I am still waiting for my owl.
I imagine she was blown off course in the polar vortex. I expect she will be blustering down the chimney any day now, disheveled and discombobulated. I will keep some owl treats by the hearth just in case she needs a wee morsel before she spirals off with my enthusiastic acceptance.
I am already hungry for the start of term feast. That cornucopia of anglospheric delicacies cascading over miles of table. Surely the oaken planks must be buttressed by magic to bolster them against collapse under the rhinocerial weight of the entrées, each more potatoed than the next, a cow’s worth of butter dripping from every course.
It is a logophile’s feast. I wolf them down, for I am a gourmand of the fricasseed fricative and the glacéed glide. Kippers, Cornish pasties, crumpets, spotted dick, treacle tart, trifle, chipolatas, chocolate éclairs, and for some strange reason, peppermint humbugs.
To an eleven-year-old of Islington such words would bloom with familiar flavors and aromas. But this child of rice-a-roni and mac-n-cheese had only exotic syllables with which to construct her image of the feast. Peppermint humbugs evolved minty innards, sheathed in a dark chocolate exoskeleton. They are glossy beetle-like creatures that might skittle off your saucer if you didn’t pin them with the oyster fork. In a pinch, they can replace lost pawns in a game of wizard’s chess. At the end of term, their frangible remains are often found under the hand-me-down socks in your trunk, where they curled up to hibernate during the blizzards.
I have for you here a recipe that skeined from my mind like memories into a pensieve. No, it is not the traditional British sweet of boiled sugar. It is the peppermint humbug of my logophagus imagination.
Not Potter’s Peppermint Humbugs
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon nondairy milk
- ¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 4 ounces dark and/or semisweet chocolate
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
Combine the sugar, milk, peppermint, and 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a bowl (if the oil is not quite soft, heat it briefly). Stir until a pasty dough forms. Pinch off a nibble and add more peppermint if taste demands. The mixture may seem crumbly, but when you work it gently with your hands it should readily form a ball as your body warmth heats the oil. If not, add a touch more oil.
Place the ball between two sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough into a sheet ¼ inch thick. Cut small rounds from the dough (I used a miniature jam jar with a mouth diameter of 1 3/8” in lieu of a cookie cutter). Re-roll the scraps and continue cutting rounds until all the dough is used up. Place the rounds on pieces of parchment paper, layer in a flat-bottomed container, and freeze until firm.
Melt the chocolate with the remaining oil, stirring frequently. Remove the peppermint rounds from the freezer. One by one, submerge the rounds in the chocolate, using a fork to remove and place on parchment paper. Transfer the parchment paper pieces to a baking sheet and freeze until the chocolate is set. Store the peppermint humbugs layered on parchment paper in the freezer.
Some of your peppermint centers might crumble at one stage or another. Do not despair. There will also be a few spoonfuls of leftover melted chocolate. Combine the chocolate with the mints in a cup of nondairy milk, heat, stirring occasionally, and magic! The most splendid cup of cocoa outside the halls of Hogwarts or Honeydukes.