“Bark” Desserts Aren’t Only for Cold Weather

I grew up in Northern California, and consequently have huge appreciation for Ghiradelli and Scharffen Berger chocolate. I’ve toured the factories, looked up the histories of their processes, and always buy their respective peppermint barks when bagged versions hit stores in Los Angeles for the winter holiday season.

I’m not entirely certain who I was trying to fool with that above sentence, but the truth is, I eat peppermint and mint ice cream/frozen yogurt as often as I can get it all year. So why not peppermint bark? Why not orange bark? It’s delicious, and ridiculously easy to make.

Remember, this is coming from someone who believes she is genetically conditioned against making dessert. Below is an accurate visual reference of what usually occurs when I consider baking.

This week, peppermint bark has turned my heart into a melted puddle of unicorn rainbow joy.

My Dad is a big on dark chocolate/orange things. Mr. Right (or rather, his entire family) enjoys the peppermint bark that mixes white and semi-sweet chocolate. So this one goes out to all the badass men in my life who make it seem like the holiday season year-round.

FYI: Writing this post was also a great excuse to create a Pandora Holiday station.

Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate – if you buy a baking bar, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • Peppermint Extract
  • 1 pound white chocolate – once again, cut into 1/2-inch pieces if you buy a baking bar
  • Candy Canes or Peppermint Candies (Crushed) OR your grocery store may sell peppermint pieces by the jar…but this takes away from the therapeutic nature of smashing this ingredient yourself

Line a baking sheet with foil – shiny side up.

Time to make the classic chocolate-melting double-boiler: Heat one inch of water in a saucepan until steaming and make sure whatever bowl you’re going to melt the chocolate in is nonreactive (i.e. glass) and can wedge in the top of the saucepan without the bottom of the bowl touching the water. – DON’T let any water get into the chocolate. I’m serious. This will kill the flavor of the chocolate, and that’s a buzz-kill party foul.

I now provide you with a guide to tempering chocolate that’s so easy to accomplish that my fears of working with chocolate have become permanently alleviated.

Sydney, what the f**k does tempering chocolate mean?

I’m so glad you asked.

Tempered chocolate is what non-pastry-chef earthlings like me inadvertently associate with professional chocolate products and desserts. Chocolate that has gone through the tempering process has a smooth texture and look, with a shiny finish. When you break it into pieces, it snaps crisply and cleanly. In other words – you eat with your eyes first, and tempered chocolate provides that.

Back to your recipe – it’s time to melt (and temper) the chocolate you’re working with.

Separate about 3/4 cup of the semisweet chocolate. Place the rest into the nonreactive/heatproof bowl you’ll be melting the chocolate in. Set the bowl over the saucepan of steaming water and stir until about one-third of the chocolate in the bowl melts.

Now, remove the bowl from the heat. The bowl has already heated enough to melt all of the chocolate. Stir in the reserved chocolate until melty goodness is achieved. If you need to, return the bowl to above the saucepan of steaming water for more heat power (but I doubt you’ll need to.)

Your chocolate is melted and tempered! Does it look shiny and pretty? Good. If not, you’ll get it next time.

Stir 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract into the chocolate and pour onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Spread it out evenly with a spatula or back of a spoon. Tap the sheet on your countertop a few times to get rid of any bubbles. Let sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes (i.e. while you’re preparing the white chocolate.)

Put aside about 1 cup of the white chocolate, then dump the rest into a new nonreactive bowl (or be lazy about dishes like me and wash/dry the bowl you just used to melt the semisweet chocolate.) Repeat same melting process used above. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract once fully melted, tempered, and pretty.

Pour the melted white chocolate over the semisweet chocolate and spread around evenly. (Some mixing of colors will probably occur here – don’t stress. It looks marbled and lovely.) Sprinkle with crushed peppermint.

Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, lift out of the foil and break into pieces.

Tidings of comfort and joy. No, really. I was actually unable to be sarcastic for a full hour after consuming this.

I realize I also promised you Orange Bark. I wanted to let you know that most dark chocolate is vegan….i.e. the Awesome Former Roommate and all your other vegan friends can consume this one with glee. Plus, dark chocolate is an antioxidant. So eat it and get happy, damn it.

To make orange bark:

Melt 1 and 1/2 pounds of dark chocolate using the double-boiler method described above. Set aside about 1 and 1/4 cups of the chocolate to stir in as described. Stir in 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of orange extract. Pour onto a baking sheet lined with foil shiny side up, spread evenly, and tap to get rid of any bubbles. Zest 1 orange over the top and sprinkle with sea salt. Refrigerate for 1 hour or freeze for 30 minutes. Break into pieces when ready to serve.

It’s enough to make me emotional.

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