Peppermint Stick Shortbread

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On the fifth day of Christmas, ¯¯ my true love gave to me ¯¯Peppermint Stick Shortbread.

When I delivered several large holiday bags full of dozens upon dozens of beribboned boxes of LunaCafe OtherWorldly Artisan Cookies to my family last year, this particular cookie, after it was sampled, caused a scene. My 8-year-old nephew, Matthew, began tearing through other family member’s bags, scooping out all the boxes labeled Peppermint Stick for himself. After Christmas, his mom confided that both he and my 10-year niece, Sarah, had “redirected” many boxes of cookies to their bedrooms for “safe keeping.”

Now I ask you, is that the spirit of Christmas? J

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Peppermint Stick Shortbread

I developed the prototype for these cookies last year as part of the product line for LunaCafe OtherWorldly Artisan Cookies, which will hopefully launch in the not too distant future. Although I can’t share that top secret formula with you (more than 10 years in testing), here is essentially the same flavoring in a traditional and utterly delicious (light, crisp, buttery) shortbread cookie.

Warning   Highly addictive. May cause immature behavior even in adults.

Baking Note   For best results, cookies should be COLD when they go into the oven. Otherwise, they may spread too much. Always give cookies plenty of space to spread regardless, at least an inch between cookies. Baking times are APPROXIMATE. Correct baking times are critical to the success of your cookies. Test your oven and pan setup with a few cookies to start with and watch the timing closely. Dark pans bake faster than light pans or air-sandwiched pans. Silicon mat-lined pans bake faster than parchment-lined pans. Cookies that are rolled to 1/8-inch thick bake faster than cookies rolled to ¼-inch thick. And your oven may be running hot or cold. There are so many variables. Do test a couple of cookies first. It may save an entire batch later.

3 cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt

 

6 ounces peppermint sticks or candy canes (1 cup crushed candy)

 

1½ cups unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 cubes)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and salt. Reserve.
  2. Put the peppermint sticks in a sealable plastic bag, remove air from the bag, seal, and then crush with a mallet. Measure 1 cup of crushed peppermint candy. Reserve.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.
  4. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts, and incorporate.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix on very slow speed very briefly, just until a dough forms.
  6. Add the crushed peppermint sticks and mix just to incorporate.
  7. Using a #40 (1½ tablespoon) commercial scoop, scoop level portions of dough and place side-by-side in a container. (For a less jagged finished edge, roll the portions of dough into smooth balls with your hands after scooping.) If you run out of room, it’s fine to put a second layer of dough mounds on top of the first layer. They will easily pull apart after they are chilled. Cover the container.
  8. Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours (and preferably overnight) before baking.
  9. Place well chilled mounds of dough 1-inch apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Place a small piece of plastic wrap over each cookie and then flatten to ½-inch thick with a flat or textured mallet to a diameter of 1¾ inches. (They will spread to 2¼ inches as they bake.)
  10. Bake at 350° for about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies, rotating pans at the halfway point to ensure even browning.
  11. Remove from the oven, immediately loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan.
  12. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
  13. Store airtight in layers separated by wax paper rounds in a cookie tin in a cool, dry place.

These cookies improve with age. If stored properly, they keep for 3-4 weeks.

Makes 2 dozen, 2¼-inch diameter cookies.

Candy cane cookie flat on sheet Peppermint Stick Shortbread

Come Back for More

Here is the LunaCafe Christmas 2008 Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies initial post and game plan – with links to the following twelve cookies.

