Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Second Helping: Fast, Easy, Fantastic Peppermint Bark

20101210_CPE bark_1

This is the point in the holiday season when I cull my list of good intentions and, for the sake of sanity, toss aside any plans that would cause more stress than joy.

Cutting out and decorating sugar cookies didn't make the final list. Practicality demanded quick, easy sweets, like peppermint bark.

If you've only had peppermint bark out of a box, you might be embarrassed to find out you paid way too much. You need only two ingredients: peppermint candy and chocolate.  I'm starting you off here with the simplest preparation, and then layering on the fancy for those of you who aim high.

Peppermint Bark

This simple, addictive treat is fun to make with kids and is a great gift for neighbors or lunch box treat. A few tips: To crush the candies, pulse them in a food processor or put them in a heavy, sealed plastic bag on the counter, cover with a towel, and crush with a mallet or rolling pin. I usually sift out the resulting powder and stir it into the melted chocolate. Freezing the candy canes for an hour makes it a little easier. The amounts given are just guidelines; adjust proportions to suit your taste. Finally, be sure to use baking chocolate rather than chips, which don't melt as smoothly.

8 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate
6 candy canes

Cover a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave (cook at 50% power for 1 minute at a time, stirring in between, until melted). Pour the chocolate onto the prepared baking pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle crushed candy on top and refrigerate until firm. Break up bark and keep refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Fancied-up variations

Glossy: Stir a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil into the chocolate for added shine.

White Chocolate: Substitute white baking chocolate for the semisweet or dark chocolate.

Extra Minty: Add a dash of peppermint extract to the melted chocolate.

Two-Tone: Melt 8 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate and pour into baking pan; refrigerate 30 minutes. Prepare rest of recipe as described above, using white chocolate and pouring it on top of the now solid chocolate layer.

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