In light of the coming very verdant holiday, I recently realized that after seven years of a Canadian-American elementary school education (to my American friends, don’t worry, I didn’t fail out of the 2nd grade or anything – there’s 2 years of kindergarten in Canada) and therefore seven years of shamrock stickers and pot of gold crafts and leprechaun snacks, I actually have no idea why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
I mean yes, pretty early on, I did manage to figure out that it’s an Irish holiday, and we’ve had quite a lot of people of Irish origin in this country since the potato famine (thanks, APUSH), so it does make sense that the country as a whole recognizes the general significance of the day, except it kind of doesn’t because again, seven years and still nothing.
Seriously. I don’t even know if we’re celebrating the anniversary of his birth or his death. (And let’s be honest, if there is a national holiday associated with your name, and you didn’t coin an important mathematical constant (I’m looking at you, Avogadro and Euler), it’s probably the day you were born or the day you died, or the closest Monday.)
(Also speaking of mathematical constants, happy belated pi day! And yes, my idea of celebrating pi day does always involve pies for days. If you forgot, no worries – we really should be celebrating pi days anyway because 3.1415 = 3/14-15 if you punctuate the right way, so go ahead and bake up some pie apples for day 2. )
Anyway, back to St. Patrick’s Day. To amend this egregious error on the part of the Canadian and American educational systems, naturally I turned to Google, because why bother even owning a smartphone if you don’t use it to Google every random thought that comes into your head at all hours of the day.
It turns out that St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. More specifically, he was a British missionary who was kidnapped by Irish pirates, converted to Christianity during his captivity, escaped back to Britain to study theology, then returned to Ireland as a missionary. Somewhere along the way, he became irrevocably tied to the Catholic tradition in Ireland and the Irish national identity as a whole. And yes, St. Patrick’s Day is the anniversary of his death. It’s also apparently celebrated in more countries than any other national festival, says Wikipedia.
Who says that baking blogs can’t be educational?
Now that your head is filled with a little more stuff than it was before (or fluff, depending on how you look at random trivia – clearly I’m a fan), go forth and indulge in creamy, delicious mint chip goodness for everyone’s favorite green holiday. Hope you enjoy!
Happy almost St. Patrick’s Day,
PS, the chocolate mint cookies for the cookie crumb layer of the parfait are adapted from a recipe for homemade thin mints, so if you happen to adore thin mints like I do, go ahead and double the recipe and use your favorite cookie cutter to make giant thin mints – just let them cool, dip them in melted semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips, let them dry, and you’re good to go! This also means that if you’re not feeling up to making your own cookies, feel free to substitute crushed chocolate mint cookies with about 1 1/2 – 2 cups crushed thin mints. You’ll just have a little extra chocolate than this recipe calls for, but there’s nothing wrong with that (:
Mint Chip Parfait
Cookie recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
Makes 4 tumblerfuls of parfait
Chocolate Mint Cookies:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbs butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
8 oz cream cheese, regular or reduced fat
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbs peppermint extract
Green food coloring
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tbs vanilla extract (or 2 tbs Bailey’s Irish Cream if you are 21+ and so inclined)
Chocolate Mint Cookies:
- Preheat your oven to 350 ºF.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
- In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract and continue beating until well mixed.
- Add the flour mixture into the butter/sugar mixture all at once, then mix slowly until fully incorporated.
- Wrap the dough in saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (or overnight) until the dough is firm and no longer sticky.
- Roll the chilled dough until it is 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, then cut out cookies using a cookie cutter as desired.
Tip: If you aren’t planning on making extra cookies for later (but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t be), since we’re crumbling the cookies at the end of the recipe, don’t worry about using a cookie cutter and re-rolling – just slice up the dough into 3″ x 3″ squares using a knife!
- Line up your cookies on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or lightly greased aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes, or just until the centers of the cookies are firm.
Tip: To avoid burning your cookies, set your timer to around 20 minutes, then remove the cookies every minute to poke their centers to see if they are firm enough.
- Let your cookies cool, then blitz them in the bowl of your food processor until about half of the pieces are crushed to a fine dust and the rest are a little smaller than pea-sized. Set aside for later!
- In a stand mixer, whip the cream to soft peaks. At this stage, trails formed in the cream by the beaters or whisk just begin to stay in place, and when you lift the beaters out, a small peak forms that slowly collapses back over. Set the whipped cream aside.
- In another bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, peppermint extract, and 14 drops of green food coloring until no streaks of color remain and the cream cheese is fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure that everything is mixed well.
Tip: I used exactly 14 drops of green food coloring to get the light minty green color (don’t worry if it looks too dark right now – it’ll lighten up when you add the whipped cream), but feel free to add more for a more classic St. Patrick’s green.
- Transfer the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture and mix on high until fully incorporated. Set aside for later!
- Add the whipped cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract (or Bailey’s) into the bowl of a stand mixer and whip to stiff peaks. At this point, sharp peaks that do not curl or collapse will form when you lift out the beaters. Set aside for later!
- Spoon the crushed cookie pieces into your serving vessel (I used a little tumbler!) until it is about 1/5 full.
- Add a layer of mint cream until the glass is 2/5 full.
Tip: To prevent air bubbles from being trapped between the glass and the mint cream, smooth top of the surface with a spoon after adding the first couple of teaspoons (but don’t try to smooth before adding a generous amount or else the cream will stick to the spoon and lift up the top of the cookie layer), and continue smoothing after every spoonful afterward. When you’re done, to roughly smooth out the top of the surface (remember, you’ll be stacking on top of this layer so the surface doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth) and to remove any stubborn bubbles that form anyway, after adding the last spoonful, poke a chopstick about 1/4″ into the surface of the cream and gently swirl it around in circles to spread the mousse. Poke the chopstick down into any bubbles that you see along the interior surface of the glass and wiggle around until the bubble disappears!
- Add a layer of whipped cream until the glass is 3/5 full.
- Repeat with another cookie layer followed by another mint cream layer until the glass is full.
- Pipe a swirl of whipped cream to decorate the top of your wine glass.
Tip: To create a high pile of whipped cream that doesn’t collapse, start by piping a small dollop of cream in the middle to form the center of your cone, then pipe in a large spiral around it!