Tis the season for giving. When gathering with friends, colleagues, neighbors and family this time of year it’s always nice to bring a little something to let others know you care. Giving a little gift to say thanks for your friendship, thanks for your help or thanks for your hospitality is such a nice way to spread holiday cheer. Homemade gifts from the kitchen are always a hit, but if you don’t have any go-to ideas, never fear. For this week’s Heinen’s 4PMPanic, I’m sharing a few of my favorite ways to top Chocolate Bark for a gift that’s festive, fun and filled with flavor!
I’ve made several edible gifts over the years. Chocolates, caramels, cookies, salts, herb blends. This year I needed something delicious that was simple to make. I decided to make a modern twist on fruit cake with Fruit Cake Chocolate Bark. There’s actually no cake involved, just a nod to the fruitcake with the combination of fruits and nuts nestled into a layer of rich chocolate.
Once you get started making chocolate bark it’s easy to get silly with it. For another batch, I used white chocolate and a few candy decorations to make melted snowman bark.
Then I decided to give freeze dried raspberries, that I happened to have in my pantry…why they were there I do not know, but they are pretty with sliced almonds on the white chocolate.
Really delicious bark depends on good chocolate, so spring for the best you can afford. Use about a pound of dark, milk or white chocolate; avoid chips, which have additives.
Finely chop the chocolate and melt it in a micowave or double-boiler. For best results, consider tempering, a controlled melting method that yields “snappier” bark. Spread chocolate on parchment paper and top as desired. Let bark set up in a cool room. In a pinch you can put it in the fridge but remember chocolate and water do not mix well. You’ll want to avoid condensation. Break or chop into bite-size or bar sized pieces. Package in a pretty bag or box and send one out to the bus driver, postal worker, neighbors or teachers…anyone you want to make smile.
I’ve topped mine with a fruitcake inspired mix (pistachios + dried cherries+dried cranberries+dried apricots+golden raisins+chopped macadamia nuts+pepitas+a sprinkle of flake salt).
Be sure to make a little extra so when company stops in you can throw together a quick dessert plate. This one was a quick throw-together and, let’s face it, the grapes are just so I can fool myself into thinking I’ve offered a healthy option. Hmmmm, chocolate or grapes??
Bark Topping Inspiration
- The Campfire (smoked almonds + crushed dried ancho pepper)
- The Turtle (caramel nibs—found in the baking aisle— + toasted pecans)
- The Macaroon (toasted shredded coconut + toasted slivered almonds + sea salt)
- The Christmas Tree (dried orange-flavor cranberries + pistachios)
- The Gingerbread House (gingerbread cookies + crystallized ginger)
- The Berry Patch (freeze-dried raspberries + toasted sliced almonds)
- The Snack Aisle (pretzel twists + ridged potato chips + peanuts)
Have fun with the endless options.
A word on tempering your chocolate. Have you ever melted chocolate and dipped something into it only to find it either didn’t harden or there were blotchy marks on the chocolate surface the next day? Well, If you don’t re-temper the chocolate when you melt it for candy, it will set up softer, have a matte appearance and might get pale blotches (bloom) on the surface after a couple days. (Bloom is edible, just not pretty.)
It is true that tempering requires precision. My solution: Melt the chocolate very slowly. It’s a little tedious but worth the effort for special projects.
Place 1 pound of finely chopped chocolate in a 4-cup glass measuring cup, glass pie plate or 1 1⁄2-quart glass mixing bowl. put it in the microwave for 1 minute. Take it out and stir it. Put it back into the microwave for 20 seconds and stir again. Repeat this process until the chocolate is melted. The last time you take it out stir it vigorously to lower the temp just a bit to keep it between 100° to 110°. TRUTH, I rarely get out a thermometer. I just have a feel for it. Get it really melty then put the glass pie plate (the vessel I prefer) on my cool granite countertop stirring vigorously until it seems to thicken slightly as it cools just a few degrees. Now it’s ready to pour onto your parchment paper surface or to dip into if you are making chocolate covered ANYTHING.
DO NOT spray the parchment with any non stick spray. You will make a mess and potentially ruin your chocolate. Don’t worry the chocolate will not stick to the parchment once hardened.
Hope you have as much fun making it as your friends will have receiving it.
About the Author
Photographer Sally Roeckell specializes in contemporary lifestyle portraiture with an emphasis on food photography. Her Blog, Table and Dish is a website devoted to celebrating and curating the many ways that food binds us. Sally hopes that her recipes and images will inspire you to gather your friends and family in the kitchen to make memories, use the time to connect with busy kids, chat over mixing bowls, get messy, laugh, sing, set the table, clear the table, pass the salt, debate the days topics and pray. You can follow her here as a weekly contributor to 365Barrington and Heinen’s as well as via Table and Dish on Instagram and on her website at TableAndDish.com.
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Heinen’s Grocery is located at 500 N. Hough Street, between E. Main Street and Route 14 (next to Meatheads) in Barrington, Illinois. They’re open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. For more information, visit Heinens.com.