On the Novel Production of Menthol Laced Sweets

prep-suppliesI’m not a heartless person and as such, I have a difficult time telling Girl Scouts of all ages that I don’t want their cookies.  My favorites are the ones that cry until I buy a box of Thin Mints.  I try and avoid the grocery this time of year.  But I still get a craving for those damn cookies!  Why not make my own?  They’re simple enough – just chocolate-coated chocolate-mint-crackers.  I’ve got this.  Here’s the recipe.

mixture

As with all things, I try and use a weight measure, if only because sometimes things get clumpy.  In addition, weight isn’t constrained by silly things like packing density.  In the picture of inside my mixing bowl, you’ll see that my cocoa powder is very clumpy.  If yours is this bad, you have to take extra care that the mixture is very well mixed.  I recommend throwing everything into the bowl except for the starch and flour.  This comes to 30 grams of cocoa, 1 stick of butter, 200 grams of white sugar, 3 grams of table salt, 75 grams of milk (the variety doesn’t matter), 0.5 tsp vanilla extract, and 0.75 tsp peppermint extract.  Start the mixer on low and eventually visit high for a period to ensure the butter is completely distributed.

doughAfter adding the flour and the starch (slowly, for the love of all that is holy) the dough should be pretty sticky and look about like this.  IF IT LOOKS GRAINY – keep mixing.  IF IT IS RUNNY – more flour.  I used 32 grams of cornstarch and 270-320 grams of AP flour.  The trick is to add flour to meet a look – too little is too sticky, too much will break the dough.  In my recipe I list 2.25 cups – this is a sweep method, unpacked.  Just take care – the gluten development will be key in keeping the shape of these cookies.

A touch of importance at this stage – these cookies are actually crackers.  Here – as I see it – is the main difference.  These cookies are produced without an egg and without much, much more flour.  When the thin mints set, they will be crisp and (if cut properly) give you the crunch of real Thin Mints.  Cookies are made with an egg, less flour, and have a chemical leavener (baking soda).  As you noticed – none of that in these crackers.

product

Take the dough out and roll it into 2-logs about 4 centimeters in diameter, about 25 cm in length.  Let the dough set for 1-2 hours in the freezer, wrapped in plastic wrap.  This is to allow you to easily cut the dough and give the dough time to set – again, solidify your fats, build your gluten, and dissolve your sugars and salts.  If you do not wrap the dough, it will lose moisture to the freezer and pick up that dreaded “freezer taste.”  Don’t let it happen.  Once the dough has frozen, it should be tough, but workable.  Cut into 65 millimeter (0.25″) slices and bake at 190°C (375°F) for 13 minutes – maybe longer.  Again, this is science!  Just because I say “13 minutes” doesn’t mean that your oven is exactly the same as mine – you want nice, set up, not burned cookies.  Use your best judgment or just remove them from the oven at 13 minutes.  Rack them to cool.  Are we done yet?  No.

Sorry for the .jpeg artifacts...While we wait for the cookies to cool, I’d like to mention a quick word of warning: don’t let the peppermint extract get on your skin.  This is just alcohol (think, vodka) with peppermint oil.  It gives you a weird cold-burning sensation.  Just take care.  In general, peppermint oil is quite cool: it’s made up of a number of different molecules that I think you’ll enjoy.  First are the mentha-derived molecules.  Menthol (1) is one you’re most familiar with: it’s in everything from cigarettes to bath salts.  Menthone (2) is a minor molecule in most essential oils because of how easily oxidized (taking electrons away) menthol is.  Pulegone (3) is a very powerful insecticide produced by the mint plant and is often used in aroma therapy and even in perfumes.  Despite being different, all of these molecules – together – smell like fresh mint.  More impressively?  Menthol is only produced as I’ve drawn it in 1!  Usually, the bold/striped lines can alternate, forming different stereoisomers.  Big word – spooky language.  What this means is that the molecules are the same, but part of it is rotated about one of the atoms.  A structural isomer is one where the atoms are all jumbled up, but the chemical formula is the same.  Check it out – you learned something.

carvone-limonene

When it comes to stereoisomers, nothing is cooler (in my opinion) than carvone (2).  As you can see, the lower end has a bold-black line – this indicates a specific orientation of the molecule’s atoms in space.  If I were to change it to a striped line, the smell would change from mint to caraway seeds!  And in (1), I’ve drawn limonene.  This molecule is very similar to carvone save for the C=O group.  Limonene smells of rich citrus.  What this goes to show is how discerning our noses are at detecting scents.  That said, dogs have us beat.

cookies

Now that the cookies are cooked, melt some chocolate.  If you use chocolate chips, add butter at a 5 chocolate:2 butter weight ratio.  This is because chocolate chips have less cocoa butter so they melt at much higher temperatures.  Take care to not add water to the chocolate mixture as it will cause the chocolate to “seize” and be ruined.  Not cool, Robert Frost, not cool.  Dip your cool cookies into the chocolate and let the chocolate set up and harden.  I love to freeze these and eat them later.  My friend added chopped Andes mints to the top of the cookies while they set.  Tasty.

I’ve set aside 1-dozen cookies (that’s 12 in America) for the first person to email their shipping address to nickttesla[at]gmail.com  Cookies went quick!  I’ll try and set aside a small box each time.  Someone out there is going to love when I write about bourbon…

-N.Tesla

Edit: Quick shout out to Redditor /u/bartink for noticing that I am a terrible proofreader.

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