Posts Tagged 'Christmas'

Barrington Mints

Who says cream cheese mints are only for weddings?

I came across the recipe for Barrington Mints as I was paging through my copy of The Rocky Mountain Sweet Shoppe Cookbook a few weeks ago.  I’ve only ever sampled cream cheese mints on Midwestern wedding dessert tables, but they seemed easy and festive enough to fit the Christmas bill.  Despite a mild misadventure (I’ll tell you after the recipe!) and an extreme piping strength requirement, I was pretty pleased with the results.

Barrington Mints
Makes 150 mints

Ingredients:
8 ounces soft cream cheese (I used Philadelphia regular)
6 tablespoons soft butter (I used unsalted)
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 drops red food coloring (Mine is pretty strong, so I used only one)

Method:
Melt the cream cheese with the butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.  Turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the burner, and stir in about 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, food coloring, and vanilla. (My note: Add peppermint here as well.)  Stir in the rest of the sugar until well blended.

Line a large baking sheet with wax paper.  Push mint mixture into a pastry bag, icing syringe or squeeze bottle with a decorative tip.  Create desired shapes for mints.  Let set 1 hour.

Store between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month, or in the freezer up to 4 months.  Do not store at room temperature.

Barrington Mints

Aren’t they pretty?  They taste just like other cream cheese mints I’ve tried: sweet, minty, and melt-in-your-mouth creamy.  Despite Dr. O’s raging sweet tooth, we are never going to get through this many mints; thankfully, we have a few dinner guests coming later this month who might be willing to help.

As for the misadventure, I had piped 20 or 30 mints when I realized that I hadn’t added the peppermint extract.  I just realized (as I was typing this post), that what seemed like a spacey mistake was probably actually the result of the fact that they don’t specifically mention adding the peppermint in the recipe instructions. Whoops.  Anyway, I just tossed my mixture back in the pot, turned the heat on medium-low, added the peppermint extract, and then stirred the mixture for a minute or two until I was confident that it was pretty evenly incorporated.  Problem solved.

It’s also worth noting that I had to let these set in the refrigerator (not on the counter) so they would firm up enough to hold their shape when I pulled them off of the wax paper.  Since they get softer the longer they sit at room temperature, I would probably put a plate of these out when I serve dessert rather than have them sit on a buffet for hours.

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Update: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

I absolutely loved these cookies when I posted them originally, and I think I love them even more now. We went to a pig roast/crawfish boil last night and I turned out a full batch to bring to the party. When I made them last time, they were amazing, but they were pretty flat. Yesterday, they were puffy, gorgeous, AND delicious.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

I think my butter was colder this time around, which meant the cookies didn’t spread as quickly as they did last time. The recipe calls for room temperature butter; instead, I pulled a stick out of the fridge and microwaved it for 10 seconds on each of the 4 sides of the stick using the lowest power setting possible (that’s level 1 on my microwave). I slightly tweaked the baking time as well… I rotated my sheets at 4 minutes and 30 seconds and then baked the cookies for 4 minutes and 15 seconds more.

I used my small ice cream scoop again, and I ended up with 53 cookies. (*All* the batter made it to the baking sheet this time… I’m not sure I can say that for last time!) They were disappearing at an amazing rate last night at the party, so this recipe is definitely a crowd pleaser. I can’t wait to have an excuse to make these cookies again!

Recipe link: Peanut Butter Oatmeal Monster Cookies

Chocolate and Nut Yule Log

I was feeling particularly festive this week, so I decided to give the Chocolate and Nut Yule Log from the December 2007 issue of Everyday Food a try. The recipe isn’t particularly easy, but I had good luck with it. My mosaic teacher made me nervous when she asked if I had made one before (no) and then proceeded to discuss how you can repair the cake if you break it. Eek.

Anyway, I started by coating a 10 x 15-inch jelly-roll pan (just a rimmed baking sheet, really) with nonstick cooking spray. I lined the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and sprayed the top of the parchment with cooking spray before setting the pan aside.

In a large bowl, I whisked 4 egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar until it was pale yellow. (This took several minutes.) I whisked 1/4 teaspoon of almond extract and 1/2 cup of flour into the mixture until everything was just combined. I set that aside as well.

Next, I used my stand mixer to beat 4 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks formed. (A hand mixer would work just fine.) With the motor running, I slowly added 1/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continued beating until the egg whites were stiff and glossy. I whisked 1/3 of the egg whites into the yolk mixture and then gently folded in the rest of the whites with a spatula. I spread this batter evenly in my prepared jelly-roll pan and baked it at 350 F for 15 minutes. (You want to bake it until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed. Based on my Mint Chocolate Brownies experience, I started checking the cake at 10 minutes.)

