Last minute holiday shopping? Want something pretty that doesn’t break the bank? Hostess gift? Thank you gift? White Elephant? The answer is almost always chocolate. I love making bark during the holidays. There are so many toppings to choose from that you really can’t go wrong. I like to have a ton of great chocolate (usually I go with 70%) and small bowls full of various toppings. Then I pick and choose as I go.
My friend Jen works for an organic chocolate maker, Theo and brings tasty chocolate with her pretty much everywhere she goes. I’ve come to expect (and hope) that when I go to a party with Jen there will be a variety of chocolates I’ve never tried before. This December I asked her if I could sample some of the straight 70% dark chocolate for my baking needs. She happily obliged and I’ve now made enough bark for two holiday parties, one thank you gift, and one white elephant gift.
It makes such a difference to have good quality chocolate when making bark since the main flavor is the chocolate itself. This year I went a little wild. I made these in three batches. That way there’s plenty of room in my fridge while the bark is hardening and I don’t have to work too fast because the chocolate doesn’t cool in the pot while I’m working on different toppings.
Chocolate Bark 101
1-2 pounds good quality 70% chocolate
1 pound white chocolate
large cutting board
Prepare your mis en place: toast all nuts being used (and chop if chopping) and place in small bowls. Chop all dried fruit, smash any candies, have salt and spices ready. Place a large cutting board on a dry space and cover with parchment paper.
Melt approximately 1/2 pound of chocolate at a time. Stir frequently over low heat until completely melted. Pour melted chocolate onto parchment paper and smooth with a plastic spatula. I like my bark pretty thin (just under 1/8 inch) but you can make it up to just under half an inch if you like it thicker.
Sprinkle toppings of your choice onto chocolate. If using larger pieces of anything, press into chocolate gently so nothing falls off later. Refrigerate for a minimum of 45 minutes. If you break apart the chocolate by hand before it’s completely firm, the bark will have soft edges and won’t look as pretty.
Break apart into a variety of shapes and sizes. If you like more uniform pieces, cut into squares after about 15 minutes in the fridge (it’ll be set but still malleable). Do this with a knife.
This year’s combinations:
toasted hazelnut and cinnamon
white chocolate and peppermint candy
toasted almonds and maldon salt
toasted salted peanuts, cayenne, cinnamon
cocoa nibs and sea salt
toasted almond, currants, pistachios
toasted pistachios and candied orange
dried cherries, toasted almonds, sea salt
toasted hazelnut and espresso
80% chocolate and candied ginger
carmelized cocoa nibs (I got these at the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown)