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.


INGREDIENTS
  • 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


METHOD
  • 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.

NOTES
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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