Halloween brings our annual tradition of getting family and friends together for a costume party. It’s also our yearly excuse to buy a crazy amount of booze, decorate the house and whip up a whole variety of creative recipes. This year, I’m making the easiest dessert and party-favor of all: chocolate bark.
Be imaginative because the possibilities are endless! Here’s what I made for our party: two approachable favorites for the conservative chocolate lover and two wild varieties for the adventurous eater.
Bittersweet and Salty Almond Bark is a beautiful marbled creation of bittersweet chocolate (60 or 70 percent cacao), sweet white chocolate, toasted salted almonds and a top dusting of sea salt. Melt 2 baking bars of bittersweet chocolate and spread on baking sheet. Cool slightly in fridge. Melt one bag of white chocolate chips, and then add one teaspoon of almond extract and one cup of almonds that have been toasted and roughly chopped. Dollop white chocolate mixture in small amounts over the baking sheet of dark chocolate and swirl with a knife till you’ve achieved desired effect.
Pretzel Thin Bark uses the latest hybrid pretzel, pretzel thins. Start with a layer of milk chocolate, spread thin on your baking sheet. Top with a generous layer (about a half-inch) of salted original pretzel thins, roughly chopped. Melt more milk chocolate, dollop on top of the pretzel layer, spreading gently till well-covered. Top with a light dusting of sea salt for a super sweet and salty delight.
Pop Rocks Bark is snap-crackle-popping bite of nostalgia! Choose your favorite color and flavor of Pop-Rocks, mix-in a generous amount into melted semi-sweet chocolate and spread on baking sheet. Garnish with additional Pop-Rocks on top for color.
Bits of Bacon Bark is a salty sweet pork lovers’ adventure. Finely chop crisply cooked bacon into bits and mix –in to melted milk chocolate. After spreading on baking sheet, top the bark with a dusting of bacon salt … if you dare.
General Technique: Chocolate chips can be melted quickly in a microwave. Use a microwave-safe bowl and zap on a low power setting (50% power) to avoid scorching. The length of time to melt depends on your microwave as well as the kind and amount of chocolate being used. Start at one minute, and add additional 30 second increments, stirring in between until you get a better idea of your microwave’s timing.
A more traditional technique of melting chocolate is in a double boiler. Heat a saucepan filled with an inch of water over low heat until it begins to simmer. Turn off. Place a bowl with chocolate over the water (bowl should not touch water). Chocolate will begin to melt. Stir gently until shiny and smooth.
Mix-in your toppings with the chocolate as appropriate and spread out on parchment paper-lined baking sheet to desired thickness. Chill until firm in the refrigerator and then break bark into large pieces and store until party time.
Check out this story on the cover of Chester County Cuisine & Nightlife here!