The first written account of mint was by the naturalist Pliny in 100 A.D., who said it was good for the mind and gladdened the soul. Through the ages, mint has been used in many ways, including for cooking and aesthetic purposes. Mint is sometimes used in savory dishes, but when used in sweet treats, it pairs well with chocolate and lemon. Adding mint to your favorite cookie recipe is simple enough, and a variety of vehicles -- including extracts, fresh leaves and candies -- exist to deliver that fresh, clean taste.
Extract Some Flavor
The simplest and most potent way to give cookies a mint flavor is by adding a bit of pure mint extract when you cream the butter and sugar together. Mint extract contains the flavor of fresh mint leaves preserved in alcohol. If you can find it, mint oil has an even more potent taste. Look for real mint extracts, rather than imitation ones that are made in a lab and won't have the same depth of aroma and taste. Or, make your own mint extract. Place clean, dry mint leaves in a jar and pour vodka over them. Remove the mint after two days and store the extract in a cool, dark, dry location for up to one year. The alcohol acts as a preservative, preventing mold growth, but it evaporates quickly. Discard any homemade or commercial extract that has an off odor or looks murky.
Keep It Fresh
Fresh herbs are most often used in salads and cooked dishes, but mint's refreshing, bright flavor lends itself to baked goods, too. Add chopped, clean, dry mint leaves to almost any cookie dough recipe. Add peppermint or spearmint leaves to a chocolate cookie recipe or stir lemon mint into a shortbread recipe, along with some dried lavender. You'll need a lot of fresh mint since its flavor is less potent than dried mint or an extract -- at least a cup or two.
Another simple way to add mint flavoring to cookies is by using mint-flavored candies. Toss mint candy bits, usually found next to the chocolate chips at the grocery store, into a chocolate chip cookie recipe for a quick change to a classic recipe. Make over-the-top, decadent brownies with chilled chocolate-covered mint patties. Freeze the candies for at least one hour to keep them firm. Make your favorite brownie recipe, either from scratch or from a box. Spread half the brownie batter in a prepared pan. Lay enough mint patties over the batter to cover it, and be sure to use the large ones, rather than the miniature ones, which will melt too much during baking. Cover the candies with the remaining brownie batter and bake until a toothpick inserted in the brownies comes out clean. When the brownies cool, they'll have a thick layer of mint candy inside.
If you love baking with mint, try growing your own. Most nurseries carry many varieties of mint, including unusual flavors, such as chocolate, rose or lemon mint. Grow mint in slightly moist soil in sun. Mint grows and spreads quickly, so growing it in pots is the best choice. Mint can also be found growing wild if it's escaped from a garden. Use care when picking wild mint, because it resembles stinging nettle, which is covered with tiny hairs that can irritate your skin. Store fresh-cut mint in the refrigerator and use it within a few days.
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