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The Essence of Christmas.

"To me, peppermint is the very essence of Christmas. From the cheerful canes peeping out of my grandchildren's stockings to the red-swirled soap in the powder room and the aromatic candles in the dining room, the pungent herb seems to shout, "Christmas is coming!" all over the ho se.

Candy canes are symbolic of the crooks carried by Bethlehem-bound shepherds who traveled to worship the Chris child on that first Christmas Day. According to legend, the custom of making edible canes began in 1670 when the choirmaster of Cologne Cathedral passed out candy bent into the shape of shepherds' crooks to quiet the squirming children who were awaiting their turns to participate in the Living Nativity Service. The familiar re and white peppermint canes we enjoy today appeared first in the earl twentieth century.

Even the Colors of candy cries have special meaning. The wide red stripes represent Jesus' ultimate sacrifice, while the narrower red stripes symbolize our own small sacrifices, such as the buying and giving of gifts. The white stripes represent purity. Breaking a candy cane and sharing it with a friend is reminiscent of Christ's body that was broken for us.

Although we think of peppermint as primarily a sweet, the oil extracted from the plant is recognized as one of the oldest treatments in herbal medicine. The oil contains menthol, which calms the stomach.

Peppermint inspires positive emotions in most people. Massaging sore muscles with peppermint lotion gives them a tingling sensation that is both soothing and stimulating. The aroma of peppermint is as therapeutic as the taste and feel.

My son Leigh recently visited the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory in Boulder, Colorado. When he stepped into the mint room where dried peppermint and spearmint leaves are stored, he was engulfed by a scent so cool and penetrating that he said, "I felt like all of my pores opened up."

Cooks appreciate the herb's ability to add zest and vigor to a variety of dishes. Peppermint combines very well with chocolate and holds its own with cake and cookie dough. The recipes below are guaranteed to make you agree that peppermint tastes like Christmas.

PEPPERMINT PINWHEEL COOKIES

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 teaspoon red food coloring

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup hard peppermint candy, finely crushed

Stir together the flour and salt; set aside. Beat margarine or butter for 30 seconds. Beat in powdered sugar until well blended. Add egg, vanilla, and almond extract; beat well. Add dry ingredients gradually, until well combined.

Divide dough in half. Mix food coloring into one portion of dough. Chill dough 1 hour, or until easy to handle. Divide each portion of dough in half. On lightly floured surface, roll out each of the four balls of dough to form an 8" square. Place a white square of dough on top of a red square, an roll up, jelly roll style. Wrap with wax paper and chill a minimum of 2 hours. Cut dough into 1/4" thick slices. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Beat together egg white and water; brush over warm cookies and sprinkle with crushed peppermint candy.

CHOCOLATE CHIP PEPPERMINT COOKIES

3/4 cup butter

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa power

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup crushed soft peppermints

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together the butte, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, then stir in the vanilla and peppermint extracts. Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Sprinkle cookies with peppermint while they are still warm. Allow cookies to cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 30 cookies.

DEEP DARK CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT CAKE

2 cups sifted cake flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate

1/4 cup butter

2 cups white sugar

2 egg yolks, beaten

1 3/4 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 recipe Seven Minute Frosting

1/2 cup crushed soft peppermint candies

1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottoms of two 9-inch square pans, two 9-inch round pans, or one 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the cake flour and salt.

Melt chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Turn into mixing bowl and cool to room temperature; this mixture must be cool. Mix in sugar. Blend in egg yolks and 1 cup milk. Add flour and salt, and mix just until all flour is dampened. Beat batter with electric mixer for 1 minute, and then blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup milk. Dissolve soda in the remaining 1/4 cup milk; stir into the batter quickly and thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan(s).

Bake in 9 x 13 inch pan for about 45 minutes, or in two 9-inch pans for about 30 minutes. Test for doneness by pressing lightly on the cake; it should spring back when done.

Prepare Seven Minute Frosting. Tint frosting pink with food coloring, and add 1/4 cup crushed candy. Frost and fill the cooled cake. Garnish with bits of crushed candy.

SEVEN MINUTE FROSTING

2 egg whites

1 cup white sugar

1/3 cup cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons light corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put egg whites, sugar, water, and syrup in top of double boiler. Beat until mixed well. Place over rapidly boiling water. Beat constantly with electric beater while it cooks for 7 minutes or until it will stand in peaks when beater is raised. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat. Fills and frosts one 2-layer cake, 8 or 9 inch.

PEPPERMINT POUND CAKE

3 sticks butter

3 cups sugar

6 eggs

3 cups plain flour

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1/2 stick soft peppermint candy, crushed

(1/2 cup)

Cream gutter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until very soft. Add flour and milk, ending with flour. Beat well. Add vanilla.

Divide the dough into 3 sections. Add crushed candy to one section. In bottom of tube pan, (which has been sprayed), put 1/3 of the plain dough, then layer the peppermint dough and add remaining 1/3 of plain dough. Bake at 50 degrees for about 80 minutes.

Frost with white icing, then sprinkle bits of candy over cake.

