Friday, December 6, 2013

Chocolate Bark Gifts

Chocolate Bark is fun and easy to make-- your own custom, pure chocolate bars and you control all the ingredients.  This year we concocted several flavor combinations we think will please the elves on our list. Left to right in the candy tin are Cranberry-Orange-Nut, Peppermint-White Chocolate, Strawberry-Almond and Sugared Fruitcake sprinkled with colored sugar.

The classic Peppermint-Chocolate Bark has minted white chocolate and crushed candy canes poured over milk or dark chocolate.  We're a dark chocolate family and used that as our base.  We covered the melted chocolate with peppermint patties cut into strips to reveal their white centers and some mini white chocolate-mint morsels.

Dried cranberries, toasted slivered almonds and freshly grated orange rind on a dark chocolate bed got a final drizzle of chocolate to create a pretty pattern.

We raided the dried fruit supply we normally use in granola and found dried strawberries to mix into a very special dark chocolate bark.  Other ideas include crystallized ginger, dried almonds, coconut,  raisins and dried cherries.  Make a Rocky Road version with mini marshmallows, walnuts and pretzel pieces.

Lastly, Sugared Fruitcake Chocolate Bark will win over even the picky with a combo of dried orange, lime and citron peel, almonds and a little glitter from colored sugar used to decorate cookies.

We plan a special chocolate pouring for our chili-loving friends that includes freshly roasted and ground chili peppers and cinnamon melted into the chocolate and topped with toasted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds).

To experiment with several flavors, make small batches that use only 8-10 ounces of chocolate and small trays or pie tins.  Line the tins with foil to make the bark easy to peel away when the chocolate has set.  To make a large batch, use a larger cookie sheet lined with foil and melt 2 bags of chocolate morsels.

Slabs of chocolate bark ready to be broken apart
Chocolate Bark Master Recipe
Easy to double and triple

Ingredients
1 10-oz bag chocolate morsels (we like dark chocolate, at least 65%)
1cup toppings: a combination of toasted nuts, dried fruit, candies and mints, toffee bits
optional: mini marshmallows or chocolate morsels, more melted chocolate to drizzle over finished bark

Method
  1. Prepare a pan by lining it with aluminum foil.
  2. Assemble the bark toppings.  (Once the chocolate melts you only have a few minutes to add the toppings and decorate.)
  3. Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments.  Stir between each interval.  Cut back to 12-15 seconds as chocolate is almost melted.  Stir and allow chocolate to finish melting out of the microwave.  This will ensure a glossy sheen to your finished bark. 
  4. Pour melted chocolate into prepared pan.  Use the back of a metal spoon to spread and smooth chocolate.
  5. Scatter your toppings over the chocolate.  If pieces are large, use the back of the spoon to press the toppings into the chocolate.
  6. Finish with a little extra melted white and dark chocolate drizzled over the toppings.  Now is also the time to dust the bark with sprinkles, jimmies or colored sugars.
  7. Place pan, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, until chocolate is set.
  8. Remove foil and chocolate from pan.  Peel away foil and break bark apart to set out on cookie plates, pack into wax-paper lined tins or bring to the next party. 
A nice way to break the bark apart in semi-regular pieces: Turn the bark over and lightly score the back of the chocolate bark with a sharp knife.  Bark will break along the scored lines. 

With just twenty more days until Christmas, it's nice to have a few fast and easy gifts from the kitchen.