Thursday, December 23, 2010

Peppermint Ice

One of the traditional holiday things my mom would do is to make a type of candy I favored called peppermint ice.  It's essentially a peppermint bark, but I didn't know what bark (in the food sense) was back then.  For the past few years, I've made batches of these wrapped up in pretty paper to give to my department at school, and everyone (except you, Steve) seems to really like it.

For this year's batch, I was determined, for the sake of record keeping, to create a more accurate recipe card.  The two ingredients that are used to create this bark is white chocolate and "starlight kisses", which are little mints that are striped with red.  The packages I've found are labeled starlight mints.  The recipe asks for 2 pounds of white almond bark candy.  A more accurate ingredient is white baking chocolate, which is available in the baking isle.  All they have is white or milk chocolate, nothing labeled anything to do with almonds.  Next, the recipe calls for 2 packages starlight kisses.  That's...vague.  So, I called up my mom to ask how much 2 packages was supposed to be.  She told me that it was however much I felt like putting in.  Not exactly helpful, but better than nothing; it simply meant I had to guesstimate and improve from there.  I decided to use a ratio of 8.5 oz of mints to 1lb of chocolate (the package I had leftover from last year was 8.5oz, so it was convenient).

The first step was to "crush the peppermint candy into fine pieces".  I prefer using a food processor, or a blender.  After about 10 seconds of really loud pulsing, the mints are pulverized into a powder, which if you take off the lid too quickly, the particles can go into the air, and it's not fun to breath in peppermint dust.  (I speak from experience.)  I like some chunks in my candy, so I don't pulverize the mints completely.  I usually have to fish out some of the bigger chunks and save them for the next batch to be blended.

The next step is to melt the chocolate.  On the package there are usually instructions for melting in the microwave, which is what my mom did.  It's certainly an easier route, but I like using a double boiler to melt it.  I feel more involved that way.

I made a diagram to help explain how a double boiler works:

I melted the chocolate until it came to an amazingly creamy consistency.  At this point, there's the option to add a few drops of red food coloring, however I think that the light pink hue that the mints give the chocolate is plenty.  (And my red food coloring has gone missing, so I had to settle for not adding any.)  Now it was time to add the peppermint.  I found that it was easier to mix it in batches, somewhat like adding flour when making cookies, and then folding it in to the chocolate until well combined.  Then, after placing a sheet of wax paper on the counter, I poured the chocolate onto the sheet.  Using a spatula, I smoothed the chocolate out as thin as I can.  I've found that if I don't put effort into spreading the chocolate thin, it's really difficult to break after it hardens.  

Then, I waited two hours.  

When the chocolate hardened, I broke it into as small of pieces as I could manage without it being crumbs.  Then, I took this picture.

See?  Nice pink color, no food coloring needed.  

One of the other things I experimented with (I had to make 4lbs of the stuff, so I had the chance) was comparing whether it was easier to work with 2lbs of chocolate or 1lb at a time.  Not surprisingly, working with 1lb was the better option, although more time consuming.  

Peppermint Ice

Ingredients (makes approx. 21oz)
1lb white baking chocolate
8.5oz starlight mints

Pulverize the mints in a food processor or blender.
In a double boiler, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently.
Stir in the peppermint powder, and then pour the mixture onto a sheet of wax paper on a flat surface.
Let the candy harden for 2 hours, then break into small pieces.

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