The Peppermint Patty Project

A few weeks ago, some of you expressed interest in learning more about making peppermint patties, those chocolate enrobed, creamy mint confections that many of us grew up with. (I loved unwrapping the foil as a kid and taking that first bite.) Interestingly, the "feel the cool sensation" candies made an appearance in two foodie magazines this month, and last night, I made good on my promise to give them a test run in my own kitchen.

I chose the recipe from Saveur (the other appears in Gourmet) because it involves making the fondant center, an interesting and enlightening lesson on cooking sugar and dairy to very high temperatures and then playing with it on a marble slab.





Homemade peppermint patties: Worth the work. (Kim O'Donnel)

Now about that slab: You really need one for this project, but you don't need to drop a bunch of money (Williams-Sonoma wants $129 and Sur La Table wants $39.95.) Instead, I headed to the nearest Home Depot and picked up a 12x12 marble floor tile for $4.99. In hindsight, I should have purchased two tiles, giving me a 24x24 workspace, but it worked like a charm (and ultimately easier on the wallet).

A few things happened along the way: My first batch of fondant (yes, there was more than one attempt) was not cooked long enough -- and I blame the larger, two-quart saucepan, which was too deep for the candy thermometer to submerge in the mixture and give an accurate reading. I also didn't let the mixture sit for a few minutes before pouring onto the slab, an error which I corrected the second time and achieved success.

So the two lessons so far are: small (about one quart) saucepan, and a little breathing meditation time for the fondant before ye olde slab.

Oh, another thing, well maybe two more things: Place a towel that you don't really like under the slab, not only to keep it stationary but also to catch escaping fondant over the edges. As you pour the fondant onto the marble, do not bother getting all the stuff on the sides or on the bottom of the pan; this is crystallized sugar and will make your candy grainy. Trust me, I learned the hard way.

Have two heat-proof rubber spatulas on hand and start scraping the fondant. If it's been cooked long enough, it will respond, quickly thicken up and eventually start looking like a paste.

At this point, it's helpful to have a partner join you for dipping the candy. While you shape the fondant into small disks (I also experimented with a won ton shape), your partner can man the stove,where he/she's got a double boiler of melted, tempered chocolate at the ready. The dipper should have two small, dessert-size forks, one for dipping, the other to help with excess chocolate. Have your baking sheets all set up and your candy assembly line can begin.

Another lesson learned: Keep fondant in reserve covered, even with a towel, to keep from drying out. Oh, and one more: The candies need at least one hour for the chocolate to harden and create its shell.

So how do they taste? Good, with lots of potential for greatness. I am going to do it again later this week. They are slightly grainy, which I think I can correct. But the flavor is out of sight -- the organic peppermint extract really comes through, offering that renowned cool, refreshing kapow on the tongue -- and I love how it complements the rich, dark chocolate robe. If you're looking for a fun project this week, give this one a whirl!

Today is chat day; join me at Noon ET for What's Cooking.

Peppermint Patties

From the December 2007 issue of Saveur, with my kitchen notes in parentheses

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I think superfine sugar would be better, more efficient melting)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
6 drops green food coloring (I opted not to use)
2 cups dark chocolate of choice, chopped and melted in a double boiler (I used in lieu of semisweet chocolate chips; 2 cups equals about 10 ounces)

Method
In a one-quart saucepan (I highly recommend a smaller pan so that thermometer is submerged in mixture, resulting in more efficient cooking), combine sugar, cream, milk, butter and cream of tartar and stir over low heat just until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pan; cook, without stirring until mixture arrives at soft-ball stage (236-240 degrees), about 12-14 minutes (it took me closer to 30 minutes).

Pour sugar mixture gradually onto a marble slab. (Do not scrape sides of pan, as you'll add sugar crystals to your fondant, giving candy a grainy result.) Using two heat-proof spatulas, scrape mixture back and forth to make a fondant, moving it across the marble quickly until it becomes thick and just cool enough to touch, 3-4 minutes. At this point, you can add peppermint and coloring (if using).

Gather fondant in a ball; knead until it resembles smooth dough, another 3-4 minutes. (If it becomes powdery, work in a few drops of water) Shape fondant into disks, about 1 1/2 inches wide, 1/3 inch thick, and keep unshaped fondant covered while you work. (A dough scraper is useful at this point.)

Coating Candy: Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of a few inches of barely simmer water. Ideal dipping temperature for chocolate is 88-91 degrees.

Using a small fork, dip fondant disks into chocolate and submerge, allowing excess to drip off. Place on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Allow chocolate candies to set, at least an hour. Store in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper, in a cool place (I've got mine in the fridge).

Makes about three dozen.

Peppermint Patties
From the December 2007 issue of Saveur, with my kitchen notes in parentheses

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I think superfine sugar would be better, more efficient melting)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk (I used 2 percent)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
6 drops green food coloring (I opted not to use)
2 cups dark chocolate of choice, chopped and melted in a double boiler (I used in lieu of semisweet chocolate chips; 2 cups equals about 10 ounces)

Method
In a one-quart saucepan (I highly recommend a smaller pan so that thermometer is submerged in mixture, resulting in more efficient cooking), combine sugar, cream, milk, butter and cream of tartar and stir over low heat just until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, without stirring. Attach a candy thermometer to inside edge of pan; cook, without stirring until mixture arrives at soft-ball stage (236-240 degrees), about 12-14 minutes (it took me closer to 30 minutes).

