Making homemade goods during the holiday is an old tradition.
Christmas cookies, fruitcake, gingerbread houses, hand poured candies- we all have our favorites. Even though the gifting of a homemade goods can seem pedestrian or provincial, we here at Food Process still see its value and charm. In the era of the almighty gift card, I find the inclusion of a homemade good a thoughtful way to make an impersonal plastic rectangle a more personal gift experience.
Also, the shelves of gift baskets and holiday candies at the market these days have us in sticker shock. A 2-lb bag of peppermint bark at Williams Sonoma is going for $99.00. You read that right: ninety nine dollars! No, not nine dollars and ninety-nine cents (which to me would be the right price), but ninety nine dollars! Let’s be clear on this product: it’s white chocolate, peppermint infused dark chocolate (ok, that part seems somewhat special, but ninety nine dollars special?) and crushed peppermint pieces.
We can do better, and with just a little effort.
Here’s how to make your own 2-lb bark at home for nearly $9.99. That’s right, nine dollars and ninety nine cents. Our comfort zone in terms of budget for something like candy bark. Bark, no bite.
Ingredients: One Pound Plus dark chocolate bar, one Pound Plus milk chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s. The truth is that you can buy your chocolate anywhere but Trader Joe’s always has these in stock and the price simply cannot be beat. They are $4.99 each. The chocolate is your biggest expense. There is no requirement to mix dark and milk chocolate but milk chocolate is softer so we have found that adding the dark chocolate yielded a more sturdy bark once it’s cracked and bagged. The rest of your budget simply depends on your toppings of choice. For this example, a crushed pretzel sea salt mixture will be used. Both pretzels and sea salt are easy to come by, are super economical, and are wonderfully delicious! Any pretzels will do.
Directions: (1) Melt half of each Pound Plus bar together in a pyrex container with a handle. It will take about two or three minutes. Stir about every 45 seconds to ensure a good mix of dark and milk chocolate. Or, melt the different chocolates separately so you can end up with either a layered (just like Williams Sonoma), drizzled, or marbled effect. So fancy. Again, we recommend incorporating dark chocolate into the base somewhere for a more study bark.
(2) Pour melted chocolate onto a single parchment paper covered baking sheet. Use a spatula or spoon to coax the chocolate into the desired texture (smooth, rippled, geometric). By now, the wheels may be turning as you think about pouring round drops on top of each other, or alternating the types of chocolate added, or using one chocolate as a base (the dark) and another as a drizzle (the milk). If you want to melt the remainder of your chocolate and make a matching second tray of bark at the same time as the first, go ahead and prepare the second chocolate batch/tray now.
(3) When chocolate base is still warm on tray, add the toppers. For this example the pretzel, was two cups of rods splintered down in a ziplock bag using a rolling pin. The celtic sea was ready to use out of its container. Sprinkle toppings on the chocolate base however you wish. In this example, the toppings were sprinkled randomly with light to moderate coverage. Because the chocolate is still melted, toppings should adhere easily. There is no need to press toppings down or into the chocolate unless you so desire. Sea salt will adhere easily to melted chocolate.
(4) Place fully prepared tray (chocolate base with toppings) in refrigerator to harden. Cool for about an hour. You may also use a freezer for even quicker cooling time.
(5) Crack into desired sizes (cutting into specific shapes is not recommended). The bark should crack into pieces easily. If you have a thicker base, or heavy toppings, you may need to cover the top with another piece of parchment paper and tap with a hammer to crack initially.
(6) Repeat process with second half of the chocolate if you did not use two trays.
(6) Bag and prepare to give away!
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