Monday, December 17, 2012

holiday bark

I have always loved different bark desserts, so this year for my work holiday potluck I decided to make peppermint bark and caramel, pretzel chocolate bark! Trying these two recipes required me to master two new techniques in the kitchen.... caramelizing brown sugar and using a double boiler.

End result: I'm still not sure how long to wait for brown sugar to caramelize and I LOVE using a double boiler (or maybe I loved it because chocolate was involved -- melted, gooey, creamy, beautiful chocolate). Additional kitchen education included (a) white chocolate stiffens if it's heated too fast and (b) caramelized brown sugar tastes like toffee. I will definitely do these desserts again, so you could even try them!
Preview of the peppermint bark

What you need
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 c. light brown sugar
few handfuls of mini pretzels
about 14 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 400. Melt butter over medium heat. Cover a pan with foil, arrange pretzels to layer the pan. Mix in brown sugar to melted butter. Let it bubble/simmer, stir occasionally, do not allow to boil, wait for it to caramelize. Pour over tray of pretzels, use a spatula to spread it out, however it will spread out a little in the oven. Cook for 5-7 minutes. Allow it to mostly cool (I put it in the freezer for about 5-8 minutes). While the tray is cooling, melt chocolate chips over a double boilers (which is EASY and awesome.). Spread the melted chocolate over the top. Allow the tray to completely cool either in the fridge or freezer. Peel the foil off the back and break into pieces.

The caramelized brown sugar will spread out more when cooked for 5-7 min

Improvements for next time:
1. Increase the brown sugar/butter amount by 1/2, so it will cover the tray better.
2. Be more careful when pulling the tray out of the oven so the pretzel's don't overlap.
3. It's not necessary to cover the whole tray with chocolate... the caramelized brown sugar is hard enough.
4. Try sprinkling sea salt on top after the chocolate is spread.
5. Try adding sliced almonds to the bark. Add to the tray with the layer of pretzels before pouring caramelized brown sugar. Also sprinkle some on the top after the chocolate.

18 oz white chocolate chips
20 oz dark chocolate chips
12 peppermint candy canes

Cover tray with foil. Smash the candy canes into dust and small pieces. Melt dark chocolate chips over a double boiler. Pour onto tray with foil. Allow to mostly cool (I put it in the freezer for a few minutes). While the tray is cooling, melt the white chocolate chips over a double boiler. Be careful not to heat the white chocolate too much. Poor white chocolate onto tray. For the marble affect, use a knife to cut though the top layer, or spread white chocolate around a little. Sprinkle peppermint on chocolate. Cool in freezer completely. Peel foil and break bark into pieces.

Improvements for next time:
1. Smash less candy canes, I had a lot of left over peppermint and wish I had candy canes left, not dust.
2. Don't allow water to boil under white chocolate. I only marbled my bark because the white chocolate started to stiffen up since I heated it too much.

If I had to choose one of these to make again, I would make the caramel pretzel chocolate bark. I'm a real fan of the toffee type texture and flavor, so that one was my favorite. The peppermint bark has a really thick chocolate base and it is festive with the peppermint topping. If you try one of these, make sure to read the suggested improvements, definitely things I hope to remember for next time!

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