The Magic of Mint

There are a few magical combinations out there that most of the epicurean world loves - raspberry and white chocolate, apple and cinnamon, tomato and basil, mango/pineapple/guava/watermelon and salt/chilli powder/chaat masala, peanut butter and jelly, strawberry and aceto balsamico, caramel and sea salt ... You get the drift. In fact, Mashable has a neat listing of a 100 such food pairings that are so legen-waitforit-dary!

Some of my favorite food pairings involve a surprisingly commonplace herb. This little herb marries wonderfully with chocolate, strawberry, cucumber, and lemon, among others. In my humble opinion, a sprig of mint brings in a shot of magic to many a dish and elevates it to another level. For instance, something just clicks, when one introduces mint to chocolate. Just adding a touch of mint, transports a simple dessert to realms far, far away. To summarize this soliloquy on a sprig of mint, it is the chocolatier's (not that I am one) equivalent of rocket fuel. Period.

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Mint and chocolate chip cookies

It ought to come as no surprise that when yours truly started an organic kitchen garden, spearmint (pudina in Hindi) and peppermint were the first saplings acquired. They also turned out to be the most persnickety of plants for the newbie gardener. I was heartbroken, when upon returning from a short trip, I found my babies shrivelled up and knocking on death's door. Despite my best efforts and frantic damage control (read TLC), they were simply not to be. Lesson learnt - nurturing life and a nomadic lifestyle do not go hand-in-hand.

Anyway, I did use some of the mint from the garden in my cooking during their short life in my balcony, with ever increasing excitement too. The first thing off my mint bucketlist was pudina paratha. And since that was a rollicking success, I decided to ditch low-hanging fruit and decided it was time to get the big guns out. The festive season was right around the corner and since my mother-in-law and sister are both just as bat-crap-crazy about mint and chocolate as I am, I decide to bake them a ton of mint and chocolate chip cookies. But a trial run was in order and the perfect opportunity presented itself in the form of a couple of visiting foodie friends, the first half of whom was a life saver for me during my time in the field. And, considering I was offered the right fixes at the right times, I decided to show my gratitude by making them guinea pigs for the aforementioned cookies.

The first batch of about 50 sinful mint and chocolate-chip cookies were polished off in a single weekend. Not a crumb was left of the second batch I baked in the middle of the week, and I ended up having to whip up a third batch in under a week to gift my mint-loving family. So for posterity, here's the recipe for every mint-lover's fantasy:

Mint and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Vegetarian | Eggless | Can Be Made Vegan

Ingredients

(Ingredients I used in parantheses)

  • 2 cups multi-grain/whole wheat flour | (24 Hour Mantra's Multi-grain Atta)
  • 1/2 cup oats | (Quaker Oats)
  • 1 tsp baking powder | (Blue Bird's Baking Powder)
  • 1.5 cups raw/demerrara sugar | (Conscious Food's Organic Raw Sugar)
  • 1 cup olive or vegetable oil/butter | (Homemade butter from Govind's Organic Cow's Milk)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup dark or milk chocolate chips | (Ghirardelli's Premium Baking Chips - Semi-sweet Chocolate)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 a vanilla pod | (Mojo Plantation's Don't Panic, It's Organic Vanilla)
  • 1 tsp mint extract | (McCormick's Pure Mint Extract)
  • Few drops of green food coloring | (Sprig's Natural Extract - Spinach Green)
  • 2 tbsp milk or water (add more based on dough consistency)
  • Few drops of oil to coat baking tray

Method

  1. Cream together butter and sugar using a hand whisk or electric mixer.
  2. Add in mint extract, vanilla extract and continue whisking. If using a vanilla pod, split it along the spine and scrape off half of the seeds with a knife. This is black gold, and a little can go a long way!
  3. Add the green food coloring. I use Sprig's since I avoid artificial food coloring and this is the perfect substitute! The number of drops would depend on the coloring you use and the vibrancy you would prefer. So go on, have fun playing with some color! You can even do half red and half green, for spearmint and peppermint, say.
  4. Stir in the flour and oats. You can ditch the oats and make it all flour, or reduce the flour by another 1/2 cup, and increase the oats by the same amount. This is a very forgiving recipe, as you can see!
  5. Add the salt and baking powder, and continue mixing. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Add the milk/water and use your hands to mix everything together so that you get a crumbly consistency.
  7. Make tablespoon-sized balls and place them on a baking sheet/tray. Pat them flat just a teensy bit (since there's less fat in the dough than usual). Bake for about 10 minutes at 180C, until the bottom turns brown. Cool it on the tray for about 5 minutes and then transfer onto a cooling rack. Transfer to your favorite cookie box once completely cool.

In all likelihood though, the aroma would probably linger way longer than the cookies!

(Many thanks to my sisters-in-law for generously sending across baking supplies from the land of plenty!)

Ending tip 1 - This can be made vegan by using oil instead of butter, vegan chocolate, and water instead of milk for kneading.

Ending tip 2 - The best mint and chocolate chip ice cream anywhere in the world is at Apsara Ice Creams. They serve amazing, hand-churned sancha ice creams with some spectacular flavors. For about a month after discovering them in our neighbourhood, my partner and I went there every.single.night and tried pretty much every flavor they had to offer!

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