Cookie Day 2: Peppermint Patties

For the second day of my Twenty-ish Days of Christmas Cookies, I went off the beaten path and chose a recipe that was not listed on epicurious.com’s 25 Days of Christmas Cookies. Digging through the old food magazines, I found an apparantly simple recipe for peppermint patties. Another appealing factor: the only additional ingredients I needed to purchase were peppermint extract and 10 oz. of bittersweet chocolate. Not too many ingredients, this should be easy and quick like the last cookie recipe, right?

The preparation started off simple enough, and maybe that simplicity led me into a false confidence. When I started to knead the filling of the cookies, I couldn’t help but notice that it was extremely brittle, barely sticking together and crumbling at the slightest pressure. I started to wonder, did I beat this too long? Did I make it too hard? Given that this was my first attempt of the recipe, I had no standard for comparison, so I pressed on, trying to quiet the doubts lingering at the back of my mind.

The brittleness of the filling only became more apparant when I started cutting it into small rounds. Although the thicker parts of the filling emerged from the cutting unharmed, the thinner-rolled parts cracked under the pressure of the cutter. I tried to meld the broken pieces back together and hoped that they would hold, but the broken pieces failed to hold together when dipped in the chocolate.

The chocolate. Oh, the chocolate. Although I had glanced at the recipe preparation before baking and knew that I would have to temper the chocolate, I didn’t anticipate how much time the tempering would actually take. After initially melting the chocolate, I waited, and waited, and waited for the temperature to reach 80 degrees, but it just felt like it would never get there. In impatient frustration, I threw the bowl of chocolate into the fridge for 5 minutes, something I knew I shouldn’t do but that I couldn’t help. The temp got down to exactly 80, but it now had a thin film, and I still had to re-boil the water. You can see where this is going. By the time the water was boiling, the temp of the chocolate was below 80, and I had to re-melt the film that had formed on the top of the chocolate.  After all that effort, I didn’t even have enough chocolate for all of the peppermint fillings. I had a couple of ounces left of one bar, so I just melted it quickly without tempering it and covered the rest of the fillings. In the end, everything was put together, but it was not without some frustration and missteps.

So how to the cookies taste? Amazing. Incredible. Melt in your mouth candy sweetness. Jay commented that the finished product was more like candy than a cookie, and it doesn’t take long for you to reach your limit. They taste exactly like the regular peppermint patties, but better, with the subtle added quality of good, fresh ingredients. Maybe the added taste comes from the love and effort required to pull off the finished product.

These cookies really do taste wonderful, but part of me wonders whether or not they are worth the effort. Before abandoning the recipe forever and swearing them off as not worth it, I think I will give this recipe another go, tweak my preparation style a little bit, and learn to be a little more patient.

Peppermint Patties
(original recipe Gourmet December 2007)
NOTE that the recipe calls them candies, not cookies!

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (less than 1 pound), divided
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
10 ounces 70%-cacao bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Equipment: a 1-inch round cookie cutter; a digital instant-read thermometer

Preparation
Make filling:
Beat 2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, shortening, and a pinch of salt using an electric mixer (with paddle attachment if using a stand mixer) at medium speed until just combined. Knead on a work surface dusted with remaining 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until smooth. Roll out between sheets of parchment paper on a large baking sheet into a 7- to 8-inch round (less than 1/4 inch thick). Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes. Remove top sheet of paper and sprinkle round with confectioners sugar. Replace top sheet, then flip round over and repeat sprinkling on other side.

Cut out as many rounds as possible with cutter, transferring to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, gather scraps, reroll, and freeze, then cut out more rounds, freezing them.

Temper chocolate and coat filling:
Melt three fourths of chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from pan and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth. Cool until thermometer inserted at least 1/2 inch into chocolate registers 80°F.

Return water in pan to a boil and remove from heat. Set bowl with cooled chocolate over pan and reheat, stirring, until thermometer registers 88 to 91°F. Remove bowl from pan.

Balance 1 peppermint round on a fork and submerge in melted chocolate, letting excess drip off and scraping back of fork against rim of bowl if necessary, then return patty to sheet (to make decorative ridges on patty, immediately set bottom of fork briefly on top of patty, then lift fork straight up). Coat remaining rounds, rewarming chocolate to 88 to 91°F as necessary. Let patties stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

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