The “Visions of Sugarplums” in my mind have been replaced by peppermint dreams.
I love to put miniature candy canes in hot chocolate or tea during the holidays, but this year, dropping a brand-new bag of candy canes and watching them crack and splinter in their individual wrappers led to a new recipe.
If you have some candy canes that didn't make it home intact or even ones left from last year, consider making the best of them — with chocolate, of course. If you decide to crunch up some whole ones for a recipe, then transfer them to a heavy duty freezer bag and pound them with the flat side of a meat mallet. If you don't have a meat mallet, wrap a hammer with a dish towel and pound the peppermint sideways.
The soft chewy cookies enhanced with peppermint make a perfect after-dinner tidbit: They are just right when you want to finish a meal with a little taste of something sweet.
Peppermint-crusted sugar cookies would be appropriate to the season. Slice-and-bake ones are easy to ring in crushed peppermint. Simply roll the cookie log in crushed peppermint, wrap and chill or freeze to slice later.
No time to make dough? No problem. Pick up prepared sugar cookie dough at your neighborhood grocery. Some come with embedded designs. You could add a crunchy rim by rolling the dough in crushed peppermint before slicing.
I think of mint juleps as a summertime elixir. Minty syrup is poured over crushed ice with a healthy amount of bourbon added at the same time for “punch.” It makes a great seasonal toddy when served with a little candy cane hanging over the side of the glass. Our garden peppermint survived better than my car battery in the last cold blast so I'm definitely going to gather some to make a minty syrup for holiday juleps. Perhaps Santa would appreciate the switch from his usual glass of milk. (Mrs. Claus, too!)
Happy cooking, everyone. May you enjoy some pretty perky peppermint and all the flavors of Christmas this year.
This recipe makes 3 dozen to 4 dozen soft, chewy chocolate cookies with a contrasting peppermint crunch. Pecans, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts or chopped dried fruit may be used, making this a wonderfully versatile recipe. Try it with 2 table
1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (fat-free also works)
½ cup (1 stick) butter
1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips
1 cup flour plus 2 additional tablespoons for coating nuts or dried fruit, if used
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
¾ cup crushed peppermint
• Place condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and extract in glass mixing bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes on high to melt, or place mixture in double boiler and melt over boiling water. Stir until well-blended. Add flour, stirring in additional 2 tablespoons with peppermint. (Coat dried fruit with the additional flour if adding dried fruit.) Allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Bake on middle rack of oven for 7 to 10 minutes. Store
• Cooking notes: More or less peppermint, dried fruit or nuts alone or in combination may be used in this recipe. Dried cherries and chopped almonds with almond extract are one of my favorite variations. I adapted this recipe from an old standby from my Enid friend Mary Helen Iselin. It was featured in “Stir-Ups” 30 years ago and served in so many forms but traditionally using 1 cup of wonderful Oklahoma pecans.
Peppermint Julep Syrup
This is a great little take on the juleps of summer. This version is perfect for celebrating over the holidays. This can be used as a minty sweetener for tea or as a base poured over crushed ice to make a seasonal julep. The recipe makes a generous pint of syrup, enough for 8 juleps, minty sweet tea or minty “mocktail.”
1 pint water
2 cup sugar
2 handfuls fresh picked mint or peppermint miniature candy canes and a few fresh mint leaves for garnish
• Bring water and sugar to a boil in a nonreactive pan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add cleaned stems of fresh peppermint or mint leaves. Press into sugar water mixture. Cover pan with lid and remove from heat to steep. After mixture has completely cooled strain and refrigerate if using within 24 hours or transfer to a container and keep frozen until needed.
• Garnish with a candy cane and fresh mint leaf in a julep cup or simple glass. Pour 1/4 cup of the syrup over crushed ice in an 8 ounce cup or glass and top with bourbon. Stir well.
• Note: You can enjoy the syrup in orange juice or sparkling apple juice for a less spirited “punch.” Use 1 to 2 tablespoons to sweeten tea.