Peppermint Chocolate Chip Teacakes

2014 Great Blogger Cookie Swap | BakeNQuilt.com
Cookie baking is one of my favorite winter activities and it’s even more fun when I can give them away in a cookie swap!  Over the last couple weeks, I have been participating in my first Great Blogger Cookie Swap, created by Lindsay and Julie of Love and Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen.  The swap involves hundreds (566 this year!) of food bloggers in multiple countries and raises funds for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.  The way it works is that each blogger is matched with three other bloggers.  One dozen of the same cookies are sent to each blogger that we’re assigned to by the shipping deadline.  Each participant should also each get a dozen different cookies from three different bloggers!

Since I seldom ship cookies, I turned to the Betty Crocker site for a list of cookies that ship well.  Russian Teacakes were on that list, so I was inspired to make a peppermint chocolate chip version of teacakes that Santa  might enjoy for his Christmas Eve treat.  Russian Teacakes are a fairly popular holiday cookie and go by many names: Mexican Wedding Cookies, Butterballs, Russian Tea Cakes/Cookies, Swedish Tea Cakes/Cookies, Snowball Cookies and probably many more!  They are all pretty similar though: a tender shortbread type sugar cookie baked in a ball with or without finely crushed nuts and coated in powdered sugar.  In this case, I chose to make the kind without nuts as I thought it would be less delicate for shipping and I didn’t want the nut flavor to interfere with the peppermint.  I couldn’t help but throw in some mini chocolate chips in place of the nuts though as I do love chocolate and mint together!  I was really happy with how these came out and we couldn’t stop eating my test batch.  I think I may have discovered a new holiday favorite for our household.  I’m really hoping they did ship well and the people I sent them to didn’t end up with peppermint flavored crumbs or peppermint balls with all the sugar shaken off.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Tea Cakes | BakeNQuilt.com

I got cookies from all three of my matches in one day, so it was like Christmas with boxes and wrappers everywhere.  It’s always a good mail day when the mailman leaves TWO keys because not all the packages will fit in a single mail overflow box!

From Heidi of Awesome With Sprinkles I got Chocolate Chili Dipped Sriracha Peanut Butter Cookies.  An awesome name indeed!  These peanut butter cookies are a slightly spicy twist on the standard with some heat from the sriracha and the chili chocolate.  Thanks, Heidi!

Peanut Butter dipped in Chili Chocolate

From Leslie of My Kitchen is Open, I got Biscoff Dark Chocolate Cookies with Pecans.  I know what I’m going to do with my jar of Biscoff now!  Thanks, Leslie!

biscoff chocolate chip cookies

From Kudos Kitchen by Reneé I got Peppermint Shortbread Cookies in both green and red.  These brightly colored cookies would brighten up any Christmas cookie plate.  Thanks, Reneé!

Peppermint Shortbread

5.0 from 1 reviews
Peppermint Chocolate Chip Teacakes
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Peppermint Chocolate Chip Teacakes - tender peppermint chocolate chip cookies rolled in powdered sugar
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/8 oz/227g) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup (2oz/56g) powdered (confectioner's) sugar, sifted
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ¼ - ½ tsp. peppermint oil (1/4 tsp for lightly flavored cookies, ½ tsp. for stronger flavor)
  • red or pink food coloring
  • 2¼ cups (315g/11oz) all purpose unbleached flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup (4oz/113g) mini chocolate chips
  • 1 cup (4 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
Instructions
  1. Cream together the butter, ½ cup powdered sugar, vanilla and peppermint oil in a large mixer bowl. Mix in the food coloring until it's the desired shade of pink.
  2. Stir the flour and salt together with a whisk, then add the flour mixture and the chocolate chips to the dough. Mix until combined. The dough may be a little crumbly, that's ok.
  3. Wrap the dough in a square shape in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400F/204C.
  5. Cut the dough into 24 equal cubes and roll each into a ball.
  6. Place the dough balls onto cookie sheets and bake each sheet for about 12 minutes, until the bottom of the cookie is just slightly browned and the cookie is set.
  7. Let the cookies set on the sheet for a minute or too until they are cool enough to handle, but still warm.
  8. While the cookies are still warm, toss them very gently in the remaining powdered sugar and move them to a rack to cool completely.
  9. When completely cool, gently toss the cookies in the powdered sugar mixture again.
Notes
These are fairly large teacakes. If you like smaller ones, cut the dough into 48 squares and reduce the baking time to 8-10 minutes.
If you don't have peppermint oil, you can use peppermint extract. 1 tsp or so will probably do it, but it depends on the brand. Some of the flavor will dissipate in the baking.

