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The Messy Baker - Day 2

I know - I'm back already?

It's Christmas baking week! Of course I'm back!

My first recipe is Cream Cheese Mints and this is the recipe I used. You know those pastel mints that melt in your mouth? That's basically what this is.

I followed her recipe with the exception of I used low fat cream cheese even though she specified full fat. So far, so good but I am still waiting for them to harden.

Because this recipe uses powdered sugar, it was another huge mess. Don't believe me? I offer exhibit A:

You may have noticed the purple mints are a different shape. Let me share the wisdom of my tribulations...

Obviously I colored outside the normal pastel shades. I suggest using a gel food coloring - you can find it at Michael's or any good baking supply store and a little goes a long way.

I thought I knew better than the kind woman that shared this recipe with the world, so when I mixed the colors, I put them in piping bags.

I wanted to do cute little stars or kisses.

The mixture however is too thick to use even my biggest piping tip. No worries, I will just cut the tip of the bag a little larger and pipe from there.

No go. It's just so thick!

At this point I just would squeeze a few dollaps out at a time, roll them into a ball and set aside. Then I used the bottom of a shot glass to smoosh them flat-ish.

BTW pro tip: make sure the parchment paper has a fine layer of powdered sugar on it. This will help it not stick.

So that's how I did the purple ones. But then I started squeezing the blue out of the piping bag and it came out in a nice log. See exhibit B:

So I emptied the piping bag using this method and then cut each log into approximately the same size pieces. Then I would sprinkle them all with more powdered sugar, take 5 or six and using both hands would shake them in my hands to both evenly coat the pieces with powdered sugar and knock off the excess.

Shake them like you are playing Yahtzee and have lost your dice cup.

Place the pieces on the parchment making sure they don't touch. These little bitches really want to be a collective. I think I'm going to rename them Borg mints.

Anyway I repeated this method for all the other colors and it went much faster. If you don't care about every piece being identical, which I clearly don't because I think it adds to the homemade charm of them.

You leave them out - not refrigerated - to set and after a few hours turn them over if the bottoms are still wet. Which I did. I think if I had more powdered sugar on the parchment paper maybe that wouldn't be an issue.

Would I make these again? Maybe? It wasn't a difficult recipe and they are delicious. I also liked being able to make them any color I want. But if I'm just wanting some melt in your mouth mints? I'm probably better off just buying them at the store.

Next up for me today was a trip down memory lane. I remember discovering a recipe like this back when I was a kid, younger than 3rd grade because I remember making them at our house in Allen.

I remember being excited because it was no bake and we had all of the ingredients on hand.

I followed this recipe exactly - no changes. They do not really spread so I did smoosh them a little flatter with my spoon (once again using the two spoon method I demonstrated in yesterday's post). And they are perfect. Funny how foods can take you back in an instant isn't it?

A couple of tips - I used my large 2 quart (I think?) pot to melt the butter and sugar mixture. This was great because there was plenty of room to stir in the oats. Also I used cookie sheets with silicon mats instead of parchment paper so I could move them around more easily.

I think I made a total of 60? There's a lot.

Next time I might add maple extract instead of vanilla. Here's why:

Growing up, one of my mom's favorite snacks was peanut butter and syrup mixed together with a slice of bread (or two) torn into little pieces and mixed in. I loved it. A few years ago I thought about it and made it again but I'll admit it was a little too sweet.

And that's saying something honestly because I love sweets.

But there was something about the aroma of these cookies that triggered that memory again. I just think that with the oatmeal a hint of maple might be good.

Now for today's bonus round, I made a couple of trays of Peppermint Bark. This is literally one of the recipes that is easiest and yet people never fail to be impressed by it.

I bought almond bark from Aldi - both vanilla and chocolate.

I broke off half the chocolate and put it in my largest Pyrex measuring cup (use any microwave safe dish) and microwaved for 1 minute 20 seconds. Stir until all melted. I then added a teaspoon of Peppermint extract - just enough for a hint of peppermint in the chocolate.

I lined a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and poured the chocolate on top. Then I repeated these steps for the second batch and placed both in the fridge to set.

You may notice that I am using 2 different sized cookie sheets but the same amount of chocolate - one will just be thicker than the other and I'm okay with that.

Once the chocolate is set, I repeated the process this time using the vanilla bark. Yes I still added a smidge of peppermint extract. Pour that on top of the chocolate and spread evenly. Then I sprinkled crushed peppermint I had purchased a month ago at Home Goods - it was near the hot cocoa gift boxes.

Both trays are in the fridge. Once they have set I will break up into smaller pieces. Easy peasy.

The Aldi Almond Bark is really inexpensive and surprisingly easy to work with. I do suggest banging the package on a hard surface to separate the pieces before opening the bag. Just makes it easier.

And you can use it to make any kind of bark you want. Trail mix, pretzels, nuts, dried fruits. If you want to swirl the chocolate and vanilla instead of layering, just melt pour one first, then the other, and use a knife to swirls them together.

Here's another pro tip - Dollar Tree has a plethora of really cute containers, perfect for gifting homemade treats.

Wonder what I will make tomorrow...

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