Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Bark

Last year, while desperately trying to make candy for Christmas like my mom used to (she was a master candy maker) I discovered how easy it is to make Peppermint Bark and how delicious it is. A sure hit as a gift.  This year I decided to get a little more creative and with the help of my youngest daughter came up with a couple new recipes.  I realize these recipes already exist out there, but we just made these up as we went and made up our own versions. 
First we made the traditional Peppermint Bark. 
We tempered - melted slowly in the microwave - 12 oz of semisweet chocolate - 1 minute at a time at 50% power, stirring in between.  You can do this on the stove top with a double broiler.  I spread this out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put in the refrigerator to harden.
Then we tempered 12 oz of white chocolate.  Be sure to get good quality chocolate.  The cheep stuff doesn't melt right and will affect the texture of your bark.  And it burns easily.  While I was melting the chocolate my 8 year old was violently smashing peppermint candies.  I mixed 2/3 of these into the melted white chocolate and spread it evenly over the top of the now hard semisweet chocolate.  Then sprinkled more broken peppermint candy pieces on top and put this back in the refrigerator to solidify into bark.  The amount you put in your chocolate is really to taste in my opinion.  We probably put about a half cup of crushed peppermint candy into the white chocolate. 

Next we made butterscotch bark - two different ways.  The first one was:
12 oz of butterscotch chips tempered
about 1/2 cup of pretzels crushed and mixed into the melted butterscotch - I would increase this next time.  Butterscotch is super sweet and this really needed some more pretzels to balance it out. 
I spread this out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and topped with crushed coffee flavored toffee candies that my 8 year old had crushed. Placed into the fridge to harden.

The second version was 12 oz of butterscotch tempered and about 1/2 cup of crushed roasted salted peanuts mixed into the melted butterscotch.  This was spread on parchment on a cookie sheet and topped with crushed hard butterscotch candy and placed in a fridge to harden.

The last bark I did was a lemon bark.  Once again I will reiterate - get good white chocolate for this.  If you use the cheep stuff it won't melt properly.  It will get grainy and eventually burn. 
I tempered the white chocolate and put a few drops of lemon extract into the white chocolate.  I spread it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and topped it with the shattered lemon drops that my daughter had vigorously worked on.

The next morning I pulled all of my cookie sheets out of the fridge and broke the bark into pieces and placed into on of my trays and took it to work to test it all on my co-workers  It had already received a thumbs up from my girls. 

I think next time, not only will I use better white chocolate for the lemon bark, I may use lemon zest instead of lemon extract and crush the lemon drops down to smaller pieces. 

All and all, it all turned out delicious. So this is what I took to work:
And ended up coming home with a empty tray.  Most people preferred the peppermint bark over all.  Those with a real sweet tooth loved the butterscotch bark, and those who didn't have so much of a sweet tooth, avoided it like the plague.  The lemon bark was favored more then I expected it to be, so I'm happy it came out ok in spite of the not so ideal chocolate I used.

So I hope this gives you the basis to make you're own bark.  It's really an easy thing to make when all ingredients are of good quality. So good luck and enjoy.  Let me know who yours comes out - and if you experiment with the recipe I'd love to hear what you've come up with.
Have a very Merry Christmas!

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