December 11, 2012

Peppermint Bark and Other Bark Tips.

So.  If you guys follow me on twitter or instagram you probably know I've been on a bit of a candy bark jag lately.  Candy bark is just that - chocolate with candy or other nonsense poured out into a bark.  It's just so easy!  And fun!  And delicious!  And will be the best teacher's gift ever.

Peppermint bark all ready to be teachers' gifts!  #bark #candycane #yum #christmas #candy #peppermint #peppermintbark
Peppermint Bark.  Aka the bark that started this whole thing.
Let me start at the beginning...

So my mom is a music teacher.  And was during the '80's.  Which means that she has approximately 1.1 million horrific, musical themed Christmas ornaments.  And other eye-searing "decorations."  But occasionally she would get something delicious.  The food presents were always the best ones.  So when I was a kid I vowed to never to ever give any teacher any gift that wasn't tasty and disposable.

Peppermint Bark
Pictured:  the opposite of a hideous ornament.
Fast forward to this year - the first year that I have to give teacher's gifts for my kids.  I asked my mom what's hot right now and her answer unequivocally was Peppermint Bark.  It's all the rage with the high-end chocolate set.  So that's how it started... and things kindof snowballed from there:

My creation
Peppermint Bark, Roasted Almond Bark, Cookies 'n Cream Bark
So. Many. Delicious. Barks!

My creation
Samoa Bark, Rocky Road Bark, Salted Caramel Cashew Bark.
Can't stop... it's too dangerous to stop... I have to slow down first.

I plan on packaging them in small bags and giving sets of them as gifts.  Flawless.  Also Delicious.

How about some recipes!

Starting with the basics...  If you've never worked with chocolate before I have some tips about that at the end of this post.  Let's start by focusing on bark, though.

Peppermint Bark

Tips for Making Barks:

- You can make a bark out of just about any combo of nonsense and chocolate.  Nuts! Dried Fruit!  Candy! Cereal! Pretzels!  All fair game.

- Use the best chocolate you can get your hands on.  This is not a time for melting chocolate chips.  The wafers are the best.  I got mine at Mare's Cake & Candy Supplies on Lorain.  They were super helpful and yay for shopping local!

- You want the bark to be pretty thin.  When in doubt spread it thinner.  If it gets too thick it's bulky and difficult to break apart.

- You're looking for a ratio of about 1.5 cups of nonsense to 1lb of chocolate.

Rocky Road Bark
Mmmmm.  Nonsense.
- The steps for bark are pretty much the same no matter what your ingredients.  Just melt the chocolate, mix in the nonsense, pour it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and put it in the fridge to set.  That's it!

- To cut the bark I've been using a sharp butcher's knife combined with just breaking it.  You want it to be a bit rough looking.  The rustic look is very in.  Let the bark come up to room temp before you attempt cutting it, though or the the whole thing will chip apart.

- Store the bark in a cool place (like a fruit cellar) in a sealed container.  It's chocolate so as long as you don't use anything perishable it will keep for awhile.

On to a recipe!  This is the bark that started it all.  It's also one of the more complicated ones.  Stay tuned, though.  Easier recipes are coming!

Peppermint Bark:

Peppermint Bark

3/4 lb Dark Chocolate (approx 12 oz)
1lb White Chocolate
1 1/2 cup + crushed candy canes.  I actually found precrushed peppermint candies at JoAnn Fabric of all places.  If you can find it get that.  Much easier.
1/2 teaspoon or more or Peppermint Extract.
Parchment Paper.

To make:
- Melt Dark Chocolate in double boiler.  Add 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Taste it and see if it's pepperminty enough.  If not add more extract.  I ended up adding about 3/4 teaspoon but go slowly.  The extract is STRONG.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pour melted chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread to get a thin, even layer.  Lightly tap the baking sheet on the counter a few times to even it all out.

Making some holiday bark
-Put the chocolate in the fridge for 5min or so until it just starts to set.
-Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler.
-Mix about 1 1/4 cup of the crushed peppermint candies into the white chocolate.  You can add more if necessary - you want a pretty thick mixture.
- Pour the white chocolate/peppermint mix on top of the dark chocolate.  Spread it out in an even layer.

Peppermint Bark

- Sprinkle any remaining peppermint candies on top.  Press into the chocolate lightly so it sticks.
Peppermint Bark

 - Put the whole thing in the fridge to set.

Peppermint Bark

Delicious! And super fancy! 

Peppermint Bark
Yes. Yes. and then some more YES.

Tips for Working with Chocolate:

- Use a double boiler.  Yes, you can do it in the microwave.  But chocolate burns in a second so even if you watch it like a hawk there's a solid chance you will burn a batch.  Also maintaining a consistent temperature is next to impossible. The double boiler is a set it and forget it situation.  If you don't have a double boiler you can ghetto one out of a metal bowl and a pot like I did:

- Use low heat.  You don't want your water to be boiling, just steamy.

- Never, ever, ever get any water in your chocolate.  Bad News Bears.

- Once you put something other than chocolate in your pot, wash it before you use it again.  Certain flavors like mint or peanut butter will flavor EVERYTHING around it so be careful when mixing.  Also store anything strongly flavored separate from your other chocolate.

- I have heard of something called a leveling spatula.  I do not own one of these and yet have had no issues getting my barks even enough.  Just pour slowly and spread out from the center.  Once you've poured all of the chocolate out and have it pretty level give the whole pan a couple of solid taps on the counter.  This will really even things out.

- You don't want to handle chocolate too much.  Once it's made leave it alone.  The heat from your hands can melt and smudge it and it won't be nearly as pretty with fingerprints on it.

- Again, and I can't say this enough, use the best chocolate you can get your hands on.  It makes SUCH a difference!

Peppermint Bark

Yay for delicious homemade gifts!!!!
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