Thursday, December 08, 2011

My Gift to You

As previously mentioned on this blog, I used to have a job at a Williams-Sonoma store. This was during my glamorous phase of being 23 and underemployed and living the dream. I’m not kidding.  Living. The. Dream. 

I know I was living the dream because a busy day for me constituted picking up clothes at the dry cleaner and I frequently was able to take advantage of our apartment complex pool, on, say, a Tuesday. At 1pm.


The holiday season at Williams-Sonoma was enough to make any sane person seek out anti-psychotic drugs. I’ve discussed some of this insanity here.  The jars of Turkey Gravy, for example, sold out so rapidly and inspired such fervor in our customers that you would have thought we were dealing heroin or something. I mean, for God’s sake, people, it’s just jarred gravy. It’s not even that hard to make your own from scratch. If you own a whisk, you can make gravy. End of story.

Another total Chuck Williams racket was the holiday peppermint bark. You know exactly what I am talking about. It’s famous. It comes in a little tin and it sells for approximately the same per ounce price as uranium. 

It’s time to stop this holiday madness. You can make your own peppermint bark. 

No, stop right there. I am raising a hand to you in Heisman-fashion. 

Hear me out.


This is one of those things that you don’t even need cooking skills for. You can be incompetent in the kitchen and still be successful at this. 

Trust me. 

I wouldn’t lie to you about food.

The glory will come when you make this. Handel’s Messiah will play in the background, the heavens will open, and sun will shine down upon you. Everyone will think you bought this fabulous candy, but then you can tell them that, actually, you made it. From scratch. Jaws will drop. I’m telling you, they will drop on the floor. It will almost be awkward, but you’re gracious and will handle it with aplomb.

Do me a favor and try this, just once. You’ll never buy the pre-made stuff again and you’ll save a boatload of cash. Unless you have more money than you know what do to with. In which case, here’s my Christmas list…



Kate’s Perfect Peppermint Bark

Ingredients:
6-7 ounces of really good quality dark chocolate, chopped.  I used Lindt because it was on sale (at Walgreens!) but any really good quality dark chocolate bars will do - Callebaut and Valhrona are both awesome

6-7 ounces of really good quality white chocolate, chopped. Again, I used Lindt, but Callebaut is great if you want to get fancy about it and Baker’s is good if you want to be ultra-cheap about it

1 teaspoon of flavorless vegetable oil (like canola), divided

6 full-size candy canes, peeled and crushed.



I like to crush my candy canes with the bottom edge of a small sauce pan, like so.


Directions:


1. Prepare an 8x8 baking pan by lining it with foil.

2. Melt the dark chocolate in either a double boiler, or the way I do it, which is as follows:
Put the chocolate and ½ teaspoon of oil in a microwaveable mixing bowl.



Microwave on high for one minute.
Stir and stir and stir until it seems that the chocolate bits are not melting any more.
           


Microwave another 30 seconds.

Stir and stir and stir. 

After a couple of minutes of stirring, all the chocolate should be smooth and melted. If it’s not, you can microwave it for another 15 seconds (no more!) and continue stirring. If you need subsequent microwavings, keep them to no more than 15 seconds apiece and really stir for a couple of minutes in between as you do not want to over heat the chocolate. (You’ll use the same method for the white chocolate, but that typically takes even less time to melt because of the higher cocoa butter content.)



3.  Pour the dark chocolate into the prepared pan and tilt the pan so that the chocolate evenly covers the bottom of the pan.
Pour.




Tilt.

4. Refrigerate the dark chocolate for 30 minutes, until solid.

5. Melt the white chocolate using the same process you used for the dark chocolate. Don’t forget to add the ½ teaspoon of oil before you start the melting. 

6. Pour the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate, and working relatively quickly so there are no streaks, tilt the pan so that the white chocolate completely coats the dark chocolate. 


7. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top of the melted white chocolate. Once you’ve coated the surface with candy cane bits, press them gently into the white chocolate. Two notes here:
  • Put more candy canes on top than you think is reasonable. Plenty will fall off when you break the bark into bits
  • When you’re pressing the candy canes into the chocolate, use a light hand. Your fingers should not touch the white chocolate, only the candy canes.


8. Refrigerate for at least an hour to cool completely. Longer is fine. 
9. When the bark is solid, remove from the pan and peel off the foil. Place the bark on a large cutting board and get out your nice, sharp, heavy chef’s knife. Cut the bark into irregular pieces. Keep in mind that you’re aiming for pieces that are no more than an inch or two in surface area as people typically just want a nice little bite-sized piece of candy. Before they eat another one. And another.





That’s it.  This keeps for two weeks in the fridge in an airtight container or plastic zip-top bag. It makes an excellent holiday hostess gift.



Sorry, this picture is totally blurry!


Let me know if you try it!





3 comments:

lmajunior said...

I just finished making this -- it's chilling in the fridge. I crushed the candy canes in their wrappers in an attempt to keep them from flying all over the kitchen, but, well Barney is going to enjoy the candy flakes on the floor. I used a heavy ladle to whack them.

The white chocolate seemed to melt the dark and didn't quite (but almost) cover it. I used a 7th candy cane just to be sure.

Can't wait to try it.

Kate said...

Curious to hear the results!

Kathleen said...

You're bringing me some of this, right? Kidding, I make my own, though I don't think I've included the vegetable oil before. I do add some peppermint extract to the chocolates to make it peppermintier. I need to hit the drugstore for candy canes, so I can get my fix. Looking forward to seeing you in the Heartland in a couple of weeks! xoxo, k