieces.


About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers. Somehow I ended up with a cooking gene that I brought with me from Richmond, Virginia to my current home in Boston, Massachusetts. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir and a novel. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and other American recipes with a past.
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