Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Peppermint Bark

Do you know about Peppermint Bark? Decades of my life had gone by before I was introduced to it by my friend Christine. When she mentioned it to me I was dubious: candy canes and chocolate? I'm not that fond of candy canes, but I gave it a try anyway. Yum! I can't remember now where hers came from, but it was good. I put it out of my mind until I saw a bag of Ghirardelli's peppermint bark two weeks ago and I thought I'd give it a try.

It was pretty good, but not as good as the bark I remembered. Looking at it closely, I figured that it had to be easy to make, except for the tempering of the chocolate part. As part of my pastry class we spent a day on chocolate. Let me tell you: you really can have too much of a good thing. By the end of that day I wanted to have nothing to do with chocolate for months afterwards. Tempering chocolate, for those of you that have never done it, is a pain in the...wrist. If you're doing it manually, at any rate. You melt your chocolate, and then cool it down to the temperature specific to that type of chocolate (dark, milk, white) and only within a degree of that sweet spot and then you put it into forms and then cool it in your giant walk in freezer. Oh, that was just at the school. Once you've done that, it acts just like the chocolate you get at the store: holds the shape you've put it into and doesn't immediately melt in your hand.

Doing this at home isn't impossible, it's just time intensive. Something I don't have anymore.

However, I decided that surely I could make Peppermint Bark, even if I wasn't going to temper it. Thus decided, I poked around looking for a recipe. I started here and then went there. In the end, it's ridiculously easy. This afternoon I made some with Caitlin as a special treat and as something easy we could do together that wouldn't be too time intensive, since the twins were very needy. As it turned out, this should have taken us 15 minutes, but became 2 hours with all of the interruptions to nurse.

Peppermint Bark
1 lb good quality semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Caro 62%)
1 lb good quality white chocolate (I used Callebaut)
1/4 lb peppermint candies or so (I just used however many I had, might have been 25-30 of them)
Wax paper, buttered
  1. Smash your peppermint candies/candy canes and set aside.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate in your microwave, being careful to not scorch it. I put mine in for a minute, stirring at 30 seconds. You could use a double boiler but ehn! who wants to wash all of those pans? (At this point, I could have added a couple of drops of peppermint oil if I'd thought about it, but I didn't. If you do, let me know how that goes.)
  3. Spread the dark chocolate out on your waxed paper. You can use a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan - anything flat will do. I used a half sheet, but didn't spread the chocolate to the edges since that would have been too thin. Spread to your desired thickness/thinness.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze until solid.
  5. Melt the white chocolate, again being careful not to scorch it. (Once again, you could add a couple of drops of peppermint oil here.)
  6. At this point, either stir your smashed peppermints into the white chocolate or spread a layer of white chocolate over the dark chocolate and then add the peppermint candy.
    The former will probably ensure you lose less peppermint but makes it harder to spread. The latter means you will lose some of the peppermint, but is easier to spread sans candy pieces. If choosing the latter option, press lightly down on the candy to embed it into the melted chocolate.
  7. Refrigerate or freeze until solid.
  8. When solid, remove from freezer, break or cut into pieces and enjoy!
  9. Finally, be certain to hide the pieces away or you'll have to share with the rest of the family.
You want to see, dontcha? Sure ya do!
First you get your helper to unwrap all of the peppermints, after she's washed her hands.
Then she smashes them flat. You can help! Very good for getting our your aggression.
You want flakes or tiny bite sized pieces.
Stop to admire your daughters.
Tickle this one under the chin. Promise her that one day she'll get to make some, too.
Shredded chocolate melts faster. The Caro chocolate started off in gum drop shape so we ran it through the Cuisinart and turned it into shavings. I "only" had 3/4 of a pound, but I figured that was a fine amount to start with. The main idea is to have equal amounts of chocolate and enough peppermint candy to cover the top.
Mmmm! Looks like pudding.
The help is excited about helping and had to taste test both chocolates before we started. She approved.
White chocolate pistoles. I normally don't like white chocolate, but paired with dark chocolate in this way it's quite nice.
Melted, it looks like vanilla pudding.Light and dark meet.
Caitlin spreads out the crushed candy.
Detail. Bet you're glad her hands are clean, aren't ya?
Almost done!
The finished product looks downright Christmas-y. While this will melt in your hands, who cares?
Caitlin bravely tries the first piece.
After noticing that she didn't suffer any ill effects (except for Crazy Chocolate Face), Eric tries a piece and approves.
Emma (wearing a new outfit) says, "No pictures! And stop staring at my bald spot!"

Now that I know how easy it is, I'm going to add it to my list of items to make as Xmas presents. Every year I go on a baking frenzy and give food in lieu of purchased gifts. No one seems to mind too terribly much! As a matter of fact, I think they rather like it - it's never the wrong size or color and no one ever has too many shortbread cookies or chocolate crinkle cookies. Each year I try out a couple new recipes and add them to the approved list and this recipe just made that list.

What are you making for Xmas and do you give out food as gifts?


Ali said...

Dude! It looks just like the stuff they charge $25 for at Williams-Sonoma! (That'd be my guess as to your first Peppermint Bark encounter.) Bravo!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Well, for around $10 and 20 minutes you can have ~2 lbs of your own bark. And that's for the good chocolate, too.

ellen said...

I love to give home made stuff for Christmas. I've made decorated sugar cookies, ginger cookies, fudge (seems to be the favorite), and anise cookies. I also usually make an ornament to go with it. For the life of me I can't think of something I want to make this year so it will just be cookies. The ginger cookies are sooo good and can be shaped too. I like gingerbread men.

While living in Denver my Aunts and I would get together and spend a day baking. I do miss that.

Sorry, for the long reply!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

Don't be sorry! There's plenty of room here. No word limit!

Red Flashlight said...

Food is the very best kind of present! You don't have to dust it, take it to the shop, and you'll never grow out of it.

I'm thinking of making Martha Washingtons, or maybe Peanut Butter Buckeyes. Or not. . . depends on my busy schedule.

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