Makes about 10 dozen mints
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into slices
2 pounds powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
2 or 3 tablespoons ice water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil or 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Red or blue food coloring
In a large bowl, cut butter into sugar with two knives or your fingers. Add salt and peppermint oil and 1 tablespoon at a time the ice water, tossing with a fork. If it seems crumbly, add more ice water – but it should be somewhat crumbly, it comes together and becomes more elastic as you knead it. Form the mixture into three balls. If it still seems too crumbly, add more ice water 1 teaspoon at a time, until dough presses together easily. Turn each dough ball out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, 3 to 4 minutes.
Leave one portion of the dough untinted, then tint the other two portions light blue or pink with food coloring (use sparingly – paler colors are prettier). Knead in the food coloring until it’s evenly distributed.
Divide each of the three dough balls in half and roll into a long snake about one-half inch in diameter. (Keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap as you work so that it doesn’t dry out.) Roll the white dough first to avoid adding color from your work surface – which by the way should be impeccably clean as the dough will pick up anything on the counter. Cut the snakes into half-inch slices and spread out on cookie sheets to dry.
Toss them around on the cookie sheet until set (2 to 3 hours), uncovered, at room temperature. Then transfer them to a covered container and set in a cool place. (To improve flavor and for easier handling, let mints ripen for 2 days before serving.) Mints will keep at room temperature for 2 weeks or in the refrigerator for a month.
Notes: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT, use your standing mixer for this – it just makes a big ol’ mess! I like the flavor of the peppermint oil better than the extract, but the oil is hard to find. Do not substitute spearmint for peppermint extract, it’s just not right!
Obviously I’m heading to a “boy” baby shower, and I’ll load white cupcake liners with the mints for each guest. If the baby gender is unknown you could do pink, white, yellow, green and blue. Keep the colors pastel, they’re prettier.