Pour sugar mixture gradually onto a marble slab. (Do not scrape sides of pan, as you'll add sugar crystals to your fondant, giving candy a grainy result.) Using two heat-proof spatulas, scrape mixture back and forth to make a fondant, moving it across the marble quickly until it becomes thick and just cool enough to touch, 3-4 minutes. At this point, you can add peppermint and coloring (if using).

Gather fondant in a ball; knead until it resembles smooth dough, another 3-4 minutes. (If it becomes powdery, work in a few drops of water) Shape fondant into disks, about 1 1/2 inches wide, 1/3 inch thick, and keep unshaped fondant covered while you work. (A dough scraper is useful at this point.)

Coating Candy: Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of a few inches of barely simmer water. Ideal dipping temperature for chocolate is 88-91 degrees.

Using a small fork, dip fondant disks into chocolate and submerge, allowing excess to drip off. Place on a parchment or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Allow chocolate candies to set, at least an hour. Store in an airtight container layered between sheets of parchment paper, in a cool place (I've got mine in the fridge).

Makes about three dozen.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 18, 2007; 10:08 AM ET Candy , Winter Holidays
Previous: A Merry - and Gluten-Free - Cookie For All | Next: Home Coffee Brewing 101

Comments

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good post. not for nothing, but you'd need 4 slabs to get 24 x 24.

i'm an average cook but a lights-out tetris player. pax!

Posted by: oops | December 18, 2007 10:55 AM

I made the Gourmet peppermint patties a few weeks ago, and they were fabulous. Easy too. The recipe can be had via epicurious.com, search for peppermint patties.

Posted by: Amy | December 18, 2007 11:00 AM

Is there something missing from the first sentence of the instructions? Something perhaps, before the comma?

Posted by: Harrisburg | December 18, 2007 11:01 AM

Thanks Harrisburg, just fixed this typo.
And oops: I was never very good at math. But two slabs are def. recommended over one!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 18, 2007 11:06 AM

Kim, you mentioned organic peppermint extract. What's your source for this? I would like to buy some and try this recipe at my parents' house (Silestone countertops make the marble tiles unnecessary).

Posted by: Missy | December 18, 2007 12:36 PM

Hmmm, I don't know if I have Peppermint extract, but I just bought some spearmint to make cream cheese mints. I wonder how a "spearmint patty" would taste?

Posted by: Meg | December 18, 2007 1:25 PM

Missy: I got my hands on a bottle of extract from Flavorganics, a brand of certified organic stuff that will clear your sinuses. Lovely!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 18, 2007 1:41 PM

I made the Gourmet recipe on Sunday without success. The warm dipping chocolate rendered the chilled fondant discs too soft to keep their shape and I ended up with amorphous blobs of candy instead of patties. Recipe only called for freezing discs for 10 minutes, perhaps freezing until hard would have helped.

Posted by: BaltoGal | December 18, 2007 3:11 PM

Thanks for all the great holiday recipes -- it seems like my boyfriend is demanding another batch of the walnut cookies every time I turn around (he can eat 12 at a time very happily).

Do you think the gingerbread recipe from yesterday would build a good house, or should I just use regular flour since we probably won't eat it in the end? Do I have to worry about shrinkage or spreading during baking?

Posted by: KitchenCat | December 18, 2007 3:56 PM

KitchenCat,
I don't know of this recipe's house-building strength. I would recommend something a little sturdier. Have a look at link below to recipe I've used for making ginger shacks.
Re: shrinkage for cookies: there is very little.

http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A171629

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 18, 2007 4:06 PM

This recipe looks lovely - I saw a similar one on recipezaar which calls for sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and peppermint extract for the fondant. You form it into patties and let them dry for a while, but I bet chilling afterwards would make them even more stable when it's time to do the enrobing.

Secondly, I missed the chat this morning, but wrt the person who was asking about the comparative merits of chocolate Guinness cake versus gingerbread: having made the cake, I would not hesitate to put a half teaspoon of powdered ginger into the batter. It is really lovely and dark and moist, like a good gingerbread, with a dark intense flavor that would easily adapt to some ginger.

Posted by: Sass in Arlington | December 18, 2007 4:13 PM

Hey Kim,

Unrelated to the blog - I can't find your chat from today - the first entry is there and then nothing. I can tell you did the chat - I just can't read it!

Posted by: Washington, DC | December 18, 2007 5:18 PM

Kim -- Thanks for the link -- including the frosting solution no less. Your house looks really cute.

Speaking of links -- I am only getting the first couple of lines of today's chat when I load the page and if there was a discussion of chocolate Guinness cake, I am going to need to get baking!

Posted by: KitchenCat | December 18, 2007 5:20 PM

We made these on Sunday night. We made them with our kids as a homemade gift project. We put them in a pretty red box, tied it with bow, and off they went to the teachers.

Bettina
http://loulies.com

Posted by: Loulies.com | December 19, 2007 10:46 AM

Thanks for sharing this recipe and your experience, Kim. Wish I'd seen this before Christmas.

Posted by: Pila | January 4, 2008 12:12 AM

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