Joy Middleton

Gina's Kitchen

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/5772/kitchen.htm

PEPPERMINT MERINGUES

4 egg whites (room temperature)

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Edible glitter, for garnish

Preheat over to 225 degrees. Beat egg white, cream of tartar, and salt on low speed until foamy. Increase speed on mixer to medium and beat until soft peaks form. Turn to high speed and add sugar, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until stiff, but not dry. Add peppermint extract. Cover 2 cookie sheets with foil. Drop mixture by teaspoon onto foil. Sprinkle with edible glitter. Bake for 1 hour. Makes 55-60.

Mary Leigh Furrh and Jo Barksdale

Hors D'Oeuvres Everybody Loves II

Brandon

WHITE CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINTS

1 pound white chocolate or almond bark

About 30 pieces of peppermint candy, crushed

Melt chocolate in microwave in a glass bowl on defrost. Stop at 30 seconds intervals to stir, until melted. Quickly stir in a little less than half the crushed peppermints. Spread onto cookie sheet covered with wax paper and sprinkle remaining peppermint on top. Let cool and break into bite-sized pieces.

Holiday Potpourri

First Presbyterian Day School

Jackson

EASY PEPPERMINT PATTIE CAPPUCCINO

1 small (1-1/2 inch) York Peppermint Pattie, unwrapped and quartered

2 teaspoons milk

1 cup hot brewed coffee

In large microwave-safe mug place peppermint pattie pieces and milk.

Microwave on high 30 seconds or until candy is melted and smooth when stirred. Stir in hot coffee until mug is almost full.

Top with whipped cream, if desired. Serve immediately. Makes 1 serving.

PEPPERMINT PACKAGES

Package the delicious peppermint meringues, cookies, and candy for friends and family in precious, inexpensive, and easy to make plastic disposable containers wrapped like large peppermint candies.

Materials needed to make peppermint packages:

Large red plastic disposable plates

Large white plastic disposable plates

Small green plastic disposable plates

Small white plastic disposable plates

Double sided tape

Red and green shiny raffia or cord

Clear cellophane wrap

Cut red or green plate into four equal curved triangle sections and stick to bottom of white plate with double sided tape. Place as a lid on top of plate filled with goodies. Wrap with two layers of clear cellophane leaving about six inches on each side. Tie ends with cord or raffia.

PEPPERMINT TOPIARIES

These topiaries are fun to make and will last as decorations throughout the holidays. They add fun to any dessert setting or enhance the festive feel of the kitchen. Wrapped in clear cellophane with a bow they also make terrific gifts.

Materials needed to make topiaries:

Terracotta pots painted with red acrylic paint and sprayed with clear sealer

Red dotted and striped ribbons to tie around pots (about 1 yard for each pot)

Candy canes

Round peppermint disks

Peppermint balls

Large red and white sucker

Large peppermint canes for trunks

Plastic wrap and clear tape to wrap peppermint disks

Styrofoam ball, tree, and star

Styrofoam to secure trunks into terracotta pot

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Royal Icing (recipe follows)

To make the topiaries, place Styrofoam into each pot. Then, cut out a hole in the base of Styrofoam ball, tree, and star, insert one peppermint trunk into each, securing with hot glue. Place other end of each trunk into its designated pot and secure with hot glue.

For the tree topiary, insert sucker stem carefully into top of tree. Hot glue eight candy canes in wrappers equally spaced around bottom of tree with curls turned outward. Wrap about 70 peppermint disks in plastic warp with a tiny piece of clear tape securing wrap on the back. Wrapping peppermint disks with plastic wrap will make candy appear unwrapped and will ensure that it does not melt or become sticky. Prepare Royal Icing using recipe that follows. Spread Royal Icing on tree in sections beginning at the lower part of the tree, and place disks on tree. Work to the top covering the entire surface with Royal Icing and peppermint disks. Cover the base of the tree with Royal Icing and place about 30 to 40 peppermint balls around the base of the tree, It is not necessary to wrap the peppermint balls; they do not melt or become sticky

For ball topiary insert 3 wrapped candy canes into the top of the ball. Hot glue in place for stability if necessary. Wrap about 60 peppermint disks with plastic wrap secured with tape on the back. Prepare Royal Icing. Cover ball in sections with Royal Icing and peppermint disks working from the top just below the 3 candy canes. Cover base with Royal Icing and about 20 to 30 peppermint balls.

For star, hot glue a wrapped candy cane with curl going outward on each point. Prepare Royal Icing. Wrap about 100 peppermint disks with plastic wrap secured with a piece of tape on the back. Work in sections covering one side of the star with peppermint disks. Repeat on the back of the star. Cover the edges with Royal Icing and peppermint disks. Cover base with Royal Icing and about 20 to 30 peppermint balls.

Tie ribbons in bows around rims of pots. You might also want to paint a few extra pots in varying sizes and fill them with candy canes, suckers, disks, and balls for anyone who just can't resist eating peppermints when gazing at your peppermint topiaries.

ROYAL ICING

3 tablespoons meringue powder (available at stores with decorating supplies)

1/3 cup warm water

1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted

Combine meringue powder and water in a large mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until frothy Add powdered sugar and beat on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes. Yield: about 2 1/2 cups, enough for one topiary Royal Icing dries to a smooth, hard finish and is edible. Keep covered with plastic wrap when not in use.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Downhome Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:cooking and creating handicrafts with peppermint
Author:FURRH, MARY LEIGH
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Nov 1, 2001
Words:2169
Previous Article:Ever Green.
Next Article:Christmas ACROSS THE STATE.
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