Life / Food

A new way and improved way to eat peppermint bark

In this Oct. 11, 2016 photo at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, pastry bags with white and dark chocolate and crushed candy are used to frost Peppermint Bark Spritz Cookies, from a recipe by Elizabeth Karmel. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

In this Oct. 11, 2016 photo at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, pastry bags with white and dark chocolate and crushed candy are used to frost Peppermint Bark Spritz Cookies, from a recipe by Elizabeth Karmel. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

I have always loved peppermint and chocolate together and peppermint bark is my favourite way to eat it.

Or it was — until I created this peppermint bark variation of my favourite childhood Christmas cookie.

My mother made Spritz cookies every Christmas for as long as I can remember. She always made the simple butter cookies in both chocolate and vanilla and we decorated them with colored sugar sprinkles. My favourite shape was the poinsettia, because you could eat the cookie, one petal at a time.

The hardest thing about making this recipe is using the cookie press. There is no way around it — you need a cookie press. My mother used her mother's cookie press until it stopped working and since then, we have both purchased many cookie presses trying to find one that was smooth and easy to work.

A cookie press looks like the culinary version of a caulking gun and deposits only enough dough to make one cookie. I tried quite a few presses, and the best one that I have found so far is the OXO cookie press. I also love that it comes with all the traditional patterns like the Christmas tree, wreath and several flowers, but also has an elegant fleur de lis and a heart. You can also buy extra seasonal discs and make spritz year round. The extra Christmas discs also have a great bow design that would be perfect for baby and bridal shower parties.

Once you have a good press, all you need to make the cookie dough is a bowl and a blending fork, or your hands. I've taken the basic chocolate spritz cookie recipe and instead of decorating with sugar, I decorate with melted chocolate, sprinkling with crushed peppermint candies and drizzling with white chocolate to create my Peppermint Bark Spritz Cookie.

PEPPERMINT BARK SPRITZ COOKIES

Cookie presses like the OXO Good Grips with stainless-steel discs work better than presses with plastic plates.

Start to finish: 30 minutes, not including cooling and decorating

Servings: 30 (Makes about 5 dozen cookies)

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, melted

2/3 cup granulated white sugar

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

Topping:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted

2 ounces white chocolate, melted

1 cup crushed peppermint candies

Preheat oven to 400 F

Mix butter, unsweetened chocolate and sugar together until creamy. Add egg yolks one at a time to combine. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Using your hands or a blending fork, work in the flour, a little at a time, until smooth.

Divide dough into 2-3 pieces and roll them into a tube shape and cover with wax paper. Chill dough for 30 minutes. When the dough is chilled, place the roll in the cookie press tube and choose cookie plate for your design. Press the cookies out one at a time onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet after 1 minute, and gently place on a cooling rack. Let cookies cool completely.

Melt chocolate and place in a decorating bag or a re-closeable plastic bag. When ready to decorate cookies, snip a small corner at one end of the bag for the chocolate to flow through. When the cookies are cool, carefully drizzle melted semi-sweet chocolate on the top of the cookie. While the chocolate is still warm, sprinkle with crushed peppermint candies so the candy will stick to the chocolate, then drizzle with melted white chocolate.

Place in the refrigerator to set the chocolate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Nutrition information per serving: 146 calories; 73 calories from fat; 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 3 mg sodium; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 7 g sugar; 2 g protein.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."