Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Every time I enter a Williams-Sonoma store between Thanksgiving and Christmas I am tempted to buy a tin of their “nostalgic handmade peppermint bark” that “drives its inimitable taste from custom-blended Guittard premium chocolate and natural oil of peppermint that’s triple-distilled to extract the cool, clean flavor of fresh mint.” Nothing quite rings in the holidays for me like a tin of overpriced nostalgia. But $26 for 1 pound? HELLO my inner Scrooge.
Not to worry though, I discovered a recipe in Bon Appetit 11 years ago that is so, so much better than the Williams-Sonoma variety. True, their bark might be confected by their “master candymakers” who “pour melted semisweet chocolate onto a confectioner’s table” and then finish it with a “snowfall of crisp handmade peppermint candy bits.” But if you make your own you can rightly call yourself a master candymaker. The only skill set required is the ability to melt chocolate.
Now, as to that “reusable 1-lb tin” you get with the Williams-Sonoma brand? The day after Christmas you can buy the tins for half price. Just toss out the stale bark and save the tin for next year.
adapted from Bon Appetit
17 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces coarsely crushed candy canes
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons whipping cream
¾ teaspoon peppermint extract
Take your very best non-warped cookie sheet, turn it upside down and cover securely with foil. Using a ruler, mark a 12x9-inch rectangle directly on the foil. (I use the tip of a sharp knife.)
Very, very gently melt the white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl. Start low, go slow, and stir frequently. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto the prepared rectangle on the foil. Using an offset spatula, spread the chocolate evenly to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.
In a clean bowl microwave the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract until just melted. Stir until smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm. Pour this chocolate mixture in long lines over the white chocolate rectangle. Using a clean offset spatula, spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.
Gently rewarm the remaining white chocolate and pour over the firm bittersweet chocolate layer. Spread to cover. Working quickly, sprinkle remaining crushed candy canes over the top and gently press to make sure they are embedded into the white chocolate. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.
Lift foil and bark off of cookie sheet. Peel away foil and discard. Place bark on a cutting board. Using a long sharp knife cut bark crosswise into 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, then each section diagonally into 2 triangles. Or make up your own geometry and cut into desired size and shape. If the bark seems resistant to cutting just let it sit until it comes to room temperature, then proceed.
Chill in an airtight container. Let stand 15 minutes at room temperature before serving. Keeps about 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
Notes on the recipe: How many batches of this do you have to make to call yourself an expert? Does 25 count? I took 15 batches to a cookie exchange one year. I won’t be doing that again anytime soon, but I did learn some valuable tricks:
-You can use white chocolate chips instead of baking chocolate, but you won’t be able to cut the bark into shapes because the chips contain more stabilizers than baking chocolate. Instead of cutting the bark just break it into random shapes.
-I have a very strong preference for Ghiradelli chocolate in this recipe, both white and semisweet. Other brands of white chocolate don’t melt very well.
-When melting the chocolate make sure the bowls and spoons are completely dry. Moisture can cause the chocolate to seize. I avoid wooden spoons for stirring because they can hold water, especially if they were put through the dishwasher recently.
-Pay attention to the chilling times – this helps the layers adhere to each other.