Some months back my friend Pam, one of the best bakers I know, made a plate of deep, dark chocolate bark studded with roasted nuts and seeds for a casual cocktail party. It was the hands-down hit of the evening. I ate my weight in chocolate that night and made a mental note then and there: holiday food gift 2012: Pam’s crazy-good chocolate bark.
And here we are suddenly, in December, when creativity joins forces in the kitchen with the need for holiday gifts for friends, neighbors, grandparents, and our children’s hard-working teachers. This chocolate bark fills the bill.
First, it’s pretty easy to do. I tinkered with Pam’s recipe, paring the bark down to just three little ingredients — chocolate, almonds, and golden raisins — melted together, spread on a baking sheet to cool, and then snapped into pretty pieces.
Second, it’s not an especially expensive endeavor. While you want to step it up beyond standard supermarket baking chocolate, you don’t need to invest in the fanciest brands. I used Trader Joe’s bittersweet chocolate and it was excellent. As for nuts and dried fruit, you can substitute roughly chopped almonds for slivered or use roughly chopped hazelnuts. In either case, be sure the nuts are roasted first. Dried cranberries, dried cherries, or even regular seedless raisins will do nicely in place of golden raisins.
It’s also a plus that this chocolate bark will keep long after most holiday perishables have come and gone, making it ideal for friends near and far (not to mention your own private stash).
And then there are the anti-oxidants in all that dark chocolate. What better gift to give a friend than squeaky clean arteries?
Now, here’s a step-by-step “how to.” For other holiday food gift ideas, have a peek here.
Heavenly Holiday Chocolate Bark
1. Gather your ingredients: 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, 1/2 cup roasted, slivered almonds, 1/2 cup golden raisins.
2. Set the chocolate on a cutting board and use a large, sharp knife to chop it into small pieces.
3. Create a double boiler with two pots: One large one filled with just enough water so that when you set a medium pot inside of it, the water raises about halfway up the side.
5. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook the chocolate, stirring regularly, until it melts. The water shouldn’t get any hotter than a simmer. If it boils, turn the heat down. Once the chocolate is melted and silky, add the almonds and raisins and stir well. Remove from heat.
7. Use a rubber spatula to spread the chocolate onto the baking sheet in a thin layer. It will cover the better part of the baking sheet.
8. Now, turn your attention to those cooking utentils. What’s baking without a little spoon licking?
9. Put the baking sheet into the fridge for 10 minutes or the freezer for 5 minutes. Remove from fridge/freezer and leave chocolate on the counter to cool and harden for several hours or overnight. Once completely cool (crisp enough to snap between your fingers), break the chocolate into about 40 pieces that are a couple of bites each.