Add a Little Pep to Your Day
This time of year, peppermint seems to be everywhere. Try some of our Food Team’s favorite ways to add the refreshing flavor to food and drinks.
In spite of the stories swirling around like the red-and-white colors of a peppermint stick, historians say that candy canes were not originally created as a religious symbol. More likely, a few creative confectioners centuries ago were looking for a way to jazz up the straight white sticks of sugar candy that were popular among children of the time. The bend may have been added so the candies could be hung upon Christmas trees—thus hooking them permanently to the holiday season.
Whatever the true story of the candy cane is, research suggests that we’d all do well to experiment with peppermint in our own homes. Some findings:
- Peppermint contains antioxidants—enough to earn it third place for the highest amount among herbs (behind oregano and sage).
- Enjoying a food flavored with peppermint oil may help you beat the midday slump or calm down during rush hour (or while in line at the mall).
- For Panera Bread® head baker Tom Gumpel, peppermint has been a personal favorite since childhood. “I grew up in a town in New York that was home to the original Life Savers factory,” says Tom. “You could tell what they were cooking up each day. I remember playing in the streets and breathing in the wafts of peppermint.” It’s no surprise, then, that one of Tom’s favorite Panera cookies was the Mint-Chocolate Crinkle Cookie that was introduced a few years ago. Though that treat isn’t currently on the menu, you can make a similar cookie by adding 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract to your favorite chocolate crinkle cookie recipe.
Looking for more ways to enjoy the flavor?
These delicious ideas can add a little extra peppermint to your season.
- Whip up a batch of light Peppermint Meringues.
- Enjoy a Peppermint Mocha at your local Panera Bread bakery-cafe (avilable seasonally).
- Beat 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract into enough vanilla or buttercream frosting to cover 24 cupcakes.
- Blend ¾ teaspoon of peppermint extract into the batter for two dozen sugar cookies.
- Use plain chocolate or vanilla cookies and frosting to make a cookie sandwich, with extra frosting peeking out beyond the edges. Roll these edges in crushed peppermint candies to coat well.
- After frosting chocolate cupcakes, sprinkle them with crushed candy canes or dip their tops into the candy. (This is a great use for those broken pieces!)
- Make Peppermint Bark by melting white baking chocolate and stirring in crushed peppermints.
- Blend equal parts peppermint ice cream and eggnog.
- Drop a single peppermint circle into the bottom of a white chocolate martini before serving.
- Enjoy a cup of hot peppermint tea.
- Blend a frozen peppermint patty into a vanilla milkshake or smoothie.
- Try fresh mint too. (The kind in your grocery store is likely to be spearmint, which has a milder flavor than peppermint.) Use a sprig to garnish meats, such as lamb, and cocktails, such as mojitos and martinis. Snip its leaves into pesto or Alfredo sauce. Or sprinkle it over chopped fresh fruit, cooked sweet peas, or a risotto or rice dish.