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Mmm... is for mint

Monday, August 8, 2011

The fresh mint in the picture above is a week old. I got it at a little grocer's shop close to the place I go to for pilates. It surprises me that the leaves are still so fresh after a week. A week! I've never had mint last a week. The mint I get from the many other places starts to wilt and the leaves turn black and mushy after only a day. The grocers must get their supply from some fine growers. How green are their thumbs and what are they putting in their soil?

I've tried growing mint in a pot on my balcony many times. Every article I've read about mint and every person I've spoken to about it says mint is one of the easiest plants to grow. Just stick a cutting in soil and it'll be growing like a weed in no time, they tell me. That makes me feel shamefully small and useless since every cutting I've potted, while initially showing promise, has ended up lacklustre and insipid like so many American Idols after their win. (At least I can uproot my plants and start over with new soil and fertiliser.)

Minty rice salad
Mint is one of those herbs I like to use like a salad leaf, especially when it is as lush as the bunch I recently bought. In the rice salad and the chicken noodles shown here, mint leaves feature prominently.

Mint is also used in confection, usually cold desserts, but often, only as that bit of garnish on top of the cream or fruit. Why shouldn't it be an ingredient with a more starring role in a sweet?

With that in mind, I looked around for something minty and sweet. Mint and chocolate go well together and when I searched for "fresh mint and chocolate", lo and behold, there are several recipes online with the two ingredients together.
Minty chicken noodles

Fresh mint is easy to incorporate onto a chocolate chip ice cream, for example, but a fresh mint and chocolate chip cookies is quite unusual. Here are a number of sites with recipes:
Une Gamine dans la Cuisine
Heather Cristo Cooks

Like a lot of people, I have my favourite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and here I would just have to add chopped fresh mint to it. However, I thought I would try something else and decided to go with Michael Ruhlman's ratio which uses the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. With just those ingredients, I'll get a crisp plain cookie, but since I am adding egg and chocolate, it should be slightly softer and chewier. However, when I mixed the dough, it was a little too soft for my liking and didn't firm up very much after chilling in the fridge. So I added a little more flour. The dough still spread out quite a bit in the oven, but it has the texture of a brandy snap, only without the lacy look.

Minty chocolate cookies
Makes 16 cookies

50g butter, softened

50g soft brown sugar
White from 1 medium egg
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
80g plain flour
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
50g coarsely chopped dark chocolate
4-6 tbsp coarsely chopped mint leaves (depending on strength of mint and individual preference)
  • Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in egg white and vanilla extract.
  • Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt; add to butter mixture. Stir in chocolate chunks and mint (to taste). Place the dough in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.
  • Meanwhile, preheat oven at 180°C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop heaped teaspoons of the dough onto the sheets 7cm apart; bake until golden brown, 10-12 minutes. 
  • Leave the cookies to cool on the sheets for 2 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Store tightly covered.
Pretty flecks of green 

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