Tuesday, February 3, 2009
We made Thin Mints (aka "The Difficult Cookie.")
Thin Mints have a very special place in my heart. I have proclaimed them to be "my favorite cookie in the world", and while I don't actually have a list of favorite cookies, the Thin Mint has managed to hold onto its imaginary # 1 spot, even as I continue to bake and taste new and exciting cookies all the time. The Thin Mint has staying power.
I suspect part of the Thin Mint's allure is it's rarity - available for a short time only once a year! I was never a Girl Scout, however when I was young, it was always a great day when one of my parents would come home from work with a box or two of Girl Scout cookies, purchased (I suppose) from a coworker selling them on behalf a Girl Scout child or relative.
Like many others before me, I prefer these cookies stored in the freezer. Somehow the cookie remains crispy without getting stale or tooth-chippingly hard, and the cool mint flavor is further enhanced by the nice cold temperature.
Recently, I realized that Girl Scout cookie season was upon us. Sadly though, my parents' Girl Scout cookie connections seem to have dried up. I racked my brain for any other possible Girl Scout cookie hook-ups, but came up with nothing.
Then, fortuitously, during a bout of insomnia, I came across a recipe for HOMEMADE Thin Mints.
I promptly composed an email to Faryl (sent at 2:02 AM):
Subject: I am crazy
I want to make them like tomorrow.
Do you love these cookies as much as I do?
The next morning I woke up to this reply:
What are you doing TODAY!!!
The choice was obvious. We would make them that VERY day. Faryl came over, and we began.
From start to finish, the creation of the cookie spanned several days and multiple boroughs of New York City. But this is not the only reason that we ultimately dubbed the homemade Thin Mint as "the difficult cookie". This is not meant to discourage you from trying it yourself! It is fun to make and eat, just a little...unruly. A little messy. A little time consuming. And ultimately...it didn't taste much like a traditional thin mint. But hey, it is still a chocolate cookie that has been dipped in a thick layer of melted chocolate. So I guess in the scheme of things, there is not much to complain about.
Here's the recipe (Notes in bold):
Homemade Thin Mints
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
6 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp peppermint extract **I think you really need more than this. Definitely at least a full teaspoon, maybe even a tsp and a 1/4. See note below.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, add in the milk and the extracts. Mixture will look curdled. It's true.
Gradually, add in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.
Shape dough into two logs, about 1 1/2 inches (or about 4 cm) in diameter, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 1-2 hours, until dough is very firm. This was the first "difficult" part of the process. The dough was very crumbly. We managed to wrangle it into plastic wrap though.
At this point in the process, we ran out of time. Dinner plans had been set, and there was no way we could wait for these to freeze and finish them in time. We decided to leave the dough chilling in the freezer, and complete the process soon.
After a few days, and I retrieved the logs of dough from the freezer, and packed them up for a trip to Faryl's house. A bus ride and two subway lines later, we were ready to complete the process.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Slice dough into rounds not more than 1/4 inch thick - if they are too thick, they will not be as crisp - and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. We found that the dough was MUCH easier to cut when nearly frozen. The subway ride had thawed them a bit, and they were impossibly crumbly. We put them back in the freezer to re-harden, and it was much easier. I dare say they can be up to 1/2 inch thick though.
Cookies will not spread very much, so you can put them quite close together. It is true, the cookies do not really spread. What you see is what you get. We experimented with cookie size a great deal, with some tiny cookies and some larger ones. The larger cookies (the size of a traditional Thin Mint) were much, much better.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, until cookies are firm at the edges. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack before dipping in chocolate.
Dark Chocolate Coating
10-oz dark or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
In a microwave safe bowl (or double boiler) combine chocolate and butter. Melt on high power in the microwave, stirring every 45-60 seconds, until chocolate is smooth. Chocolate should have a consistency somewhere between chocolate syrup and fudge for a thin coating.
Dip each cookie in melted chocolate, turn with a fork to coat, then transfer to a piece of parchment paper or wax paper to set up for at least 30 minutes, or until chocolate is cool and firm. Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it smooth and easy to dip into.
Makes 3 1/2-4 dozen cookies.
**Note about the minty-ness: Like I mentioned before, these cookies came out of the oven with a VERY subtle mint flavor. It was there, but barely. Did it lose potency due to the extended stay in my freezer? I do not know. In any case, I recommend adding more peppermint extract to your batter, but in moderation. You still want to be able to taste the chocolate.
After we baked these, I looked back at the original recipe. A few people had commented including someone named "Sarah" who had a very strange suggestion. Here it is:
An easier recipe that tastes exactly like Thin Mints is to use Ritz Crackers and dip them in a pound of melted Bakers Chocolate (double boiled) with 1 tsp. of peppermint extract mixed in the chocolate. set on wax paper and let dry and they are AMAZING.
I may be crazy enough to try it. My quest to recreate the Thin Mint may not have yielded precise results, but the journey is just beginning. While the real Thin Mint recipe is probably locked in a safe somewhere at National Girl Scout Headquarters, I feel confident that with perseverance, the home baker will someday create a worthy replica. Until then...will someone please tell me how to get my hands on one of those beautiful green boxes?!