Some food, some drink.
On The Origins of The “Best Chocolate Mint Cookies” (I still don’t really know).
When I first started baking cookies for Christmas, I got a hold of a recipe for Chocolate Cookies topped with a melted Andes Mint humbly titled "Best Chocolate Mint Cookies". Humility aside, it truly is a good cookie. Imagine the penultimate edge of a brownie put into convenient cookie form, smeared with a cool, creamy, Andes Mint. At our house, this is a Holiday cookie on the "must bake" list. A list of only nine ingredients makes it easy, and this is a recipe that makes plenty so they're great for sharing too!
As it is with so many family favorites, it's quite often easy to lose track of the source of a recipe. For me, this is usually just unacceptable. I spent a good chunk of my life shuffling test tubes, brooding over minutiae under microscopes, taking repeated measurements, and writing papers for extremely limited audiences. All the aforementioned scientific banality trained me to never talk of certainty without evidence, and the best path to proving to others that you're not full of baloney was to properly cite your sources.
People work hard to craft recipes; and proper attribution is simply the honest and neighborly thing to do. I mention all this because of this great chocolate mint cookie recipe that I bake every year during the holidays. The attribution is piss-poor, but the recipe's so damn good that I felt like I had to share. Now I know where I got this recipe from, but I didn't have a clue where that person got it from. Lucky for me, my source is a librarian (with a great memory). After a brief query, I now know that at least in these parts, this particular chocolate mint cookie likely gained popularity after a Christmas cookie contest that the Hays Daily News put on more than a quarter century ago. And while without spending hours digging thru microfiche I may never know the specifics of the source beyond a name and an event, at least now I know enough that I don't feel as guilty about publishing something without a legitimate source.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Over medium heat in a medium saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar, water, and salt just to a boil stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate chips until melted and fully integrated. Let this stuff stand for at least 10 minutes or until the temperature drops below 160F. Move the now cooler (but still warm) mess to the bowl of a stand mixer and slowly pour in the beaten eggs while beating it all on medium speed. Once the eggs are fully integrated, continue to mix one minute longer, then take the speed down to a stir. Gently whisk the baking soda into the flour and then spoon it into the wet stuff, (still stirring) while scraping the bowl as necessary. Mix until everything is just integrated, then cover and chill for at least 2 hours.
When it's time to bake, Preheat the oven to 350F. Roll dough into 1 inch diameter balls (about 1/2 oz), and load 'em on a parchment or Silpat-lined half sheet pan, leaving 2 inches of space around each to spread. Bake 10-12 minutes; then out of the oven, immediately place a mint on each hot cookie and let 'em rest on the pan for 5 minutes. After the 5, spread the melted mints over the cookie with a knife and move 'em to a cooling rack so you can set up for the next batch. Be sure to let all cookies cool completely on a rack before storing so the melted mints have ample time to set back up again.
- I've tried melting the butter and sugar for this recipe in the microwave, and I'm not crazy about the results. For one, you can't keep a spoon or whisk in it to help the integration along. Second, the on and off nature of a 'boil' in a microwave means that not all the sugar always melts completely. We're shooting for fudgy, not gritty; so use your stove top.
- What's up with that 10 minute wait? The original recipe insists on it before adding the eggs. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that if you add raw eggs to a hot mess of sugar and fat, you're going to get egg drop fudge. Blargh. So, really it's more about temperature here than time; but given the nature of how a traditional home cook rolls, folks are more likely to have an egg timer present than a digital thermometer (but not you, right?). McGee tells us (p. 85 in my hymnal) that The proteins in egg white begin to denature at 145F and consequently solidify at 150F. Likewise, the yolk begins to denature at 150F. However, when the egg is emulsified (that's a scramble folks), denaturing doesn't occur until 165F. So really where best practices are concerned, you'll want to show those eggs the whisk before slowly stirring them into the rested fat, sugar, and melted chocolate.
- Sheesh. More waiting!? The 2 hours in the fridge gets all that chocolate in the mix back below its melting point, and it's the difference between handling a cookie dough and a cookie batter (cookie batter was last week). These buggers are gonna wanna spread like crazy in the hot box; and if you want fudgy and chewy, you gotta keep your dough cold until the cookie hits the oven. To accomplish this, I like to divvy all my balls o' dough and store 'em in the fridge until go-time.
- You can leave the cookie dough in the fridge longer than two hours, but beyond that it becomes a bit of a pain to portion. If you're thinking about doing the dough the day before and you're not gonna pre-ball after the two-hour rest, then allow the mass o' dough 30 minutes to warm outside of the ice box before portioning.
- When the recipe says "one mint" it's talking about the foiled paper-wrapped Andes Mints that you usually find in the cardboard flat. This year, the holiday-themed individually-wrapped and bagged mints were almost 50% cheaper per ounce, so I picked those up. When I got 'em home I discovered that they were twice the size. No problem. To cut 'em in half, just score 'em with a really sharp knife while applying even downward pressure.
I'm not so naive as to think that the recipe I've got is the ultimate source for this cookie recipe; hell, a plethora of results in a simple search tells me otherwise. However, sometimes the best you can hope for is to document what you know so that the next person to pick up your research can do you one better. So yeah; if you've got this recipe in your collection, I'd love to here where you got it from (in the hopes of sleeping with a clear conscience at night). Incidentally, I gotta wonder why a fairly ubiquitous holiday cookie recipe is MIA on the official Andes Mint recipe listing (maybe they don't really know where really it came from either).
Proper attribution aside, If you've never made these cookies and you're a fan of mint and chocolate, you gotta try 'em. Every bite is like a slightly crisp and impossibly chewy edge of brownie (you know, those pieces in the pan you all fight over), topped with cool, creamy-smooth chocolate mint. This a cookie that oozes Christmas. And while this is a pretty rich cookie, it's all but impossible to not have at least two at a go. If you're serving these on Christmas Eve, make sure to leave an extra-tall glass of moo-juice for the fat guy in the red suit!