Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Bark: The Anti-Baking

(Part I of II: Musings on precision, ovens, and whatnot)

Hello again.

Have you all made your scones yet? I only ask, you know, because breakfast is supposed to come before dessert, on most occasions, (notwithstanding the mornings after your birthday, or the occasional fork-in-the-leftover-pie) and today, I have peppermint bark for you. Well, peppermint bark and a little whining, because what’s a post about dessert from me if it comes without complaint, right?

During my Rampant Christmas Baking Spell, which I have decided it’s now called, and I think might become annual, I tried to approach baking calmly, all laid back, and with a clear head. I’ve found that it’s the best way. I also tried making Macaroons, which, for me, proved to be the divas of all cookies. If these cookies could, they’d ask for their water to be a certain temperature to the degree, for multiple outfit changes daily, and they wouldn’t settle for any less than private jets. Their name even sounds like pretension, to be said in a British accent, and perhaps with one raised pinky. They are downright high-maintenance, if you ask me. All fragile and petite and green, they were the snazziest things I’ve ever made, and just about the antithesis of the calmness I was looking to maintain.

Slightly misshapen macaroons behind me, I was feeling weary of baking too much in one day. I have my limits, you know. So I didn’t bake; I just melted a bit, stirred a bit, spread a bit, and chilled.

This chocolate peppermint bark is a little bit tedious what with its three layers, but it’s entirely worth it, and nowhere near the almond-peeling-and-grinding hell of macaroons past. Really, if you can melt chocolate, and spread it onto a baking sheet, you can do this. You also get to crush peppermint candies with a soup can, which is fun, or useful if you, like me, tend to enjoy the frustration catharsis of breaking a bunch of small candies. Either way, this bark, with its sandwiched layer of peppermint-laced chocolate ganache, is totally worth each and every one of it’s three layers.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

Note: If candy canes taste too much like the holidays to you, I’m sure there are plenty of variations on this you could try. Like, try swapping the peppermint extract for almond extract, and sprinkle the layers with almonds instead of peppermint candies. The possibilities are endless, and not bound to any one season. Go wild.

Also, this recipe calls for your chocolate to be chopped. But, in the end, it’s all going to be melted anyway, so chips work just as well; just make sure it’s still a relatively good quality chocolate.

17 ounces good-quality white chocolate (I used Ghiradelli), finely chopped
30 red-and-white-striped hard peppermint candies, coarsely crushed, or at least half a cup
7 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Turn a large baking sheet bottom side up and cover it with foil. Mark a 12 x 9-inch rectangle on foil. (This just has to be approximate. Don’t worry if the chocolate isn’t perfectly rectangular – you can just call your bark “rustic.”)

Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water) until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from over water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle, then sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

For Ganache: stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool a bit, then pour mixture evenly over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water to smooth again. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 30 minutes. Though, the longer you wait, the easier it will be to cut.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark into 1 inch squares or just random pieces, if you, you know, want to live on the edge. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work surface. This will stay for about two weeks, stored in the fridge.


mpontacoloni said...

That photo third from the top is dramatic. Portentous, even.

Also: "So I didn’t bake; I just melted a bit, stirred a bit, spread a bit, and chilled." Puns!

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