Incense and Peppermints...

There is truly no rest for the wicked. After baking and cooking for two straight days to host a cookie exchange for my friends, I find myself closing out the weekend by gearing up for the flurry of baking that is my annual Cookie Bonanza giveaway. I've almost settled on a final lineup, and tonight it was time to get started on the cookies that can be baked in advance using my favorite technique of freezing portioned-out cookie dough to be baked when needed. Tonight's efforts were focused on peppermint chocolate chip cookies, a variation on standard chocolate chip cookies that uses peppermint bark instead of chocolate chips.

I first stumbled upon this concoction a few years ago, when Dad re-gifted a batch of his corporate gifts (presents sent from businessperson to businessperson around the holidays in an effort to keep their names in front of prospective clients, or as an additional thanks for services rendered) to me, as he is often wont to do with any food-related items. That particular year's assortment included a box of peppermint bark from Williams-Sonoma. Not being much of a candy eater (I'm much more often attracted to salty snacks when I'm in need of a nosh, and my Halloween candy almost always went bad before it got consumed when I was growing up), I found myself in search of alternative uses for peppermint bark, when I came across a suggestion in what was one of my then-favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks. That first year, I used the recipe listed on the blog, but the cookies it yielded were harder than bricks, and the author subsequently updated to a recipe she liked better herself. However, the idea for the cookies was a solid foundation; definitely an idea worth revisiting later.

When I discovered the joys of the New York Times chocolate chip cookie recipe (the subject of my first real post here at The State I Am In) about a year later, it was my natural inclination to consider using it to make the cookies if I came into the possession of more peppermint bark. As soon as Christmas rolled around, I diligently waited for a sale at Williams-Sonoma to pick up a box, and a batch of these cookies became a holiday tradition. They were included in my first Cookie Bonanza back in 2008, and in subsequent years, I began stocking up on peppermint bark on the day after Christmas, and freezing it until the next year. I also flirted with cheaper peppermint barks that didn't come from Williams-Sonoma, but were largely unsatisfied with the results. Less expensive brands seem to fall apart when broken into suitably small pieces for baking, but the dark and white chocolate layers of the Williams-Sonoma bark adhere quite nicely to one another.

These cookies are simple, and freeze gloriously, making them a welcome addition to my Christmas baking agenda this year. If you find yourself in the possession of a corporate gift, or some good homemade peppermint bark you're keen to dispose of, feel free to bake up a batch of these cookies; you definitely won't regret it.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from the New York Times
17 oz. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
10 oz. light brown sugar
8 oz granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds peppermint bark broken into small pieces (I tend to use 1 pound of bark and a 1/4 pound of regular chocolate chips, to avoid opening two boxes of peppermint bark)

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. Portion out dough into 2 5/8 oz. balls on wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until needed. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and thaw dough in the fridge prior to baking.
4. Place six dough balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake until golden brown but still soft, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack to cool.

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