Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint: Peppermint Bark

Normally I am not a fan of white chocolate, but peppermint bark is what I would have to call a Christmas staple. Home-made peppermint bark has thicker layers and more crunch than the store-bought version, and is cheaper, which is why I choose to make my own. Also, I think peppermint bark is just downright pretty, and that is what holidays should be about, pleasing the senses. 

Peppermint bark

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup crushed candy canes

Line an 8x8 pan with tin foil.
- Melt the semi-sweet chocolate with 1 tablespoon of oil in a double boiler.
- Pour melted chocolate into the pan, be sure the chocolate creates an even layer.
- Refrigerate the pan for 30 minutes.
- Melt the white chocolate with 1 tablespoon of oil in a double boiler.
- Pour melted white chocolate on top of the semi-sweet chocolate, making a second even layer.
- Sprinkle crushed candy canes evenly across the top of the (still melty) white chocolate.
- Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To remove the bark, lift the foil out of the pan and peel away from the chocolate.
- Break into uneven pieces and store in air-tight container in the fridge.

One key to making good peppermint bark is to make sure you sprinkle the candy cane on the top while the white chocolate is still soft. Very important! If the white chocolate is allowed to harden, the candy canes will not stick and will fall everywhere and make a mess when you try to break up the bark. This is an excellent treat to have out on Christmas eve for the family to munch on, or to offer to guests during holiday house visits. I think I'll go eat some right now.


Tata for now,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Peppermint: Christmas Cupcakes

I made these a couple years ago and they were a big hit, so here they are for all of you!

Christmas Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup water
4 peppermint tea bags
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch for egg whites
3 oz dark chocolate
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Boil the water and add tea bags, allow to steep for around 10 minutes (then discard tea bags).
- In a separate bowl mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
- In a double boiler (or a make-shift one composed of two pots) over simmering water combine tea, chocolate, sugar, and butter. Stir until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl. Whisk in egg yolks.
- Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream, beating well between additions.
- In another bowl, beat egg whites and salt until it forms stiff peaks. Fold into the batter.

Fill the cupcake papers about 2/3 full. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Peppermint candy frosting
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon milk
A pinch of salt
A few drops of peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup crushed peppermint candy (I use candy canes)

- In a large bowl, blend together the cream cheese, milk, salt, and peppermint extract. Beat until smooth.
- Gradually add in the powdered sugar, mixing well after each addition.
- Fold in the crushed peppermint candy. Spread on cupcakes.

For more decoration get creative with candy canes or sprinkles. I used extra crushed candy canes this time but I have used whole mini candy canes before as decoration for these and that also works well. These are rich cupcakes. The icing is very sweet and the cupcake is moist and has a distinctive flavor. I hope some of you still have holiday parties that you can use this tasty recipe for.

Cupcakes Galore by Gail Wagman

Tata for now,
L. Mousse

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peppermint: Peppermint Meringue Cookies

Greetings All~
The seasons continue to change and I continue to bake. With the colder weather comes a new theme, peppermint! When I think holiday treats immediately peppermint comes to mind; candy-canes, peppermint hot chocolate, and red and green Christmas cookies. No matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, if you celebrate any at all, it is hard to go wrong or offend anyone with peppermint as a theme. I begin this new theme with what I consider one of the cutest of cookies of all time.

Peppermint meringue cookies

Swiss Meringue
4 egg whites, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 pinches cream of tartar (a pinch is commonly considered to be 1/8 of a teaspoon)
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. and cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
-Put water in a pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- In a heat-proof bowl mix together egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar.
- Place the bowl over the simmering water and whisk ingredients consistently for about 3 minutes.
- Whisk until all the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are warm (not hot).
- Remove mixture from heat and whisk, by hand or electric mixer.
- Begin whisking on a low speed and slowly increase to high speed over about 10 minutes.
- When glossy peaks begin to form add the peppermint extract, mix in.
- Put the meringue in a pastry bag or decorating gun and pipe onto baking sheets in whatever shape makes you happy (I used a large star-shaped tip).

Bake cookies for around 2 hours. They should be firm, but not browned. Remove them from the parchment paper promptly and cool on a wire rack. 

~ As far as presentation goes, I chose to attempt to make half of the cookies pink. Unfortunately, adding the food coloring disrupted the meringue and my pink cookies did not hold their shape as well as the white cookies did. However, I think a little extra cream of tartar and extra whipping could remedy this because, come on, pink meringues are so cute! These work well on a plate or in a bowl, as they aren't squishy and won't lose their shape when all thrown in together. They are also relatively easy to make, as long as you don't mind a lot of whipping, and would make an excellent treat to give out as holiday gifts.

Modified from the Martha Stewart website

Have a mentioned that I love holidays?

Tata for now,
L. Mousse