I love when food brings you for a trip down memory lane, no matter if it lands you at the feet of a feel-good-happy-breezy one or even a once-embarrassing-now-laughter-inducing kind. Yesterday, my culinary endeavors brought me back to my painfully shy six-year-old self clad in a bland jumper and saddle shoes, a long chocolate ponytail flowing down my back, a splintery step stool in my hand and a swarm of butterflies in my stomach. It was my very first Jamboree in my first year of Brownies.
The Jamboree was the Girl Scout camp-out that all good little Brownies and Girl Scouts looked forward to and prepared for all year long–every one but me, that is. I didn’t want to go, I begged not to go as the prospect of sleeping outside under make-shift tents without a night light or my parents down the hall was less than appealing to me. But the day of reckoning arrived and so did I, nervous and jittery and embarrassed that I had joined Brownies too late in the year to have made the requisite sit-upon that all girls made and brought to shield their bottoms from the muddy ground.
The sit-upon is a crude little contraption, a few old newspapers covered in patterned canvas or tablecloth and stitched together with fuzzy yarn. I could have brought one of those foam pads you sit on in bleachers as a substitute or a pile of magazines or a folded up table cloth, for goodness sakes! But no, my resourceful parents, bless their hearts, packed my bags and brought me to camp with a convertible wooden step stool/baby chair that I had used in preschool to reach the sink while brushing my teeth.
Let’s just say, I was not very “cool” at Jamboree. But I tried my best. I dutifully dragged my paint-chipped baby stool from activity to activity, awkwardly participated in the ice breakers and played the games. I ate watery Kraft Mac & Cheese around the campfire and took my turn setting up cereal boxes and milk for our breakfast. I listened when the camp leaders told us not to talk during a nighttime presentation even when I had to use the bathroom so badly, I thought my bladder would burst. And then it happened. The moment that would seal my fate as a Girl Scout drop-out forever. With a worried chaperone waiting outside, in the eery blue glow of porta potty walls backlit by bonfire light, mere milliseconds away from relief, I peed my pants. Yes, really, I did. By the time I finally bolstered the courage to break the no-talking ban for a bathroom request and was quickly escorted to the nearest porta potty, it was too late. My black acid wash jeans were ruined as were my aspirations to one day sport the coveted Kelly green skort of a Girl Scout.
It all worked out in the end, though. Turns out I really don’t enjoy camping all that much and volleyball and cheer-leading were more my style. However, there is still one Girl Scout habit I can’t kick and it involves a box or two of thin mint cookies. I can’t get enough of those things. There is actually a sleeve of them hiding in my freezer, right now. So when I received the book, Tea for You from my Aunt Theresa (yeah, we Italians keep the names in the family) and found a recipe in the back for Chocolate Mint Tea Cookies with promises of thin mint nostalgia, I knew I had to bite. I already had Ghirardelli cocoa powder and peppermint extract scheming somewhere in my spice cabinet and a small ramekin of dried chocolate mint leaves dying to be used, a novelty I had bought on impulse at the farmer’s market.
I ended up adding more mint extract and mint leaves than were called for in the recipe after taste testing the too-chocolaty dough, and added a few drops of extract to the melted chocolate as well. The resulting crunchy cookies were tasty, though thin mints didn’t exactly come to mind. I’ll use a deeper darker chocolate next time, maybe Valrhona dutched cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate for dipping to see if that does the trick. I may have given up on Brownies, but I think I’ll give these cookies a fighting chance.
Mint Tea Cookies Dipped in Chocolate
from Tea for You by Tracy Stern
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp mint tea leaves, chopped (I used 3/4 tsp dried chocolate mint)
1/2 tsp mint extract (I used 3/4 tsp)
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp salt
six ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat 1/2 cup of the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until mixed well. Beat in the egg, mint leaves and mint extract. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into another bowl. Slowly add the flour mixture, half at a time, to the butter mixture, mixing slowly until well blended.
Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured surgace, roll the dough into two logs, each 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap each log in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Thirty minutes before baking, place both logs in the freezer for 30 minutes. Slice each log into 1/4 inch thick pieces with your sharpest knife. Place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the chocolate pieces (I added a few drops of mint extract here, too). Dip half of each cookie into the chocolate mixture and place on waxed paper for the chocolate to harden. The cookies will keep in a tightly covered container for 1 week.