When I first moved to Johns Island 15 years ago, giddy with the prospect of almost unlimited gardening on the property, I planted some mint.
Big mistake. Mint knows no bounds in the ground. It took years to expunge the plants from that original spot.
But chocolate mint still grows in the herb bed, and I mostly leave it alone. After awhile, it desensitizes you and you don’t feel guilty when the need arises to rip out some roots. Because it will be back, I promise.
Don’t get me wrong. I love mint. I just learned how to love it better: planted in pots.
We use a lot of fresh mint, especially in the summer, in iced tea and cocktails, in fruit salads and more. Kentucky Colonel, a bright spearmint, is our favorite.
But when Christmas rolls around, we have a taste for peppermint, especially when it’s hooked up with chocolate. What a duo!
So a reader request for holiday sweets made with peppermint or peppermint flavor — cookies, cakes, pies, etc. — was a welcome one.
We heard from a few folks.
Leslie Newman of Johns Island writes, “I am writing in response to the reader’s request for holiday sweets recipes using peppermint extract. I found the following recipe years ago in Southern Living (back when they printed reader-submitted recipes), and it has become a regular on our family’s annual Christmas cookie list.
“The recipe calls for making Christmas wreaths, but when time is tight, I often just take the two batches of tinted dough and roll into 1-inch balls and bake. They still taste good, and they do melt in your mouth!”
Melt-Away Peppermint Wreaths
Yield: 3 dozen
11/4 cups butter, softened
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Red food coloring
Green food coloring
Cream butter; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add flour and mix well. Stir in peppermint extract until thoroughly mixed. Divide dough in half and place in separate bowls. Tint half of dough with red food coloring and the other half with green food coloring (to desired shades).
Roll dough into balls using 1/2 teaspoon per ball. For each wreath-shaped cookie, place six balls in a circle on ungreased cookie sheets, alternating colors. Press together securely. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove to racks and cool completely.
Mary Gruber of Ladson kindly shares two recipes.
“Below is a recipe for Creme de Menthe Brownies that I have been making since the late ’70s. They always taste so good, especially at the holidays.
“Also included is a quick, easy dessert that can be made ahead. Creme de Menthe is a great refreshing after-dinner treat.”
Creme de Menthe Brownies
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 (16-ounce) can Hershey chocolate syrup
Mix above ingredients. Pour into a 9x13-inch greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cool completely. Then, prepare frosting.
2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons Creme de Menthe
1/4 cup butter
Mix together and ice the cooled brownies. Refrigerate.
1 cup chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter
While iced brownies are chilling, melt chocolate chips and butter together. Stir. Cool for 5 minutes and pour over entire Creme de Menthe layer.
Refrigerate until serving.
Easy Creme de Menthe Parfaits
Creme de Menthe liqueur
Vanilla or mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
Whipped cream and maraschino cherries, for garnish
Starting and ending with a drizzle of Creme de Menthe, layer with ice cream in the parfait glasses. Put back in freezer until ready to serve, then top with whipped cream and a cherry.
Note: Also can alternate chocolate and Creme de Menthe.
Carol Scally of Summerville writes, “Here is a recipe I have made for Peppermint Stick Cookies. Not only are the cookies very good, but they are pretty and festive looking.”
Peppermint Stick Cookies
Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies
¾ cup butter
6 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for dipping
1 egg, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 cup crushed peppermint sticks or candies (about 7 candy canes)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees; place a sheet of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Cream butter with 6 tablespoons sugar. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Blend in flour, ¼ cup at a time. Stir in crushed candy by hand.
Beat egg white until frothy.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls.
Dip top of each cookie into egg white, then into extra sugar.
Place on cookie sheet, sugared side up.
Press thumbprint into top of each cookie and top with chocolate chip.
Bake 10-15 minutes.
Here’s another cookie variation from Agnes Nelson of Moncks Corner:
Chocolate-Dipped Peppermint Crescent
Makes 3 dozen crescents
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
11/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup light brown sugar
11/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup crushed peppermint canes
Parchment paper to dry crescents after baked and iced
Preheat oven 350 degrees.
In a bowl, stir together flour and salt. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, 2 minutes.
Beat in egg and pour in dry mixture. Beat just to combine all.
Shape level tablespoon of dough into 21/2-inch logs and bend one end to form a crescent. Place on a baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 15 minutes until lightly brown.
Remove baked crescents to a wire rack and cool completely.
Melt chocolate chips per package instructions in microwaveable bowl. Dip each crescent in melted chocolate on one tip only, allowing excess chocolate to drip off, then sprinkle crushed peppermint over chocolate. Place on parchment paper to dry thoroughly.
Note: To avoid breakage in storing, store them in layers between wax paper in air-tight container. Also, crushed nuts or coconut can be used instead of peppermint pieces.
Lastly, one of America’s best-known fictional cooks has a new cookbook out this season: “Betty Crocker’s Christmas Cookies” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99; also available as an e-book).
The book’s 100 recipes, in typical Crocker style, are straightforward and clearly written and include decorating instructions. All have photographs as well.
Here is its recipe for peppermint-kissed whoopie pies:
Makes 1½ dozen whoopie pies
For the cookies:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
13/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
1 jar (7-ounce) marshmallow creme
3/4 cup butter, softened
6 to 7 teaspoons milk
Crushed peppermint candies or candy canes
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray, or line with cooking parchment paper.
In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, ½ cup butter, the buttermilk, vanilla, egg and chocolate with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon, until well blended. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. On cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched in center. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
In large bowl, beat all filling ingredients on medium speed about 2 minutes or until light and fluffy.
For each whoopie pie, spread scant 3 tablespoons filling on bottom of 1 cookie; top with second cookie, bottom side down. Sprinkle edges of filling with crushed candies. Store in tightly covered container.
Pink Peppermint Whoopie Pies: Add 6 drops red food color to filling ingredients. Once cookies are assembled, sprinkle edges of filling with crushed peppermint candies or candy canes.
Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies: Fold 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips into the filling.
Toffee Whoopie Pies: Fold 1/2 cup chocolate-covered toffee bits into the filling.
Who’s got the recipe?
Colleagues are asking for recipes using leftover ham.
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Reach Features Editor Teresa Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-4886.