Make festive treats with peppermint

Cox NewspapersDecember 21, 2013 

Whether you’re brainstorming a gift, something to serve at a party or simply want to scratch the holiday baking itch, peppermint treats are a surefire way to satisfy the desire to spend some festive time in the kitchen.

Homemade marshmallows offer a different, softer texture and a more naturally sweet flavor, even though they share some of the ingredients (gelatin, sugar, cornstarch) of their store-bought counterparts. They also can be flavored with different extracts. Flavored with peppermint, they are delicious toppers for steamy cups of hot chocolate.

Another great way to use homemade marshmallows is to melt them into a batch of peppermint fantasy fudge. Cook up a syrup of sugar, butter and evaporated milk, then melt in marshmallows and chocolate before sprinkling the top with crushed candy canes, and you get a decadent chocolate treat to share.

During the holiday season, you can buy peppermint candies pre-crushed for baking at grocery stores. If you can’t find crushed peppermint, it’s easy enough to crush candies using the bottom edge of a heavy jar or an unopened 15-ounce can.

One of the more familiar uses for peppermint around the holidays is in peppermint bark. Bark can be as simple as one layer of white chocolate melted down and sprinkled with crushed candy canes, but a layered version makes a lovelier treat.

In between two layers of white chocolate and peppermint pieces, the middle layer is made of dark chocolate softened up with the addition of cream and peppermint extract. Let the bark sit out for about 10 minutes before serving to accentuate the texture difference between layers.

If you choose to package peppermint treats as holiday gifts, remember to use parchment or wax paper in between layers to prevent the desserts from sticking to one another.

Peppermint sticking to your teeth, however, is part of the fun.

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