Simple and Delicious Holiday Gifts…Chocolate Barks

If you are anything like me, the holidays bring a rush of nostalgia, enthusiasm and good old-fashioned holiday cheer which leave you pining for days of baking, crafting and decorating. Then, of course, the pot of soup boils over; my baby starts tugging on my pant leg and I am awakened to the reality that is a mile-long to do list and not enough time to get it all done.

So if you love giving homemade gifts, one strategy (beyond re-wrapping store-bought items!) is to choose things that make a big impact and yet takes almost no time to prepare. Given that there aren’t many more days until Christmas, why not forget about spending too much money on trinkets for coworkers and holiday hosts and give some beautifully homemade gifts instead?

Chocolate barks are the perfect treat and so easy to make. And who doesn’t love chocolate? Even I, a confessed lover of all things cheese and chip, eat way more than my fair share of chocolate this time of year. Heather and I wanted to come up with some unique pairings this year and include one perennial favourite that I can’t go without.

If you need gift wrapping ideas, here are a few:

1. Pick up “Chinese Takeout” containers and line with a colourful, food safe, tissue
2. Pile bark into canning jars and tie with a ribbon
3. Wrap, butcher style, in parchment and tie with twine

Holiday Chocolate Bark Recipes

Pistachio, Cardamon and Fleur de Sel Bark
about 1 lb good quality dark chocolate (we used callebaut), chopped
1 cup shelled pistachios, left whole
1/2 tsp cardamon, plus more for sprinkling if desired

Dried Pear, Candied Ginger and Roasted Cinnamon Bark
about 1 lb good quality dark chocolate (we used callebaut), chopped
3/4 cup chopped dried pear
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger
1/2 tsp roasted cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling if desired

Note: roasted cinnamon is a new product that is roasted before grinding; you could substitute regular cinnamon but this gives a richer flavour

Dried Sour Cherry and Black Pepper Bark
about 1 lb good quality white “chocolate” (we used callebaut), chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries
1/2 – 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Candy Cane Bark
about 1 lb good quality white “chocolate” (we used callebaut), chopped
1 cup smashed candy canes (about 8 candy canes)

Note: we used organic candy canes..such a pretty colour and no yucky dyes! To smash the candy canes, break them into a heavy duty freezer bag and place between thin tea towels on the floor or a sturdy counter. Then take a rolling pin and bash the heck out of them. Great holiday stress reliever!

Bark Method

In a double boiler (or a metal mixing bowl that fits nicely over a sauce pot), bring 1 inch of water to a simmer. Place bowl on top of pot and add chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth and uniformly melted.

Meanwhile, line a cookie sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Sprinkle the cookie sheet with any chopped ingredients over an area the size of a piece of letter paper.

If you are using a spice, mix it into the chocolate just before taking off the heat. Pour the chocolate over the ingredients on the cookie sheet. Use a spatula to evenly spread the chocolate. Finish the bark with an extra dash of spice or fleur de sel, if using. Allow bark to cool outside or in the fridge until firm, at least 1 hour.

Break up the bark pieces and store in storage containers or wrap for immediate giving!

Happy Holidays!


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