As soon as I removed the cake from the oven, I ran a knife around the edge of the pan. I dusted the top of the cake with powdered sugar and inverted it onto a clean sheet of parchment paper. I gently peeled off the original lining paper that was then on top of the cake. Starting from a short side of the cake, I gently rolled it (along with the clean sheet of parchment) into a log. I let it cool, seam side down, for 30 minutes.

Once the cake had cooled, I prepared the filling and frosting. I put 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkled it with 1 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin. I set it aside to soften for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, I whisked 1/4 cup of Nutella and 1/4 cup of heavy cream together in a medium bowl. I set that aside as well.

I heated my now-softened gelatin mixture over low heat, stirring until just dissolved. I removed it from the heat and set it aside.

Next, I used my stand mixer to beat 2 cups of heavy cream until soft peaks formed. (Again, a hand mixer would be fine.) With the motor running, I poured the dissolved gelatin mixture over the cream all at once and continued beating for about 30 seconds.

I folded half of the whipped cream into the Nutella mixture to finish the Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling; the remaining whipped cream was the Whipped-Cream Frosting.

I gently unrolled my cooled cake and spread it with the Chocolate-Hazelnut Filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides. I carefully re-rolled the cake (minus the parchment paper) and placed it, seam side down, on a serving platter. I spread the log with the Whipped-Cream Frosting and sprinkled it with 1/2 cup of toasted almonds. At this point, I put it in the refrigerator overnight, loosely covered with plastic wrap.

The next evening, I used a serrated knife to cut the edges of the log off (for a neater appearance) and dusted it with powdered sugar. I went the extra mile and made the marzipan mushrooms recommended in the recipe, using them to garnish the log. Our theory is that logs are in the forest, so these must represent wild mushrooms or something. 🙂

chocolate_and_nut_yule_log.jpg

So here’s the verdict: For what it is, this is tasty. The cake is very light, and the filling and frosting are good. For me personally, though, I tend to enjoy richer desserts with stronger flavors (cheesecake, chocolate, fruit, pastry, etc.). Cake with whipped frosting – however festive – isn’t really my thing. My neighbor said this would be perfect for folks who like lighter-textured desserts that aren’t overly sweet. I think it looks pretty impressive, though, and it was a great baking lesson.

TIPS: Variations of the word “gentle” are all over this post because I think that’s the key to success with this recipe. I can see how the cake might tear or crack if you didn’t roll and unroll it slowly and carefully.

Recipe link: Chocolate and Nut Yule Log

Peppermint Bark

Get ready for more Christmas yummies (already!). Today, I made Peppermint Bark from the December 2005 issue of Everyday Food.

The recipe list is short: 1 pound of chopped white chocolate (NOT chips), 2 cups of Rice Krispies, and 7.5 ounces of peppermints. I started by prepping a baking sheet. I sprayed it with nonstick cooking spray and then lined it with a piece of wax paper. (The cooking spray helps the paper adhere to the pan.) Next, I unwrapped about 45 peppermints, put them in a doubled resealable plastic bag (one inside the other), and pounded the heck out of them. This was the hardest part of the recipe, really. You need a decent amount of force to break those little disks, and there’s really no way around the noise. (My cat was alarmed.) Once they were crushed, I put the pieces in a sieve to remove the fine powder and set them aside.

Next, I put the white chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. (This is my version of a double boiler, which is one item I haven’t added to my collection yet.) I stirred the chocolate occasionally until it was melted, about 5 minutes. I removed it from the heat and stirred in the Rice Krispies.

I transferred the mixture to the lined baking sheet and spread it to the edges with a spatula. I sprinkled the crushed peppermints on top and then gently pressed them into the chocolate with a baking-sheet-sized piece of wax paper. I chilled the bark for 25 minutes in the refrigerator and then broke it into 2-inch pieces. Done!

peppermint_bark.jpg

This peppermint bark is addictive, seriously. The bark itself is softer than I expected, but the peppermints provide a nice crunch. Someone decided to buy out all of the Baker’s white chocolate in the three grocery stores near my home, so I ended up using Ghirardelli baking bars. I’m sure the use of quality chocolate contributed to the “yum” factor.

TIPS: The recipe says to use a rolling pin or a skillet to crush the peppermints. I found that the smooth side of my meat mallet worked best. If you don’t have a sieve, you could use a colander to separate the candy pieces from the powder.

Also, from the sound of the recipe, keeping your cooling time between 20 – 30 minutes is essential. Apparently, the moisture in the refrigerator will ruin the peppermints if the bark is stored there for too long. If you put the bark in an airtight container and keep it at room temperature, you should be able to enjoy it for a week.

Recipe link: Peppermint Bark




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