Thursday, December 20, 2012

Make It Out of Peppermint Barky Barky

Hanukkah is over – time for the real holidays to begin! (Worst Jew ever, right here.) Time to turn off the Maccabeats and whatever the hell this is and turn on Elf. Yes, it’s true, I love cultural Christmas, in no small part because of the food, and I love the food in no small part because of peppermint bark. Over the last couple of years it’s become a tradition of mine to make peppermint bark, which is beautiful, festive, delicious, and simple to make. Well, the making part is simple; it’s the cutting that’s tricky. Every year, the pieces splinter apart when I cut them, or the white chocolate separates from the dark. No good!

This year at the family Hanukkah party (I knew that holiday was good for something!), my Aunt Nancy gave my cousin a little tin of yummy homemade peppermint bark. I asked her how she was able to cut it into such neat squares, and she divulged two secrets. One, add some cream to the dark chocolate. Two, don’t wait until it’s completely hardened to cut it. Now they weren’t that secret, as far as secrets go. I had seen some recipes that included the cream, and common sense told me to cut the bark when it was still a bit soft. Nevertheless, every recipe I’ve seen specifically instructs the baker to wait until the chocolate is totally hardened before cutting it. Throwing caution to the wind, I decided to go with Aunt Nancy’s method. And I was so pleased with the results! At first I was concerned about the dark chocolate, because when I added the cream it became very thick and ganache-like, and it’s true that it didn’t spread as much as it should have, but it firmed up okay, and provided a much firmer base for the bark than just pure chocolate. I put the bark in the fridge for about 20 minutes, cut it, and then put it back for further hardening, and it turned out great. I put the pieces in glass jars, tied ‘em up with pretty ribbons, and gave them to current and former coworkers as holiday gifts. (For Kaitlyn, last seen being a vegan on this blog here, I made vegan peppermint bark, which is literally just dark chocolate studded with pieces of candy cane. I did look for vegan white chocolate but it was impossible to find – there was one place that sold it 3.5 ounces for $17, but that seemed excessive. And it turns out Kaitlyn doesn’t even like white chocolate so I’m glad I didn’t waste my money.) Anyway, it was a big success. To thank Aunt Nancy for the awesome tips, you should check out her Web site, it's pretty cool!: 

Aunt Nancy’s Peppermint Bark

One pound of dark chocolate
One pound of white chocolate
Half a cup of cream
Peppermint extract
Candy canes or peppermint candies, in pieces (I put them in a bag and crushed them repeatedly with the bottom of the tea kettle. You may find a more elegant method, but probably not one as satisfying.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Melt dark chocolate and cream in a double boiler; mix until the chocolate thickens. Add peppermint extract to taste. Spread the dark chocolate mixture on the aluminum foil and refrigerate until mostly firm.
Melt white chocolate in a double boiler; add peppermint extract to taste. Pour on top of dark chocolate sheet and sprinkle on peppermint pieces. Refrigerate until mostly firm. Remove from fridge and cut into pieces, then return to fridge until completely firm.

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