Seasonal Cooking with Dan Wagner

November 30, 2017

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, Everywhere you go; Take a look at the Five and Ten glistening once again, With candy canes and silver lanes a glow.” A Christmas classic written by Meredith Willson and one of many songs that mention a confectionery Christmas favorite, the candy cane.

The candy cane has a history that originates back to Germany. Many stories have been passed down on the peppermint treat, ranging from a choirmaster in Colonge, Germany, in 1670 looking to quiet down the children during the live nativity scene, to Saint Nicholas Day, where the candy cane is a tradition that represents a shepherd’s hook. In the early 1840s, the first candy cane recipes started to appear. In 1882, candy canes started to be hung on Christmas trees. During the 1920s, the Mills-McCormack Candy Company was one of the first to mass produce the candy cane.

Fast-forward nearly a century and the holiday treat can found everywhere. In addition to the traditional red and white striped, you can find a variety of colors and flavors. It’s always great to have variety, but I have to stick with the original! With the abundant amount of candy canes available, one can only wonder the many options available for adding the minty treat in to our winter cooking and baking.

A few ideas to get the ball rolling: peppermint candy cane eggnog, cupcakes and cheesecake. Add one as a festive garnish to Irish coffee or hot cocoa. How about peppermint candy cane bark or candy cane dip?

Additionally, peppermint, by way of essential oil, has many health benefits, including muscle pain and headache relief, sinus care, energy boost, bug repellent, and hair growth.

Candy canes are not just a Christmas treat. Their shelf life is great, so stock up so you have them available all year long. Best wishes and health in the New Year!

P.S.: Join the Greene County Career and Technology Center for its Annual Christmas Buffet 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Dec. 8, featuring more than 18 entrees, four carving stations and salad and desserts.

Candy cane mint chocolate peppermint shakes

Yield: 2 shakes

Ingredients

1 cup white chocolate chips

5 candy canes, finely crushed

6 cups peppermint chocolate chip ice cream

1 1/2 cup milk

Whipped cream for topping

Directions

In a microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips, stirring every 20 seconds until chocolate is melted and smooth. On a cutting board with a mallet or blender, crush candy canes. Place to side in bowl.

Dip serving glass into melted chocolate and allow excess chocolate to drip off. After a few seconds, dip white chocolate covered glass rim into crushed candy cane bowl. Allow glass rims to harden by placing them in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

In a blender, combine peppermint ice cream and milk. Blend for 20 seconds until you achieve a thick, milkshake consistency. Pour into garnished glass, finish with whip cream and crushed candy canes.

Peppermint candy cane truffles

Yields: approximately 20 truffles

Ingredients

1 cup heavy whipping cream

4 bags peppermint tea

¼ teaspoon coarse salt

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

¼ cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes

Directions

In a saucepan, combine cream, tea bags and salt. Heat to a near simmer over high heat, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeezing to release all liquid. Slowly add chocolate to cream mixture to make ganache, stirring until melted and smooth. Allow ganache to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until it forms a thick but pliable paste, about an hour and a half.

Rinse hands with very cold water to chill them and dry thoroughly. Working quickly, form about 1 tablespoon ganache into a rough ball; repeat with remaining ganache. Rinse hands again in cold water and dry hands as you work to help prevent melting ganache.

Transfer truffles to a plate and refrigerate overnight. On separate plates, place cocoa powder and crushed peppermint candy canes. Cool hands before handling. Roll truffles in cocoa and/or peppermint as desired. Refrigerate for at least three hours, then serve or wrap. If gifting, freeze truffles so they stay cool in transit.

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