Friday, 8 May 2015

Peppermint Ice (Totally not a rip off of Kendal Mint Cake at all. I promise)

My companion and I were having a conversation about my sugar crafting abilities recently, and Kendal Mint Cake came up in conversation. As such, I made a a batch, that he ate promptly and reported to his sister. She also wanted some, so I obliged.

Kendal Mint Cake is a glucose sweet flavoured with peppermint oil that originates from Kendal in Cumbria, England. It is popular among climbers and mountaineers as a source of energy. It is based on a traditional recipe known as mint cake, peppermint tablet or peppermint ice. It is also a standard part of the 24-hour ration pack issued to the Irish Defence Forces.

There are a few brands of this kind of sweet, all made in Cumbria, and some are covered in chocolate or made with brown sugar. This, however, is the good auld traditional way.

  • 8 ounces (225 grammes) caster sugar
  • About 4 or 6 tablespoons (60 to 90 millilitres) water, for dissolving
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar, lemon juice, or cream of tartar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of natural peppermint essence, depending on how strong you want it

  • In the saucepan, add the water, sugar, and vinegar (or lemon juice or cream of tartar). Over a low heat, gently stir and dissolve all the sugar in the water until it's a clear liquid. Make sure that no little grains of sugar stick to the sides of the pan.
  • When every little grain of sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and bring the syrup to a rough simmer, just about boiling. If you have a sugar thermometer, attach it to your pan now, and cook to 115ºC/240ºF. If you do not have a thermometer, you will need to do traditional cold water testing.
  • After 5 minutes of cooking, you can begin to test the syrup in cold water. Take a teaspoon of the syrup and drop it into the cold water: if the syrup sets enough to pick up and roll into a little squishy ball, the syrup is read. If it's still to runny, cook for another minute or two and test again. Keep cooking and testing until the texture is right.
  • Once you have got the right texture, remove the saucepan from the heat and leave to cool until the syrup forms a skin and the pan is cool enough to touch.
  • Add in your peppermint essence, and then stir the mixture with a spoon quite vigorously until it turns cloudy and thickens a little. Working quickly, pour the mixture into the tin, scraping the edges of the pan as little as possible; if you don't work quickly enough, the mixture could seize up into a big, solid lump.
  • Allow the mixture to cool and set up completely, about 1 or 2 hours. Take out of the tin and break into pieces.

If you plan on making mint cake often, I would recommend buying the organic peppermint essence from the health food shop, which comes in 100ml bottles and is about €8. It will last for ages, and is made using natural essential oil of peppermint, mixed with a flavourless carrier oil. However, the peppermint essence in little bottles from the supermarket will do if you're making this recipe once off, but I prefer not to use it because it's artificial and the flavour fades over time into a nasty plastic taste.

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