Thursday, August 25, 2011

Experiment #4: Homemade Chocolate Mints

This has been a week of transitions.

Nick started his classes (and his long, long days away from home). Nora started her new fall preschool with all new classmates. Nora and I started "Mama and Nora preschool" on days that she is home with me. Madeline started up with nasty allergies or an annoying persistent cold. My buddy, Anna, and I started up our thrice weekly "crack of dawn" swim dates (don't ask how that went). And I started another "quick" consulting job (really, Kristin? This week?).

With half the family as confirmed "slow-to-adapters" (the jury's still out on Madeline), the week of transitions has been stressful. Lots of crabbiness. Interrupted sleep. Fit throwing. And that was just Nick and me.

As someone who thrives on change, I just don't understand. I love this time of year, with the change of weather, the change of routine, the change of scenery. Ahh...it's like a massage for my soul.

So, admittedly, I'm not the most patient person when Nick and Nora get out of sorts when things change. And sometimes I'm just downright nasty. Like this week.

So to make up for it, I wanted to do something special for Nora and Nick on their first day of new classes. Nora LOVES Junior Mints. LOVES them. So do I. They bring back memories of sitting in Watertown's dark, non-stadium seating movie theater on Christmas Day, squeaking my shoes as they stick and unstick to the floor coated with gallons of sugary beverages.



Nick does NOT like them. At all.

So I thought it would be nice to recreate one of Nora's favorite treats and hopefully make them even better so that Nick could finally enjoy them, too.

I've actually been trying to create these myself for a long time, searching for recipes periodically online. But no success. Finally, I gave up and just looked at the Junior Mints ingredients list and came up with a fantastically tasty recipe that is remarkably similar to the "real thing," only substantially better. I know this because last night, Nick stole two extra mints after I left the kitchen.

Time to Completion: 3 hours with kids. 1 hour active time (broken into 3 sessions of 10-20 min each)

Cost Comparison:

  • 1 box of about 48 Junior Mints costs anywhere from $1.50 – $4.00 (depending on where you are purchasing it!)
  • My recipe costs about $0.92 to make 24 (so $1.84 to make 48)


Here’s my cost breakdown in case you are curious:
Peppermint Extract: $4.20 per 1 oz bottle (could be used to make this recipe 50 times, or $0.08 per batch)
Karo syrup: $2.50 for 16 oz (48 times, $0.05 per batch)
Powdered sugar $3.00 for 16 oz (30 times, $0.10 per batch)
Vanilla Extract $6.10 for 4 oz (100 times, $0.06 per batch)
Chocolate $2.50 for 8 oz (4 times,  $0.63 per batch)

I found all of the ingredients in my cupboard on a random day. The only thing you may have to buy special for the project would be if you had a hankering for a special chocolate to coat your mint. Or peppermint, if you don’t use it in baking.


Equipment:
3 small microwaveable bowls or cups
Spoons (both for mixing and measuring)
Microwave
2 small sheets of wax paper
Ice
Refrigerator and freezer space

4 tablespoons of powdered sugar + a little extra for dusting
2 teaspoons of corn syrup* (I used Karo light)
¼ tsp of vanilla extract
1/8 tsp of peppermint extract (more or less to taste – I like to use slightly more)
2 oz Chocolate bar or chips (I used Baker’s semisweet bar)

*If you don't use Karo light, you may need to add extra vanilla and/or a little salt.

The project is very kid-compatible (most enjoyable for kids 3 and up) and is not very time sensitive, so you can start one part and finish the rest later that day or even the next day.

Directions:

1. Dump all the ingredients except the chocolate together in a small bowl. Add the peppermint slowly. It’s very strong and can be overwhelming if you add too much. If you want more than what I suggest, add it drop by drop.

2. Mix, mix and keep on mixing. It takes probably 5 minutes of mixing to get past the powdery stage into the right consistency. You can add more powdered sugar to make it thicker or corn syrup to make it runnier. This is ratio of sugar to syrup I got to most closely resemble real Junior Mints. 

3. Once it’s all mixed up, pop the filling mix in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to stiffen. We left ours in the cold for a couple hours while running errands.

4. Grab a small sheet of wax paper and a small dish of powdered sugar and take the filling out of the fridge. Powder sugar your fingers and scoop out a scant 1/8 tsp of filling at a time, rolling it between your fingers to make a ball and set it on the wax paper. Repeat until all the filling is gone (I usually get about 24 unless Nora beats me to the bowl!).

5. Put the sheet of wax paper with the filling blobs into the freezer for around an hour (you could probably get by with less time, that’s just what we did) until they are hard.

6. While the filling is in the freezer, melt the chocolate in the microwave in a small bowl according to directions.  Stir until smooth.

7. Fill the third bowl with ice and water and lay out another sheet of wax paper.

8. One by one dip the filling blobs into the chocolate (our freezer is close, so we took out each filling blob just before dipping into chocolate), coat all over with a spoon or your fingers. This was Nora’s FAVORITE part because her fingers got totally covered in chocolate and just had to be licked off.
 
9. Immediately dip or drop the chocolate mint blob into the cold water to set the chocolate. Sometimes this may take several seconds of submersion.

10. Remove the chocolate mint blob from the water and place it on the wax paper to dry. Eat ‘em up. Yum!

Mints gone very wrong.
Note: Here is an example of what happens when you don’t “set” the chocolate in the cold water. I had this cold-water epiphany at 3am a couple nights ago when I couldn’t sleep. The results of cold water dipping is not as beautiful looking as truffles professionally hand dipped the “right” way, but much easier to do with kids (and impatient mamas)!



I am hoping to post on feta cheese, soon...I'm working on starting attempt #3...






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