Friday, December 21, 2012

Easy Peppermint Bark Recipe

A gal in my Sunday afternoon Bible study brought peppermint bark to class last week.  I am a HUGE fan of peppermint, and immediately began thinking about how I could make something similar, minus the partially hydrogenated oils and traces of peanuts/tree nuts.  After studying some simple recipes online, I came up with mine.  Here is what you will need for a small, "beginner's" batch:

4 ounces finely chopped hard peppermint candy
8 ounces white chocolate morsels
1 drop peppermint extract

2 ziptop bags
hammer or rolling pin + hard surface
double boiler
silicone spatula
small cookie sheet lined with parchment paper

Step 1: Gather 4 ounces of hard peppermint candy, preferably ones that contain real peppermint oil.

Step 2:  Place peppermint candy inside one ziptop bag; close, then place inside another ziptop bag, and close.  Use a hard surface and hammer or rolling pin for breaking the candy into very small pieces. 

Step 3:  Measure out 8 ounces of white chocolate morsels.  Most bags nowadays weigh less than 16 ounces, which is why I chose an even half pound to start with.  The remaining morsels can be used in cookies, or for snacking!

Step 4:  Prepare double boiler by boiling water in bottom pot.  I used a tempered glass bowl set in the top of my glass saucepan.  Add the white chocolate morsels.  As they melt, stir with a silicone spatula until smooth.

Step 5:  Add one drop of peppermint extract, then the chopped peppermint candy.  Stir until well combined.

Step 6: Pour  mixture onto small cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper.  Spread thinly, but not so much that you can see the parchment paper through the mixture.

Step 7:  Place cookie sheet in freezer, until mixture sets.  Remove bark from freezer, break into pieces, and place in lidded container.  Store in refrigerator.

Step 8:  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses

No one in our little family of three has ever built a gingerbread house!  This means we had a new-to-us activity for the holiday season of 2012.  I quickly discovered that most gingerbread kits at the store have peanut/tree nut warnings, and contain ingredients we would prefer not to consume.  I felt overwhelmed when I thought about baking homemade gingerbread cookie dough for the houses AND our annual gingerbread men on Christmas Eve.   Besides, we weren't planning to eat the houses; just create and decorate them.  Therefore, I needed to come up with something a bit more "disposable".

An outdated box of graham crackers called to me from our pantry stash in the front hall closet.  I looked up a few how-to videos online for graham cracker houses, and soon we were on our way to creating our little "gingerbread" village. 

The websites I read recommended "gluing" the base crackers with icing to foil.  This helped to keep the structure steady.  Did you know that graham crackers can be cut using a serrated knife? We found this to be helpful when creating angles.

Placing the icing in a ziptop bag with a corner cut off makes the construction of walls and application of candy super easy.  We used Bottle Caps and Sixlets, leftover from Halloween!

My husband created some fancy scalloping with the icing on the roof of his house. 
Both "boys" enjoyed this impromptu holiday activity, while I had fun taking photos of their progress. 
Here is the recipe for Shiny Cookie Icing.  *note:  It does NOT taste good, so don't plan on eating it, just use it for "glue"!
In a bowl, combine:
2 cups confectioner's sugar
4 teaspoons light corn syrup
4 teaspoons milk (we used plain rice milk)
Stir until smooth, then pour into a ziptop bag.  Cut one corner off the bag, and use to pipe icing.