mint slice cookies

by Bridget

My parents were pretty relaxed and liberal in their approach to how they raised us; my siblings and I ate dirt and snails from the garden as toddlers, took the public bus to school before we’d turned ten, and any questions we raised were answered and discussed openly and honestly. There were two areas however in which my parents were outstandingly strict – what we ate and how we entertained ourselves.
To this day, when my peers – now in their mid twenties – reminisce about the television shows and video games of ‘our’ youth, I am as lost as I was then. Any video console game was outright vetoed and TV in my house was a privilege; it wasn’t until my teens that we were released from an arrangement whereby my two siblings and I had to agree upon one half-hour show to watch each afternoon, and choose only from those aired on ABC – Australia’s public broadcaster.

Food was a similar affair, but one for which I am still grateful. My parent’s philosophy was pretty simple and sensible (though after some of the tantrums it caused, I’m still reluctant to concede them that point!) …kids ate what the parents ate and we weren’t to leave the table until we’d finished our meal, but most importantly what we were given was always fresh, healthy and homemade.
My mother was a great cook, the kind who thought nothing of coming home from a full days work and still preparing an elaborate meal every single night. She schlepped to and from Melbourne’s biggest fresh food market twice a week – a forty minute tram ride with three kids under eight in tow – so we could afford to eat so well. Meals out were few and far between, but when they happened it was fresh, fragrant Vietnamese or a couple of pizzas shared between us with a homemade salad.

Funnily none of this meant we went without treats. Although I suffered some serious lunchbox envy most days at school, in hindsight I’m pretty sure none of the kids with rollups and chocolate covered ‘muesli’ bars during the day went home to snack on platters of carefully cut fruit, occasional homemade cookies and some form of dessert on the table most nights.
I like to think I’ve inherited this philosophy and I’m sure that some day I’ll endure my own kids’ whines of “but everyone else gets to mum!” with the knowledge that some day they’ll appreciate it like I do. That said, there are some mass produced, preservative filled, supermarket best sellers that come to be in your pantry because they are just that good! I can’t really think of mine right now but Tim loves a Mint Slice and I must say I’m also partial. So in the spirit of all that is written above I set out to make my own. The verdict? Really, really good… and definitely all the better for knowing what’s in them!

Dark chocolate cookies
Adapted from Gourmet (December 2007)
Makes about 4 dozen individual cookies
40 minutes making + 2 hours chilling + 12 minutes baking per sheet

The part I’ve always enjoyed least about an Arnott’s Mint Slice is the biscuit as it’s too hard with little real flavour on its own – a deal breaker for anyone like me who scrapes the minty layer off first! This cookie is dark, intensely chocolaty and has a lovely texture almost like a sable, it also stands alone as a delicious cookie to dunk in a cup of coffee.

2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup dutch cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
230 grams (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together and whisk to ensure they are well combined.In an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar then add yolk and vanilla and beat until pale and fluffy.
With mixer at a low speed, add flour mixture in three batches until just combined after each. After the final addition, mix until dough is just formed.
Divide dough in half, flatten each half into a disk, wrap tightly in cling film and chill until firm – at least two hours.

**I would make the peppermint pattie filling while the dough chills**

Once chilled:
Preheat oven to 160ºC (350ºF) with rack in middle. Butter or line two large baking sheets.
Roll out first round of dough on a sheet of parchment or baking paper to a couple of millimetres (1/8 inch) thick. Slide onto a tray and freeze while you roll out the second disk.
Remove first sheet from freezer and replace with the one you’ve just rolled out. Cut as many rounds as possible, reserving and chilling scraps.
Transfer rounds to prepared baking sheet/s, arranging a centimetre (1/2 inch) apart. If softened, return to fridge or freezer for ten minutes before baking.
Bake cookies in preheated oven until slight puffed and dry on top – about 10-12 minutes.
Cool on sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
Continue with other sheet, re-rolling scraps, until all dough is used.

Do ahead:
Dough can be kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for two days, or frozen for up to two months. Baked cookies keep, in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week.

Peppermint pattie filling
Loosely adapted from Epicurious
Makes enough to cover 4 dozen cookies
10 minutes making + 15 minutes freezing

3½ – 4 cups icing (confectioners) sugar
2½ tablespoons light corn syrup2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
400 grams good quality dark chocolate (50-70% depending on preference) – used in cookie assembly

In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 3½ cups icing sugar with corn syrup, water, peppermint extract, butter and a pinch of salt until a smooth paste forms. If the paste is too wet and sticky, add up to a 1/2 cup more icing sugar, beating at a low-medium speed until a smooth pasty dough is formed. Knead into a ball (it will be sticky), wrap tightly in cling film and freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

*I like to make a dozen balls, then return the paste to the fridge while I cover the cookies with them – this stops the peppermint paste from getting to warm/soft or crusting.

Do ahead: Paste will keep, wrapped airtight in the fridge up to one month.

Assemble cookies
Makes 4 dozen cookies
45 minutes making + 2 hours setting

Take teaspoon sized amounts of paste from the chilled peppermint pattie mixture and roll into balls*. Hold a cooled cookie flat on your hand, then place a ball of peppermint paste on top of the cookie and flatten it with your other thumb, pushing outwards to cover the entire surface of the cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies then chill covered cookies while you temper the chocolate to cover them.

To temper chocolate:
Place 300 grams of chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and melt, stirring until smooth and a candy or instant read thermometer registers 46ºC (115ºF).
Remove from heat and add remaining 100 grams of chocolate in one piece. Allow heated chocolate to melt the added amount until all the chocolate is cooled to a temperature of 26-27ºC (80-82ºF) – there may still be a lump of unmelted chocolate.
Place bowl back over your saucepan and bring melted chocolate to a temperature of 31-33ºC (88-91ºF) – do not let it exceed this temperature.
Remove what’s left of the lump of chocolate you added earlier; you can now start dipping your cookies.

Work quickly as you will need to bring the chocolate back up to the correct temperature should it drop below 31ºC (88ºF).
Take each cookie by the base and dip top side into the chocolate, ensuring all of the mint paste is covered. Place on parchment paper, chocolate side up and repeat with remaining cookies. Allow to set at room temperature – about two hours.

Do Ahead: Cookies will keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature, around one week.