Thursday, November 15, 2012

'Tis the season of peppermint! (3)

I feel out of practice at this.

It's been a long time, as you know, since I've sat down at the computer with the sole goal of updating you on a recipe that I want to share. But on this rapidly-becoming-cloudy afternoon, with my sleeping sick daughter upstairs, I decided that I would attack a post. Only to discover that even the format of Blogger has changed since my last post! (I dislike change.)

It's weird though, because in a way I haven't stopped blogging. I use my recipe index regularly and I refer people to it sometimes. Though I (obviously) haven't been writing them down when I think of them, turns of phrase that I like, and that I want to share, appear in my head with some frequency (R wrote about this feeling before she closed up shop some months ago). And often when I'm cooking, whether it's something new or something old, I think about whether it would be a good recipe to share on this space.

Last week, in preparation for a lovely weekend away with friends in northern Sonoma County, I made, by special request, these peppermint marshmallows. We enjoyed them with hot cocoa one night, after a day that involved visiting an amazing bakery (also immortalized here) for provisions for a picnic at the picturesque winery where S's brother works. The girls had a great time together all weekend.

As a side note, E is obsessed with her rainboots. Who wouldn't be? H tried them on herself several times during the weekend. (It remains to be seen whether her parents will capitulate.)

On a weekend where we spent a lot of time eating and drinking (and planning our eating and drinking), it seems wrong to focus in on only one recipe. Be that as it may, I present to you one of my new standard winter recipes. You can probably guess that it includes peppermint (and chocolate). I first read about it on a blog that inspires me a while ago, but I very much disagree with her assertion that this candy is good for sending cross-country as a gift. To me, this peppermint bark should be stored in the refrigerator, and really only eaten directly from there. If not, the crisply cut triangles pretty quickly become a melty mess. Also, I think there's something refreshing about icy peppermint candy served icy cold. (Short trips in the car from one refrigerator to another are also acceptable.)

We had easy access to the bark in the fridge all weekend, and we all agreed that it was delicious—whether at 10am, after dinner, with coffee, as an appetizer before dinner. There wasn't much left to take home.

Do you see that pretty, glistening peppermint topping? My first, and best, improvement to this recipe is to outsource the peppermint to King Arthur. Their peppermint crunch (which seems to have changed packaging this season) is so easy to use and lasts so well. My days of loudly smashing candies with a heavy jar and chasing errant peppermint bits across the kitchen counter are, thankfully, over. Yours can be too.

My second improvement to the recipe is to can the candy thermometer. There is no reason that you need a candy thermometer for melting chocolate, especially if you aren't going to temper the chocolate. [Calms down. Steps off of high horse.]

The weather is getting colder. Candy-making season is getting closer. Even now, a delicious peppermint treat could be waiting for you in your fridge, tempting you, allowing you too to conduct a controlled experiment about which time of day it tastes best. Enjoy!

Peppermint Bark

Makes: around 36 candies
Time: 30 minutes active, 1 hour 20 min total

16 oz. white chocolate
1/2 c. peppermint crunch
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate
6 T. cream
3/4 t. peppermint extract

Turn a large rimmed baking sheet over, and cover the bottom securely with foil. Mark out a 9 x 12 inch rectangle.

Melt the white chocolate in a metal bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a double boiler. Once melted, evenly spread approximately half of the white chocolate onto the marked-out rectangle with a spatula (silicone or icing spatula work well). Sprinkle 1/4 c. peppermint crunch evenly over the white chocolate. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the bittersweet chocolate and cream in a separate pot until evenly mixed. Add the peppermint extract and cool for 5 minutes. Then spread evenly over the white chocolate/peppermint mixture. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Melt the white chocolate again. Spread evenly over the chocolate and sprinkle remaining peppermint crunch evenly. Chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Cut the candy into triangles (or other shapes if desired). First, cut off misshapen edges with a long, sharp knife to form clean lines. Then cut into 2 inch wide strips both horizontally and vertically, and cut each rectangle crosswise into two triangles. Candy keeps, in a sealed container in the fridge, for 1-2 weeks.

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