On the 1st day of Christmas: Lily’s Swedish Vanilla Spritz

On the 2nd day of Christmas: Orange Vanilla Sugar Cookies

On the 3rd day of Christmas: Decidedly Lemon Teacakes

On the 4th day of Christmas: Once in a Chocolate-Spice Moon Cookies

On the 5th day of Christmas: Peppermint Stick Shortbread

On the 6th day of Christmas: Lemon-Lime Clove Sugar Cookies

On the 7th day of Christmas: Almond Black Cherry Shortbread

On the 8th day of Christmas: Green Tea and Rose Spritz

On the 9th day of Christmas: Almond Butter Poinsettia Cookies

On the 10th day of Christmas: Lemon OrangePecan Thumbprints

On the 11th day of Christmas: Candy Cane Butter Cookies

On the 12th day of Christmas: Ellen’s Swedish Pepparkakor

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

Comments

  1. this collection is very effective which i was looking for

  2. Great idea, followed directions exactly as written, but the cookies do not look good when baked…

  3. Happy New Year and thanks again for all the lovely cookies! Second year in a row trying my hand at your recipes (and second year where I seem to be missing ingredients I thought I had). Had the stuff around for these ones, though… and while the cookie dough will be dutifully awaiting its turn to cook, the dough smells (and tastes ;)) delicious! Can’t wait :D.

    Thank you again and may 2011 be filled with all kinds of wonderfulness for you and yours! :D

  4. Hi, I may try again – the ones I salvaged were good even though they were like lace cookies and I couldn’t give them away. I think I’ll try a bit more flour and lower over temp next time. Thanks again.

    • Lee Anne, do let me know how your next batch turns out. There must be a variable that hasn’t occurred to me that is causing this. Are you using parchment paper on a light colored baking sheet? I am noticing significant differences between baking sheets. For consitency sake, I’m testing with my lightest colored baking pans. Best..Susan

  5. I was so excited to find a peppermint shortbread cookie! What a great holiday treat – what a disaster!! I followed the recipe exactly and, similar to Jennifer Smith above, all of my cookies ran together! I tried to salvage by creating cookie curls by shaping them over a wooden spoon handle, but they were so greasy, they were unappetizing. For the 2nd batch, I added 1/2 cup flour – same results. Into the trash everything went – even the uncooked dough. Guess I’ll go back to one of my tried & true recipes.

    • Hi Lee Anne. This is perplexing. I made these cookies again today and am packaging them for gifts right now. They look exactly as they do in the post’s pictures. I made the dough last night, portioned it with a small scoop into balls, covered with plastic wrap, and then refrigerated until today. The dough balls were so cold that I let them warm for about 1/2 hour, until I could flatten each ball without cracking it. The cookies spread only a little. I use this basic formula for many of my shortbread-style cookies. I have never experienced what you describe. Nevertheless, it seems wise to lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. The lower you go, the less spread.

      Here is boilerplate text I am now adding to all cookie recipes:

      Baking Note For best results, cookies should be COLD when they go into the oven. Otherwise, they may spread too much. Always give cookies plenty of space to spread regardless, at least an inch between cookies. Baking times are APPROXIMATE. Correct baking times are critical to the success of your cookies. Test your oven and pan setup with a few cookies to start with and watch the timing closely. Dark pans bake faster than light pans or air-sandwiched pans. Silicon mat-lined pans bake faster than parchment-lined pans. Cookies that are rolled to 1/8-inch thick bake faster than cookies rolled to ¼-inch thick. And your oven may be running hot or cold. There are so many variables. Do test a couple of cookies first. It may save an entire batch later.

  6. Could I replace some of the peppermint extract with peppermint oil?

  7. Jennifer Smith says:

    What a complete disaster! I carefully shaped small rounds, only to have the all run together into a mass of greasy peppermint dough on the parchment paper–so much for little round Christmas tea cookies! Missed the part about how much they spread during baking….so, it was an expensive lesson as I threw the gooey mess away.

    • Oh no. Was the entire batch ruined? Was the dough very well chilled as specified in the recipe? I am troubled by your mention of “greasy.” That indicates to me that they not only ran together (because they were too close together as you say, but also might not have been chilled), but that perhaps they were not fully baked. I think I should specify in every cookie recipe moving forward to test-bake a couple of cookies to see how they do and to get the timing right. That might prevent this kind of disappointment. I do hope you try them again though, as they are everyone’s absolute favorites. Best…Susan

  8. I searched everywhere for peppermint Candy canes but since I’m in the city and they only sell those during Christmas time I can only settle for mint crumbles, will those do?

    • Chloe, I’m not sure what a mint crumble is actually. How about the little round peppermint candies in bags that they sell everywhere? The ones that are often in a basket at the counter of Mexican restaurants?