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Eggnog Caramels

Eggnog Caramels | BakeNQuilt.com Every Christmas I try to include some kind of caramel candy in my cookie gift bags.  This year I made Eggnog Caramels, which I adapted from Artisan Caramels by Sandy Arevalo.  The eggnog caramels are not only delicious, but also a great way to use up a container of eggnog.  I find the flavor of eggnog is enjoyable, but the richness of the drink means I’m over it after one glass so I always have more than I need out of a carton.  The eggnog flavor for these comes from using actual eggnog in the caramel mixture and from eggnog extract and a little nutmeg that is stirred in after cooking.

I did some things differently with this recipe than I’ve done with other caramel recipes.  The first change was to cook the caramel in a stockpot.  This prevented all worries of the caramel overflowing the pot, which boiling sugar always tries to do.  The second difference was that all the ingredients except the extract and nutmeg were mixed together from the start.  In other recipes I’ve made, the fats are usually added partway through cooking.   The final difference was that I stirred the caramels all the way through the cooking process.  In other recipes, stirring ceases after the sugar has been dissolved, supposedly to prevent crystallization.  Maybe adding all the cream up front helps prevent that problem?  I don’t know, but the caramels were very smooth with not a hint of crystallization to be found.

Caramels can be intimidating, but if you read through the recipe several times, have everything ready and have an accurate candy thermometer (test it in boiling water first and make sure you take the temperature of the liquid, not the bottom of the pan), they are actually pretty easy to make.

First, all the ingredients are mixed together in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.

caramel_start

The ingredients are brought to a boil (notice the small, fluffy, fast-popping bubbles).

caramel_boil

As the caramel gets closer to the final 248F/120C, the mixture visibly thickens and the bubbles will be larger and slower to pop (this photo is about 15 degrees away from the final temperature as I was too busy stirring to take photos later).

caramel_big_bubbles

Once it reaches EXACTLY 248F/120C, not a degree sooner or later, the pot is pulled off the heat and the extract and nutmeg are stirred in. The mixture is then poured into a greased foil-lined pan and the painful waiting for 8 hours to cut it begins.  I often make caramels at night so that I don’t get impatient waiting for them to cool!

caramel_cooling

All that remains is to cut and wrap (and eat) them!

Notes on fixing caramel:

Many people have trouble with their caramels being either softer or harder than desired.  These two problems can be easily fixed, so don’t despair if it happens to you!  If your caramel is too soft, put it back in the pan and melt it over low and then bring it back to your original cooking temperature and recook it to just a degree or two higher than you did originally.  Seriously, 2 degrees can make a difference!  If your caramel is too hard, put it back in the pan with a splash (2-4 Tbsp) of heavy cream and recook it, this time to a degree or two under what you did originally.  Pour the mixture back in a greased and lined pan and let it set up.  These steps have saved me a few times, especially when I let myself get distracted and overcooked the caramel, resulting in a candy that was too hard to chew!  The only reason to ever throw out caramel is if you’ve burnt it.  That’s a mistake that can’t be fixed.

Eggnog Caramels
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 64
 
Caramel candy flavored with eggnog, eggnog extract and nutmeg.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (236.5 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (236.5 ml) best quality eggnog (the non-alcoholic kind)
  • 2 cups (14oz/396.5) granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. (3oz/ 85g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup (236.5 ml) light corn syrup (or glucose syrup if you prefer)
  • 1½ tsp. eggnog extract
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Place the cream and eggnog in a microwave safe measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute. This step is optional, but I like to do it as it makes the cooking time quicker than heating the refrigerated ingredients. You can also leave the cream and eggnog out at room temperature for a couple hours before making the caramel.
  2. Line an 8"x8" baking pan with foil and spray it lightly with an oil spray. Wipe away any excess.
  3. Mix the cream, eggnog, sugar, butter and corn syrup together in an 8 qt. heavy-bottomed stockpot.
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. If desired, brush the sides of the pot with a brush dipped in water to help dissolve any sugar crystals on the side of the pot.
  6. On medium-high heat, cook the caramel, stirring constantly, until it registers 248F/120C on a candy thermometer. You'll know you're getting close when the bubbles get bigger and the mixture becomes lightly golden in color. This can take some time. On my electric stove, using pre-warmed ingredients, it usually takes between 20-30 minutes.
  7. When you reach exactly 248F/120C, remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the extract and nutmeg.
  8. Pour the hot sugar mixture into the prepared pan. Tap the pan gently a couple of times on the counter to bring any air bubbles to the surface.
  9. Allow the caramel to cool completely and set up, 8 hours or so.
  10. Cut the caramel and wrap each piece in wax or parchment paper.
Notes
If an 8"x8" pan of caramels is still too many for you, you can make half this recipe and cool it in a 9"x5" bread pan instead. Use a 2-3qt pan to cook the caramel in if you're doing the smaller batch.

 

 

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