I imagine that, for most people, the holiday season is a pleasant, if somewhat faded, memory by now, that gifts have been given and received, put into use or set aside in some secret corner for good will donations or future regifting. Though my cozy time at home with family is behind me, I’m still working on the gifting aspect, at least as far as my guy is concerned. Last year, Shawn and I were not together on Christmas, so we started a mini-tradition of exchanging gifts on New Year’s Day instead. Even though we spent Christmas together this year (eating my momma’s farmer’s cheese pancakes, walking in snow with hilarious dogs running rampant, feasting with family and sweet, familial friends…an excellent day, really), we liked the idea of exchanging gifts on another special day, back in the quiet of our Brooklyn apartment, just us two.
Exchanging gifts later also bought us a little more time. For me, that meant more time to think and think about what to make for Shawn and, for the most part, to come up short. Somehow, there was nothing in my crafting repertoire that seemed quite grand enough for my very sweet and supportive boyfriend, and I did not really have the time to embark on a great big project for him anyway. Eventually, I opted for a collection of smaller things, a booklet of monthly IOUs, things I could make or things we could do together, most of them free or very affordable (I don’t really have to shell out for anything in the book until October). He’s no great lover of grandeur anyway.
I borrowed the matchbook style of the book from Laura at Betula ‘Loo, whose Giveaway Day giveaway I was lucky enough to win. She fills hers with blank paper and bills them as mini-scrapbooks, and I won two of them along with some other lovely paper goods, and they are adorable.
First up in the year of goodies: Homemade peppermint patties. Shawn loves peppermint patties, and I stumbled across a recipe recently and knew he had to have them. I love the idea of making typically packaged goodies at home, without the addition of unpronounceable ingredients. I read through several recipes online and modified slightly, and Shawn and I were both pleased with the results. They took a little bit of time, but only because it’s a good idea to let the filling set up a little before coating them in tasty, tasty chocolate.
Homemade Peppermint Patties: Ingredients
- 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
- 3 Tbsp. evaporated milk
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. peppermint flavoring*
- 8 ounces dark chocolate
- a little dab of shortening (optional)
*I actually purchased peppermint flavoring for this, which is basically peppermint essential oil thinned out in a vegetable oil base. I was worried that using straight essential oil would be too strong, but I ended up gradually increasing the flavoring to at least 2 teaspoons. If you have essential oil on hand (make sure it’s real essential oil, safe for food, and not some kind of house fragrance oil), I think it would be fine to use that here. Start with just a couple of drops, taste, and add more as needed. Also, I used vanilla. I thought it would be good. In the end, these things are so minty fresh that I’m really not sure the vanilla adds anything. Skip it if you want.
How to Make Your Own Peppermint Patties:
Beat together your butter, evaporated milk, vanilla (if using), and peppermint. If you’re going the essential oil route, put in just a little peppermint. You can always add more later. Add powdered sugar a little at a time to make sure it incorporates well, and beat it until it’s smooth. If you need to tweak the flavoring amounts, go for it. I have never made fondant, but I imagine the texture is very similar to the final filling made here. It looks like this:
OK, so that looks like it could be ice cream. It’s not. It’s room temperature and rather firm. I used a little cookie scoop to dole out teaspoon-sized portions. If you don’t have a little scoop, just use a couple of spoons. They’re going to get flattened out, so don’t worry about how pretty they are. I put mine on some parchment paper, but I’m sure you’d be fine with foil, wax paper, a plain pan, etc.
I then put them in the fridge to chill for a bit, put on a pair of creepy latex gloves, and rolled them into little patties. You don’t absolutely need gloves for this, but I found that the warmth of my hands without the gloves melted the filling a little, and things got messy fast. I put the little disks in the freezer for about 15 minutes and melted some chocolate with a dab of shortening. I read that the shortening would make the chocolate easier to work with, keep it shiny, etc., but I didn’t see any great benefit. Next time, I’ll just use straight chocolate and temper it the easiest way I know how — microwave until not quite melted through, then stir until all melted.
I’m not the tidiest dipper in the world, so I’ll spare you the photos of me dipping the disks in the chocolate. I used two forks and transferred the finished patties onto a separate baking pan, lined with wax paper. It looked a little like Jackson Pollock had guided my hand at times, but no matter. I wound up with an immensely satisfying tray of shiny chocolate patties.
I’m sure they would do just fine on the counter top, but I was feeling a little impatient, so I popped them in the fridge to set up fast. Or was it the freezer? I stuck them in just long enough to forget about them — they were ready by the time Shawn asked where they’d gone. We’ve been keeping them in the fridge, their numbers dwindling, on account of the butter in the filling. I suspect they would be OK in a regular cupboard, especially in this chilly weather.
Shawn was pleased with his peppermint patties, and he has been kind enough to share them with me. I haven’t had a York in ages, so I can’t say for sure how they compare, but Shawn claims that mine taste less processed, more purely minty-chocolatey (not his exact words). There’s a chance this is merely the power of suggestion, but I’ll take it. Make some yourself, and let me know how it goes.