Saturday, January 12, 2013

Peppermint Cookies

This is a recipe I got from Mennonite Girls Can Cook.

Warning, this recipe takes at least two to three days to make.
This is also a VERY messy recipe.

Some back story:

My Oma used to make these cookies when I was a girl, and they're one of my favourites.  When she passed away, I inherited her cookbook, including part of this recipe.  Unfortunately, too much of it was missing for it to be safe to make.

You see, Peppermint cookies use Baking Ammonia, otherwise known as ammonium carbonate.  When heated, ammonium carbonate turns into gaseous ammonia and carbon dioxide.  However, it is an unparalleled leavening agent for old recipes that predate modern baking soda and baking powder.  When used in thin baked goods, such as cookies, and following the directions of recipes, it is very safe, just quite a bit smelly.  The result is light, fluffy and flavourful cookies that is very hard to achieve with just baking soda.

However, for our recipe, we were missing the part that includes what to do with the baking ammonia, so it wasn't safe for us to make the cookies.

Fast-track to now, when we discovered the Mennonite Girls Can Cook cookbook and blog, full of old family favourites.  Excited, my parents and I started to go looking for the two uncommon ingredients used for this recipe: baking ammonia and peppermint oil.

I'm not sure about outside of Canada, but where I am, baking ammonia can be found sold as ammonium bicarbonate in the larger Loblaws market stores.  The one I found it in also had a kosher section and a community/class cooking room.

Peppermint oil is a little more easy to find.  It's at the Bulk Barn, usually up at the front cash with other small bottles of oils.  It is important to use Peppermint oil, not extract.  You won't get the same flavour with extract as you will with the oil, as extract evaporates while oil doesn't, creating a stronger flavour.   It also has a very strong scent, so be careful handling it for measuring and taking the cookies out of the oven.

And now for the recipe.

Peppermint Cookies
from Mennonite Girls Can Cook
(makes approximately 10-12 dozen cookies)

½ cup softened butter
2 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
½ cup oil
2 cups sour cream
20 drops peppermint oil (1/3 tsp)
2 Tbsp baking ammonia dissolved in 2 Tbsp hot water
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
8 cups flour

In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
Dissolve baking ammonia in hot water, make sure there's no lumps.  
Add oil, sour cream, peppermint oil and baking ammonia to egg mixture, beating each in well.
In a separate bowl, mix baking powder, baking soda, and flour.  Add to wet ingredients stirring with wooden spoon or using a hook attachment on a mixer.  
Cover and let stand in fridge overnight.

The next day: 
Preheat oven to 400 F
Prepare cookie sheets (preferably light colored, aluminum) by coating lightly with shortening (using a paper towel). Then sprinkle lightly with flour, tilt cookie sheet and tap ends to allow flour to spread evenly all over.
Divide dough into four parts to roll out. Roll out to ¼” thickness, using a light dusting of flour on rolling surface as well as on top of dough and rolling pin. 
Cut with small round cookie cutter or small tomato paste tin, and place on cookie sheets about an inch apart from each other.
Bake or 10 – 12 minutes or until golden from underneath.
Remove onto wire cooling racks. Re-use cooled baking sheet without washing. You may scrape up the flour with a plastic scraper and dust with flour again, but you don’t have to keep greasing it up for the rest of the batch.

Once cooled, mix up an icing using whipping cream and icing sugar to coat the cookies. Let dry and enjoy!!!

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