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Party Goods Part 2: Nuts for Bark

January 1, 2012

Warning: This post has more photos than usual. If you scroll down, you’ll understand why the risk of drooling is high.

Do you remember Chunky? Or  Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut Bar? Or maybe you don’t have to go too far back down memory lane. When I was a kid, that combo of chocolate, raisins and nuts was a big draw. This is an updated version, thinner and packed with powerful stuff.

bb tip: Cutting solid chocolate:

  1. Use a sharp knife – a Japanese (see above) or Chef’s knife works well.
  2. Cut from each corner as you go.
  3. Hold knife down with both hands as you slightly rock knife back and forth. Chocolate will break off in shards like glass. Very fun once you get the hang of it.

Raisins, almonds and ginger too

luscious, luscious

The highly capable hands easing the warm melted chocolate out of the bowl belong to my dear friend Glenda, who’s had a passion for baking since her childhood in Belize.

Cook’s commission

So here’s the basic method for assembling bark – a no-cook bit o’ heaven:

  1. Gather and prepare your toppings.
  2. Melt chocolate (doesn’t count as cooking if using microwave).
  3. Spread and smooth your chocolate in lined sheet pan.
  4. Sprinkle on your toppings.
  5. Let cool and harden – easy by popping in fridge.
  6. Smash – ok don’t quite smash it… I needed an “s” word – break it up into asymmetrical pieces. You can cut it but you’d be missing out on the fun.

OK, repeat after me: spread, smooth, sprinkle and smash!

I ordinarily stick with ingredients that are readily available, but there are some noteworthy exceptions. One is chocolate. When I want exceptional chocolate, I go directly to Surfas, the gourmet-restaurant supply haven in Culver City (on Washington Blvd. near National Blvd.) I love that place. No, I seriously love that place. I get excited every time I cross their threshold. I get my beloved Callebaut chocolate there. Some like the French Vallrhona (a tad bitter), but I’m sticking with Belgian Callebaut. Man, that stuff is smooth. ( Note: if this isn’t readily available, get another brand and experiment, but by all means, make it!)

Now, it’s known that if you want to give something a little extra oomph, including a sweet, you top it off with a pinch of salt. And not just any salt… a finishing salt. This usually refers to sea salt though in a pinch (ha, ha), kosher salt can be used. Kosher salt is a little coarse and a good quality sea salt has a flakiness to it with a very fresh clean thing going on.

The French sea salt pictured above is a favorite by many and is an employee favorite over at Surfas. But there is also another camp: those that vote for Maldon, a sea salt from England. There are any others, from Spain, Italy, the list goes on. Get one and start playing around. It’s okay to splurge a little every now and then. Plus this container is mighty cute. After I use this baby up, I’m paying another visit to Surfas and getting me some Maldon sea salt to do a taste test.

If you look closely, you can just barely make out a few grains of salt in the lower quadrant of the photo.

Break it up, break it up!

Please consume the following in moderation – bb is not accountable for any temporary leave of one’s common sense.

Bark!

Nuts for Bark

DIVINE CHOCOLATE BARK

Ingredients:

16 oz. best-quality bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c. golden raisins
3/4 c. toasted slivered  almonds
1/4 t. sea salt

bb tip: Other ideas for toppings to substitute or add are: unsweetened coconut, crystallized ginger, dried apricots.

Directions:

Cut up chocolate with sharp knife on cutting board. Place half the chocolate in glass bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If not fully melted, place in microwave for 30 more seconds (a total of 2 minutes). Throw remaining chocolate in bowl and stir until all chocolate is melted.

Pour warm melted chocolate onto the center of a parchment-lined (or aluminum foil-lined) large sheet pan. With a rubber spatula, ease chocolate from center to sides of pan to about 1/8″ thickness.

Be sure to chop any ingredients that need prepping ahead of time (i.e. dried apricots). Immediately sprinkle on prepared toppings, either in rows or all mixed up and  evenly distributed.

Place pan in refrigerator until it sets, about 30-40 minutes. If time is of the essence, place in freezer for about 20 minutes. Break bark into pieces and share!

WHITE CHOCOLATE BARK

I never even liked white chocolate before I made this. Where’s the chocolate. after all?  Two things made me change my tune. First, an excellent quality white chocolate, like Callebaut, is super rich and creamy and has amazing flavor. But use sparingly – the stuff is lethal. Second, I realized I can include any workable topping I want in bark, including more chocolate  (all toppings must be dry).

watch out – chocolate discs

I love to use best-quality chocolate discs, either milk, semi-sweet or bittersweet. Chocolate discs are like chocolate chips on steroids. These guys would get kicked out of the Olympics, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Say no more.

Enough said.

nuts & dried fruit

To balance the white

different texture than dark

Stir shards into the melted chocolate

ooh is that good

White Chocolate Bark

Ingredients:

8 oz. best-quality white chocolate
1/3 c. roasted pistachios
1/3 c. sliced dried apricots
1/4 c. best-quality chocolate discs or chips (milk, bittersweet or semi-sweet)
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/8 t. sea salt

Directions:

Cut up chocolate with sharp knife on cutting board. Place half the chocolate in glass bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If not fully melted, place in microwave for 30 more seconds (with a smaller amount of chocolate, you probably won’t need to). Throw remaining chocolate in bowl and stir until all chocolate is melted.

Pour warm melted chocolate onto the center of a parchment-lined (or aluminum foil-lined) large sheet pan. With a rubber spatula, ease chocolate from center to sides of pan to about 1/8″ thickness.

Be sure to chop any ingredients that need prepping ahead of time (i.e. dried apricots) and if nuts are not already toasted, toast them ahead of time in a  325° or 350° oven for 5-7 minutes until just fragrant. Immediately sprinkle on prepared toppings, either in rows or all mixed up and  evenly distributed.

Place pan in refrigerator until it sets, about 30-40 minutes. If time is of the essence, place in freezer for about 20 minutes. Break bark into pieces and share!

p.s. There were no bark leftovers – they flew off the tray. Happy 2012!

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2 Comments
  1. mrs G Johnson aka Ms G permalink

    HI my Judy can i please use those hands to help me too i am loving this now that i can get on and i am loving cooking with you it fills me up and give me so much happiness thank you for the joy you bring in to my life i love you

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