I was recently in Houston and spotted a bottle of peppermint oil at a supermarket, and decided to make a batch of peppermint patties, which I had not done for many years. It is essential that peppermint oil (which is very strong) be used rather than peppermint extract. The easiest place to find peppermint oil is in the aromatherapy section of a supermarket like Whole Foods. Just check that it is pure peppermint oil, and therefore suitable for cooking. (The first time I bought it, the clerk had never actually sold peppermint oil to someone who wanted to cook with it.) This is an adaptation of a recipe which appeared in Saveur magazine on Texas candy making in 2007. It was very popular at a neighborhood party yesterday evening, and is easy to make as long as you have a candy thermometer and the peppermint oil. This recipe will make 36 candies.
(Note – If you are opposed to food coloring, skip it. The peppermint centers will be beige instead of green, but they will taste just as good.)
2-1/2 cups sugar
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup whole milk
2 Tbs. butter
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. peppermint oil
6 drops green food coloring
2-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl (You may need some more depending on how heavily you coat the patties.)
Stir together the sugar, cream, milk, butter, and cream of tartar in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil without stirring, and reduce the heat to medium. Attach a candy thermometer and cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 236 degrees (the soft ball stage.
You can test by taking a small bit and dropping it into ice water to see that it forms a soft ball when pressed by your fingers.) This will take 12-14 minutes. At this stage, you have essentially made a soft caramel.
On a clean heat-proof workspace, pour out the mixture, and fold it back and forth with two heat-proof spatulas until it cools and thickens enough to form a fondant. Sprinkle the peppermint oil and food coloring and work it in. When the mixture becomes cool enough to touch with your hands, kneed it until it has the texture of cookie dough and the peppermint oil and food coloring are distributed evenly. (If it is too dry and powdery, add a few drops of water, but do not over do the water.) Roll it into a cylinder about 12 inches long.
Divide the log into 36 disks. The easiest way to do this is to cut with a dough scraper, first into 4 pieces, then each of these pieces into 3rds (now 12 pieces), and each of these pieces into 3rds (36 pieces). Dividing in this way helps ensure that the pieces are of even size. Cover the disks with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.
In a microwave, heat the chocolate chips in a bowl for 1-2 minutes until melted. Beat smooth with a spoon.
Lay out some waxed paper on cookie sheets. Take each disk, squish it a bit like play dough to ensure that it is all stuck together, and then dip it with two spoons into the melted chocolate, shaking off the excess chocolate back into the bowl. Put the encased patty on the waxed paper to dry. Repeat with the other disks.
Let the disks cool until the chocolate hardens. You may need to put the cookie sheets in the refrigerator to harden the chocolate if your kitchen is warm. Store any excess peppermint patties in the refrigerator to keep the chocolate hard.