Monday, December 16, 2013

Easy yet Fancy Peppermint Bark

Easy but fancy peppermint bark-
I have declared Peppermint Bark to be the Christmas neighbor gift of choice this year.  It's easy to make, you can store it in your fridge until you are ready to deliver (which with cookies you have deliver pronto for ideal freshness and taste), and it looks oh so fancy.  I've already done two batches so far, and it has made Christmas "baking" easy, painless, and stress free.  Plus, if you whip up a batch of these bad boys your neighbors will love you.  Who doesn't love chocolate and peppermint at Christmas time?

As if an easy but fancy Christmas treat isn't enough, this peppermint bark is kid friendly.  My oldest was a fan of watching the chocolate melt.  Personally I think she was just attempting to sneak a finger lick, but yet she appeared completely fascinated by the process.  Watching chocolate melt is perhaps a tad more exciting than watching grass grow, but to each his/her own.  

With chocolate melting on the stove my kids were more than willing to "help."  Since Peppermint Bark includes dark and white chocolate I had to wash pots.  My kids felt a good licking of the bowls was necessary before washing the pot out.  Apparently, it only takes two Peppermint Bark batches for my kiddos to become expert chocolate pot scrappers.  Though, we may have to work on keeping the chocolate IN the mouth not ON the mouth.

Now for the recipe.  It's quick and easy, especially with the few tips I have provided below.  You can now make this yumminess and impress your family, friends, and neighbors with this oh so fancy and festive treat.  The steps to delicious Peppermint bark are truly easy: Prepare pan, melt chocolate, freeze, melt more chocolate, throw in peppermint pieces, freeze, and eat.   
Easy Peppermint Bark 
Active time: 40 minutes max
Inactive time: 1 hour minimum

  • 4 cups chocolate chips (bittersweet, semi-sweet, or milk chocolate) 
  • 4 cups of white chocolate chips
  • 1/2- 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup + decoration toppings of chopped candy canes or peppermint candies

1- Line a 11x17 sheet pan with wax or parchment paper.  I like to use a piece of masking tape on the long edges to secure the paper down; it just seems to make it a tad easier.  

2- Fill a double boiler with 1/2 inch of water.  If you don't have a double boiler you can finagle one with two pots of different sizes.  The larger pot fill with a bit of water and the smaller one will rest on top.of the larger one with water.  You will be melting the chocolate in the top pot.  

3- Melt the dark chocolate over low-medium heat; be sure to stir every few minutes to get ideal smoothness and prevent overcooking. As far as chocolate is concerned I really like all bittersweet, all semi-sweet or a mixture of the two.  However, I have done it with milk chocolate, but the white chocolate is so sweet I like to have a balance with the bittersweet.  Basically, just melt what you have on hand.  Now, if you really don't like to melt chocolate over the stove (though I think it is actually easier and harder to burn/ruin on a stove) then you can melt chocolate in the microwave.  Just use a large glass bowl and melt the chocolate in 30 second intervals.  Be sure to always stir the chocolate every 30 seconds even if you think it needs it or not; this will help prevent the chocolate from burning or being ruined.  Really, I have found stirring it frequently, whether in the microwave or on the stove, is the best and easiest way to melt chocolate b/c the goal here is smooth delicious chocolate.  Stirring frequently is the way to that smooth and delicious chocolate. 

3- At this point you can taste it for a bit of quality control if you would like.   Quality control is always an important step. :)  

4- When the chocolate is smooth, pour the melted chocolate into the lined pan.  I prefer to have a towel on hand to wipe the bottom of the pot so the water doesn't have to mix with the melted chocolate.

5- Evenly spread the chocolate around the entire pan.

6- Place the dark chocolate in the freezer to set for at least 30 minutes.  If you leave it in the freezer for longer than 30 minutes be sure to take it out just as you are starting to melt the white chocolate. 

7-  Now, melt the 4 cups of white chocolate.  You can use almond bark if you would like, but I think white chips are usually cheaper and taste delicious.

8- When the white chocolate is melted all of the way stir in the peppermint extract while the white chocolate is still in the pot.  The extract isn't really necessary, but it just adds a bit more of the peppermint flavor.  If you love peppermint add closer to the 1 teaspoon. 

9- Stir in a 1/2 cup of chopped peppermint candy.  You can chop/crush the candy using either a food processor or a ziploc bag and a hammer/rolling pin.  Unless I have some anger to get out I prefer to use a food processor.  It's easy, and allows me to control how small I chop the candies.  Plus it is fast.   

10- With the peppermint and candy pieces all mixed into the melted white chocolate pour that mixture over your frozen dark chocolate.  I like to pour the white chocolate out all over the dark chocolate rather than just all in the middle.  I have found you want to spread out the white chocolate as quick as possible.  No need for perfection here.  Resist the urge to keep spreading, as soon as it looks spread out stop.  The more you spread the white chocolate around the quicker it melts the dark chocolate; therefore you can end up with some dark chocolate swirled in the top white chocolate layer and it doesn't look as pretty.

11- Top your white chocolate layer with some more candy pieces.  I like to do mostly bigger pieces but mix in small pieces as well.  At this point just make it look pretty.  I find pressing the candies down into the chocolate a bit really helps to set the candies in the bark.  

12- Freeze your peppermint bark pan for at least 30 minutes.  You can also place your bark in the fridge at this point for at least 3 hours, but it can be left for days.  That is the joy of peppermint bark; there is so much flexibility.  

13- When you are ready, use a knife and your clean hands to break the peppermint bark into pieces.  I have found the random bark size pieces is easier to do and looks more legit than exact square sizes.

You are now done with at least 7-8 good family size bags of peppermint bark treats for your neighbors.  I like to put them in those cute treat bags you can get at JoAnns/Michaels for cheap, tie a ribbon and attach a tag.  Easy, peasy, and oh so fancy.  Peppermint bark is most definitely a winner this year!  So yum!     

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