Tuesday, January 12, 2010
We always have almond bark for Christmas, but I’d never really heard of or eaten peppermint bark before I got an itch to make peppermint bark cookies last Christmas (the cookies are a whole separate saga in themselves and will be discussed in a later post). So I made peppermint bark using this recipe and, although I accidentally bought “mint extract” (i.e., spearmint) instead of peppermint extract, giving my bark a distinct hint of chewing-gum flavor, I was impressed by how easy, pretty, and tasty the finished product was. I always think I don’t like white chocolate, but it does often have an allure, especially with the mint enhancing its cool creaminess…sort of like the inside of a peppermint patty, but less cloying. I used the peppermint bark in my cookies as planned, but noticed that the leftover fragments of the bark on their own were also well received.
So this year I thought I’d one-up myself by making this awesome-looking triple-layer peppermint bark to put into the cookies. Then I got sort of tired and scaled back to just two layers, one white one dark, basing my efforts on this recipe—although I added some peppermint extract (actual peppermint this time) to one layer because I liked the mintiness of the white chocolate last year. It was a cinch to make and turned out so deliciously that next year I’m thinking of skipping the cookies entirely and just concentrating on the peppermint bark! This is one of the simplest holiday treats around (melt, pour, and repeat!), but it looks fancy enough to make a nice gift when packaged in a cute bag or tin.
This year, I noticed peppermint bark for sale in stores everywhere at holiday time, often for upwards of $10 a pound. People, I implore you, please don’t waste your hard-earned money on that when you can do it yourself without breaking a sweat (well, unless you get a bit too aggressive while crushing those candy canes) for half the price!
1 pound dark (semisweet or bittersweet) chocolate chips (or a bar cut into squares)
1 pound white chocolate chips (or a bar cut into squares)
6 ounces (1 regular package) candy canes
½ to 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1. Unwrap the candy canes, place them in a plastic zip-top bag, and crush them with a rolling pin, mug, mallet, or small hammer. Don’t pulverize them; you want the pieces to be pretty fragments, not sand—but you don’t want huge chunks, either. A variety of sizes and textures is nice.
2. Line a large baking sheet with waxed paper.
3. Melt the dark chocolate over a double boiler until smooth. Spread (with an offset or rubber spatula) in an even layer on the baking sheet. Place in refrigerator or freezer to harden, approximately 30 minutes.
4. Melt the white chocolate over a double boiler until smooth, then stir in peppermint extract. Spread white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate layer. Working quickly before the white chocolate sets, sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top and gently press into the chocolate. Refrigerate until complete hard and set, at least 2 hours.
5. Place a second sheet of waxed paper over the top of the slab of peppermint bark (to protect your hands from the sharp peppermint pieces and keep the chocolate from melting) and break bark into pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Yield: 2 pounds
Time: 30 minutes hands-on, plus 2½ hours of hardening
Leftover potential: High. Keeps great in the freezer.