  9. Thank you!

  10. Mouse, I doubt you did anything “wrong” per se.

    The recipe is formulated very precisely, but unfortunately flour contains different amounts of moisture from day to day, kitchen to kitchen, and producer to producer. Also, if you measured the flour by any other method than the scoop flour into cup and sweep off excess, you would have an incorrect measurement. I always specify King Arthur unbleached, all purpose flour for this type of cookie because it is very consistent from batch to batch.

    Another variable is the amount of water contained in different brands of butter.

    Your instincts were good in adding water to the dough when you found it was too crumbly.Because there is a high ratio of butter in this recipe, that small amount of water is unlikely to make the cookies tough.

    Next time you make the cookies, hold back 1/2 cup of the flour mixture and check the dough for moisture. Then add only enough of the remaining flour to get a pliable dough. Happy Baking!

  11. I tried making these today and the dough came out too crumbly. I added about two tablespoons of water so that the dough would stick together. It’s in the fridge now and I’ll see how they turn out tomorrow, but I’m nervous about it. :(

    What could I have done wrong?

  12. Aunt Sue,
    I made the cookies and they needed more flour. I couldn’t get King Arthur’s flour so I used cake flour. What is the difference between cake flour, regular flour and King Arthur flour?
    Johanna

    • Hi Johanna! :-)

      King Arthur unbleached, all purpose flour is “regular” flour. I specify it because of its high quality and absolute consistency in the level of protein in the flour from bag to bag. Other flours are not so consistent and thus results can vary unpredictably. Cake flour has a very low protein level and is also bleached, so unless it is specifically called for in a recipe, using it will dramatically change the amount of flour needed to balance the moisture in the dough and of course the end result as well. So that’s what I think occurred here.

      You might try the recipe again, using King Arthur flour (or at least unbleached all-purpose flour), and then before shaping all of the cookies, shape and bake a couple of cookies only. If you still think the dough needs more flour, add in 1/4-cup increments, bake a few more cookies to check the result, and so on, until you acheive the result you want.

      I have tested these cookies many many times over the years and finessed the amount of flour up and down to get what I think is the perfect amount for a tender, crisp, melt-in-your mouth cookie on the one hand but also a cookie that does not spread too much while baking on the other hand.

      You might also try a longer chilling time. I find that these are even better when the dough is refrigerated for 2 days before baking.

      Happy baking!

  13. Grace, thank you, and you are exactly right! The combination of caramelized butter (from baking) and peppermint is irresistable. I try to hide these cookies from myself because I can never eat just one. :-)

  14. I just had these cookies yesterday and I have to say they are absolutely amazing. I can already anticipate the fights between Matthew and Sarah over these cookies. I hope you’re baking your favorite neice a batch now. :)

    • My favorite neice has a huge bag of holiday cookies waiting for delivery to her house. But I think MauiJim stole ALL of the Pepperkakors from her bag. The Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies baking extravaganza is now a little off schedule due to DapperDan being in the hospital this past week, but today I am back in the LunaCafe Kitchen baking Candy Cane Cookies, which will have a double dose of the peppermint flavor Matt and Sarah like so much. I really do want to get a video clip of them arguing over and stealing the cookies. :-) As for the Peppermint Stick Shortbread, hey YOU now have the recipe so start baking. :-)

  15. The mixing instructions leave out adding the peppermint extract. You may want to add that along with the vanilla extract. I just finished shaping the cookies and they are being refrigerated right now. I hope they turn out ok! Thanks for the recicpe.

  16. i need to tell you that these look and sound absolutely amazing. you simply can’t go wrong with mint-flavored butter, and that’s all there is to it. :)

  17. Thanks! lol. I realized what you meant when I went to the store and saw the candy canes sold in a package – 6 oz exactly. :-)
    Getting ready to make them now!

  18. Good catch, Patti, thanks! Six ounces of peppermint sticks or candy canes will equal 1 cup of crushed candy. I just corrected the error on the post. Happy baking! :-)

  19. Do you really mean 12 cups of crushed candy canes? I would like to make these, but that seems wrong…

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