Mint Chocolate Cupcakes

I know it isn’t anywhere near Girl Scout cookie season (not that I can order them from across the Atlantic anyway), but for some reason I got to thinking about thin mints this week. No idea why; perhaps it was because it was ridiculously hot outside and I was opening the freezer a lot and seeing a box stored away in the bottom drawer. One single box that one of my most amazing friends sent all the way from Texas (thanks Frank!) a few months ago.

However, a scorching Sunday afternoon did not seem special enough to eat the last sleeve of thin mints, but I was still craving that flavor and I still needed to get my weekend baking done. What resulted was these mint chocolate cupcakes – an adaptation of an earlier recipe I’d had but found the mint to be way overpowering.

It was a bit of a race against time to get these done, as the heat was making the butter in the frosting go very soft very quickly, so I was unable to do my usual fancy piping. Despite their more humble appearance, they were delicious; chocolate-y minty cupcakes with minty buttercream frosting topped with a chocolate mint.  You can’t beat it!

Each batch makes between 12 and 14 cupcakes, depending on how much you fill your pan.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 7 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
For the frosting:
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons (57 grams) butter, room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • green food coloring
  • Chocolate mints, such as Andes or After Eights for decorating

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Place cupcake liners into the pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; then set aside. In a smaller bowl, mix together the egg, milk, oil, peppermint, and vanilla. With your electric mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and beat for about 30 seconds.

3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then continue to mix for another minute or so, then add in the boiling water and stir to combine the last bits of ingredients.

4. Fill each of your cupcake liners about 3/4 full, then place in the oven to bake for 18-20 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely on your cooling racks before frosting.

5. To make the frosting, beat the icing sugar and butter in your mixer until combined. Then add in the cream, vanilla, peppermint, and salt. Whisk on a medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. (Which is best achieved when it’s not a million degrees outside, or if you have air conditioning.) Finally, mix in the green food coloring until you achieve the color that you want.

6. Transfer your frosting to a piping back and pipe onto the cupcakes as you’d like. Top each cupcake with half of a chocolate mint to add a finishing touch!

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Peppermint Meringues

 

So, I had a bit of a lapse this week and didn’t plan what I wanted to bake this weekend. What makes it worse, is that it was a 3-day weekend, and thus I actually had MORE time to bake. So I was sitting on my couch today, having just finished reading my book and nothing to watch on daytime television, wondering what I could possibly make. I had no chocolate. Only one stick of butter (still rock-hard in the fridge), no cream cheese, no Oreos – basically I was missing quite a few key ingredients to make something interesting.

After thinking about it for awhile, I realized that I basically had a ton of eggs and sugar. That’s when it hit me: meringues! They’re nothing but eggs and sugar. And I’ve never made meringues in my life, so today seemed like a good day to start trying. I tried my hardest to beat the egg whites into submission, but unfortunately they didn’t cooperate and reach the stiff peak consistency I was looking for, which meant my meringues were more blob that swirl – but they still tasted good!

So here’s the recipe for my first attempt: a basic peppermint-flavored meringue [blob].

Ingredients

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 3 Tablespoons icing sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 220°F (110°C), then line your baking sheets with baking paper. In a glass or metal bowl, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt until they reach a soft-peak stage (this will work best if you have a whisk attachment for your mixer).

2. With your mixer still running, add in the sugar about a teaspoon at a time – waiting until each spoonful is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the sugar is incorporated, add in the peppermint extract.

3. Continue mixing on high speed and add in the icing sugar. Keep the mixer running until you reach stiff peaks.

4. Transfer your mixture to a piping bag to swirl onto your prepared baking sheets, or use a spoon to dollop them onto the trays.

5. Bake your meringues for about an hour – or until they are light and airy. They should not start to turn a golden color, so keep an eye out to make sure you don’t over-bake them.

I left these plain, given the amount of time and lack of ingredients I had on hand – but ideally I would have made a chocolate buttercream to sandwich the meringue puffs together. But try experimenting with shapes, colors, and flavors to see what you can come up with!



Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark is one of my favorite holiday treats. My dad used to make it, and there’s something about the crunchy, minty, chocolate-y taste that just makes it perfect for Christmas. It’s also a super simple way to make homemade gifts for family and friends. I don’t have an exact recipe for this, because I just eyeball it and do everything based on intuition, so here’s a step-by-step guide.

Ingredients

white chocolate
dark chocolate (I use dark instead of milk, because it doesn’t melt as easily in your hands, making it easier to handle)
peppermint extract
candy canes
red food coloring

Directions

1. Crush the candy canes into tiny pieces. The easiest way to do this is with a food processor; but if you don’t have one, just double bag the candy in some ziploc bags and press down on them with a rolling pin or hammer. Be sure to put a towel under and on top of the bags so you don’t dent your countertops!

2. Slowly melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler, with the water on a simmer. Be sure not to let any water or steam drip into the chocolate, because that ruins it! As the chocolate is melting, stir it with a spatula to help prevent it from burning and to help keep it smooth.

3. Line a baking tray with plastic wrap, then pour in the melted dark chocolate so it forms a thin layer. Then place the tray into the fridge to set up.

4. While the dark chocolate is in the fridge, melt the white chocolate in the same way. Once the chocolate is melted, stir in the peppermint extract.

5. Remove the dark chocolate tray from the fridge, then pour the white chocolate on top. You may need to use a spatula to spread it evenly, just be careful that you don’t use too much pressure, as some of the dark chocolate may mix in (it melts a tiny bit because of the hot white chocolate).

6. After pouring in the white chocolate, use a toothpick to swirl the red food coloring through. Then sprinkle on the crushed candy cane pieces. Return the tray to the fridge to set up for at least an hour.

7. When the chocolate is all set, use the overhanging plastic wrap to slide the chocolate out of the tray. Then carefully press down onto the chocolate to break it into large chunks. Store these in an airtight container. You can store in the fridge, but be sure to let the bark sit out at room temperature for about ten or fifteen minutes to soften a bit so you don’t break your teeth!