Cookie Calendar: Peppermint Candy Canes


I'm well settled in here at home for the holidays, so today my small cousins and I plunged into baking the first cookies of the Christmas season.

Cousin A, the youngest in the family, declared mint to be his favorite flavor, so we kicked off with Peppermint Candy Canes. I had set this recipe, along with a few other hands-on, cutesy choices, aside specifically for cousin-baking projects, so it all worked out well.


I enjoy baking with kids of all ages. You get to discover where each kid's strengths lay, and you can watch them learn rapidly. For example, B, A's older brother, dove right into making the "snakes" we used to make the candy-cane stripes but had difficulty rolling a long, even cylinder. But with the help of a little flour and practice, he produced snakes as well as me by the end.


When you bake with kids, certainly consider their ages when deciding how much to let them help, but don't underestimate them. No, don't give them a bunch of carrots and a sharp knife and then leave the room, but yes, let them measure, stir, and crack eggs. Show them how it's done; guide their hands the first time if needed. Kids learn quickly.

If you have slightly older kids working with you, don't forget to include some math, too: "If we need two tablespoons, and there's three teaspoons in a tablespoon, how many teaspoons do we need?" Some kids grasp multiplication intuitively this way.

And the cookies? Yummy - crisp outside, with a creamy mint flavor. But beware: They're delicate, especially along the seams. Be very careful prying them up and don't drop them!

candy-canes01.jpgPeppermint Candy Canes
Source: adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
Yield: about 36 candy cane cookies

5⅓ tablespoons (2⁵⁄₈ ounces) butter
⅓ cup (2⁵⁄₈ ounces) vegetable shortening
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
½ vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups (8½ ounces) flour
1 to 2 teaspoons red food coloring
Sparkling sugar

1. Beat butter and shortening about 30 seconds with an electric mixer.

2. Beat in sugar, baking powder, and salt. Scrape the bowl occasionally.

3. Beat in egg, milk, and extracts.

4. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Mix in the rest with a wooden spoon.

5. Color ¼ of the dough red. Divide the rest of the dough in half. Color half pink. Chill the dough 30 to 60 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Divide each dough portion into six pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch rope. Lay the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface, alternating colors. Roll the ropes with a rolling pin into a single 14 x 9-inch rectangle about ¼ inch thick.

8. Use a pizza wheel to cut the rectangle diagonally into ½-inch-wide strips. Cut the strips into pieces 5 to 7 inches long. [I sliced once across the whole rectangle with the pizza cutter.] Press the shorter pieces together if necessary. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Curve one end of each piece to form a candy cane, then sprinkle each candy cane with sugar.

9. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until the edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Transfer to racks to cool.

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