Peppermint Cream Squares

As I mentioned earlier, later today I’ll be competing in the Brooklyn Cookie Takedown. All the cookies are made and ready to compete. (They’re ready for their close-ups!) I’m also ready to compete. It took some to get to this point, however. This post and the next few will take you through the journey I went on to get here.

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The first part of getting ready for a cookie competition is deciding what kind of cookie to make. I didn’t have a ready idea this time. So I did a lot of brainstorming, researching, and looking through recipes. I came up with a few ideas.

The shortbread, with the reserved portion measured out.

The shortbread, with the reserved portion measured out.

This recipe is the first such idea I tried out. It starts with shortbread, which I like and know how to make. But the peppermint cream seemed novel and worth trying out.

Shortbread, ready to bake.

Shortbread, ready to bake.

After deciding on this recipe, I then had to gather all the ingredients. While I originally thought it might be an issue finding the soft peppermint candies, it wasn’t a big deal. I found them at the drug store. I also had to get milk, as we never have it in the house. I ended up using lowfat milk. I got a tiny container, one of those juice box size ones, because the recipe barely uses any, and I didn’t have a need for it otherwise. I did end up using some peppermint extract, but I had plenty on hand, so no worries there.

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Those candies didn't unwrap themselves...

Those candies didn’t unwrap themselves…

While I’ve been enjoying using my KitchenAid, this time I did everything by hand. It took a little longer, but it was easier on the cleanup because it all went in the dishwasher.

Candy powder.

Candy powder.

The shortbread was pretty straightforward to make. I’ve made shortbread before, for sure. I reserved some of the shortbread as requested. I put spray on top of and underneath the parchment paper. (Helpful tip: putting it underneath helps keep the parchment paper in place while putting in the shortbread.) I was able to get the shortbread in place using just a spoon. After baking it for 20 minutes it wasn’t quite done. I put it in for the other 5.

Baked shortbread.

Baked shortbread.

To use all those peppermint candies, I had to unwrap them all. I have practice at that, too. I used our mini food processor to grind them up. It took a few minutes to get through them all. And, as warned, it was really noisy. They ended up in good shape, although some of the resulting powder kinda stuck to the sides and I had to scrape it off. I should have done it in batches rather than all at once. I probably would have been able to grind it to a more consistent powder, and there would probably have been less sticking to the sides.

Peppermint cream.

Peppermint cream.

Baked shortbread with peppermint cream.

Baked shortbread with peppermint cream.

Mixing the cream cheese with the milk took some time. I should have microwaved the cream cheese as suggested, but it turned out okay in the end. I added the candy. I also added peppermint extract, a teaspoon worth. It still didn’t taste super minty, but I figured I would err on the side of caution.

With crumble on top. Ready to bake.

With crumble on top. Ready to bake again.

And fresh out of the oven.

Fresh out of the oven.

Crumbling the shortbread on top didn’t work as well as it could have. It was hard to get it in tiny pieces. So it ended up being in clumps. In the end it mostly got covered by the candy powder anyway so not too big a deal. But maybe the crumble would have cooked more if the pieces were smaller?

Covered with candy powder.

Covered with candy powder.

I baked it for 10 minutes. It wasn’t ready. I did it for the other 3 minutes. The edges were just barely starting to bubble. I let it cool. And then I covered it with the peppermint candy powder mixture. I used a bunch. I tried to get it in all the corners. I still had a bit of the powder left, but I used a lot.

Cooled.

Cooled.

I cut it into 16 pieces originally, but I cut it a little uneven. So I cut some of the pieces again to make all the cookies closer in size.

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My wife and I tried them that night. They were very good. The shortbread is regular, good shortbread. The peppermint cream is nice and minty and fresh and not too heavy. The topping is good as well. The mint flavor is present without being overpowering. My wife said they were so good, they make you want to eat more of them.

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I brought some in to work the next day and they were even better. People really liked them. One person asked for the recipe, one person said they were better than the last thing they had tried (the Reese’s crumble), one person declared that they would be happy to have anything I made (he hadn’t had any of my desserts before), and one person just thanked me repeatedly. My wife had a similar reaction at work.

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I thought about how they might or might not work for the contest. They were good but were they winners? My wife and I brainstormed some variations. Like having a brownie or chocolate cookie base, having the peppermint cream mixed into brownies, or just taking the cream part and using it to make sandwich cookies.

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So what did I ultimately decide to make for the contest? Stay tuned to find out! In the meantime, have you ever won any contests or awards with your recipes? I’d love to hear stories. Or do you have any favorite crowd pleasing recipes? I’d love to hear those, too.

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Recipe courtesy of The Kitchn.

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