Peppermint might be the cooling flavor of winter, but it’s definitely a go-to for warming our hearts and foods this season.
The plant, a cross between watermint and spearmint, is infused into everything from coffee creamers to popular puddings during the holidays.
Besides hanging candy canes on our holiday trees or using them to adorn our packages, we came up with a few new ways to enjoy peppermint in our seasonal eats and drinks.
Sure, we could buy some peppermint Oreos or a bag of candy cane Hershey’s Kisses, but I joined my friends, members of our Taster’s Choice food panel, Kay Hodnett and Julie Overton-Newland, in developing a few options for our upcoming family buffets.
Hodnett’s specialty for most seasons is creme brulee. We used Ina Garten’s recipe from foodnetwork.com and substituted a cup of Peppermint Bark RumChata for one of the three cups of cream. We added some chopped dark chocolate to the bottom of each ramekin for an extra bit of sweetness. And we garnished each serving with fresh mint leaves and a sprinkle of crushed candy canes. The result was a warm and zesty dessert with a smooth balance of sugary sweetness and creamy liqueur. These will definitely be showing up on our dessert bar this month.
Hodnett also tried splashing a little peppermint oil in a couple of her favorite recipes.
“I order peppermint oil online but I also have peppermint extract that I buy at the grocery store that works fine in all these creations,” she said.
She added some of the peppermint oil to dark chocolate melting on a double boiler for a twist on candy bark. She spread it on a cookie sheet and refrigerated the layer until it was almost hardened. Then she added a few drops of the oil to melting white chocolate and slathered it on top of the chocolate layer. Before it was completely hard, she pressed crushed candy canes into the mixture and refrigerated the entire pan. When it was set, she cut it into pieces for her dessert tray.
“You can break it into pieces but we cut it into shards because I thought it looked prettier,” she said. The bark had perfect texture with the snap of chocolate and bits of crunchy peppermint candy. Foodnetwork.com has several simple bark recipes.
Another treat that will be showing up on the holiday dessert plates at my house are Hodnett’s peppermint meltaways. They are buttery, shortbreadlike cookies with peppermint tones and pink icing. Hodnett added peppermint oil to the batter, a pinch of salt, and doubled the red food coloring in the icing for a brighter look. These cookies melt in your mouth for sure.
Hodnett even used peppermint candies to make a platter for her desserts. She used a pizza pan (sprayed with cooking spray) and placed unwrapped peppermint candies in a layer on the pan. She baked the candies in a 300-degree oven for about 15 or 20 minutes. The candies cooled into a flat disc, perfect for displaying our peppermint works of food art.
We also made peppermint profiteroles. We followed a simple cream puff recipe and added a dash of oil to the batter. Once they were baked and cooled, we sliced each puff, filled them with peppermint ice cream, drizzled chocolate over the top and garnished them with sprinkles of crushed candy cane.
I can’t wait to make these for dessert any evening this holiday season.
Cocktails are Overton-Newland’s specialty. As a part-time bartender, she knows her holiday concoctions. She added splashes of Smirnoff Peppermint Twist vodka to glasses of store-bought eggnog and added some crushed peppermint candies to the top. She used candy canes as stir sticks.
The vodka and candy canes made for another colorful cocktail as well.
Overton-Newland crushed 12 small candy canes in a food processor and used a funnel to put the bits into a fifth of vodka. She gave it a good shake and let it sit overnight. The result was a bright, pink blend that looked as delicious as it tasted. We spread marshmallow fluff along the rims of martini glasses and dipped the glasses in more of the crushed candy canes to garnish the drinks. Overton-Newland put a few drinks in tiny bottles to share with neighbors and family members who won’t be at our dining tables this year.
“I think the peppermint vodka might be fun to add to some hot chocolate, too,” she said. “And the marshmallow fluff and candy cane pieces will work well on coffee cups as well.”
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
For the frosting:
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup crushed peppermint candies
In a small bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in peppermint extract. In another bowl, whisk flour and cornstarch; gradually beat into creamed mixture. Refrigerate, covered, 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
In a small bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in milk, extract and, if desired, food coloring. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over cookies; sprinkle with crushed candies. Store in an airtight container.
Source: Taste of Home
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil and quickly stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until a film forms on the bottom of the pan.
Remove from heat and transfer contents to a bowl to cool slightly, about 3 minutes. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously to entirely incorporate egg after each addition.
For the egg wash, whisk together the remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water. Set aside.
Transfer the pate a choux to a large pastry bag fitted with a ⅝-inch plain tip. Pipe 1 ½-inch rounds onto each prepared pan. Gently smooth the pointed peaks with a moistened finger, rounding tops to ensure even rising. Brush tops with reserved egg wash. Bake until puffs rise and are golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.