Thursday, December 16, 2010

Recipe 2: Candy Cane Cookies

I promised you tales of success, and now I shall provide.
I would first like to offer my thanks to Betty Crocker, or at least to the people who printed a holiday baking guide with tear-out recipe cards in her name. They're great.
Candy Cane Cookies!

This is a definite party-friendly cookie. It's easy to make, cute, festive and has a refreshing, unexpected taste that people will remember!
Things I learned while making Candy Cane Cookies:
1.) There is such a thing as Peppermint Extract
2.) It's more fun to hand someone a Candy Cane Cookie and watch them try it than it is to explain what it is. They look like sugar cookies. It's a nice trick.
These cookies are very easy to make as long as you don't follow the recipe card exactly. Here is my modified version.
1/3 cup butter, softened
1. Heat oven to 375 °F. In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.
2. Beat in egg, peppermint extract and food dye of your choice (if you want to color the cookie). Read below for more options
3. Take about ½ tablespoon of dough in your hand and roll into a long, even line. Place on cookie dough sheet and form into a cane.
4. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until edges just start to brown. Immediately move to cooling rack (BE CAREFUL, the tips break off).
5. Follow directions for melting almond bark. Coat entire cookie evenly.
6. Put a few drops of any food dye into a dish. Take cheap (replaceable) paintbrush, dip in dye, and paint on stripes!
¼ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 ¼ cups flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp peppermint extract

Food coloring
Vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark)

The original card makes two mistakes. First, it tells you not to add the peppermint extract and red dye until the dough is formed which creates issues with even distribution of color and pepperminty goodness. Then, it tells you to use a fancy cookie dough press to make long strips of dough which you later form into canes.
I can tell you that adding the peppermint extract during the mixer phase makes things much more consistent. I can also tell you that my mother has a fancy cookie dough press and it was terrible for this project. They are designed to make flat cookies, not dough lines. Rolling the dough by hand and forming individual canes is much easier.
In my first batch, I dyed the dough as prescribed, however, I found that I liked the crisp texture of the hardened almond bark combined with the soft cookie so much that in my second batch, I coated the entire, non-dyed cookie with white almond bark and painted the stripes on. It sounds taxing but it looks a lot better and I thought it was easier.
I found it difficult to make consistent, attractive lines with melted almond bark. Not so difficult to take a little food dye and a tiny paint brush and have at it. Plus, it allowed me the freedom to use a bunch of different colors. Something my 4-yr-old thoroughly enjoyed.

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