Easter is just about two weeks away and, as you may remember from last year, that means that I have to put on my candy-making hat and hop on into the kitchen. Last year, feeling exceptionally motivated, I made peanut butter eggs. This year, however, I decided to cater to the less-motivated crowd with chocolate bark!
Since I couldn’t share my holiday basket recipes with you in December (that would have spoiled the surprise for the recipients!), I’ve decided to share them with you in January! Here’s a quick peek at what we’ll be covering…
- Gingerbread blondies
- Peppermint bark
- Parmesan-thyme crackers
- Cheddar crisps
- Cinnamon-apple bourbon
- Toffee chip shortbread cookies
Today’s topic: Peppermint bark.
The first time I had peppermint bark was years ago at Williams Sonoma and at almost $30 a pop I limited myself to their free samples and other, cheaper, knock-off varieties of the holiday treat. While I was thinking about what to put in my 2014 baskets, I realized that I still had a good amount of Chocoley laying around and thought it would be perfect some holiday bark!
You can use any chocolate you like, of course, but I’ve already told you about how I love the snap of Chocoley’s Candy Molding formula, which makes a nice sturdy base for this bark without having to temper the chocolate at all. Just melt and pour, then top it with some white chocolate and a generous sprinkling of crushed candy canes on top and voila! You have a whole sheet-pan of peppermint bark for a fraction of what you would pay for the tiny bit you get from Williams Sonoma one!
- 14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
- 14 ounces white chocolate, chopped
- 3 candy canes, chopped or crushed
- Line a sheet pan or 9-by-13 pan (for neater corners) with aluminum foil and/or parchment, smoothing out any wrinkles.
- Melt dark chocolate over just steaming water in a double boiler. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between each session).
- Stir in the peppermint extract and pour into prepared pan, spreading to form an even layer. Set in the fridge to firm up while you melt the white chocolate.
- In a separate bowl, melt the white chocolate in the same manner as the dark chocolate (it may take less time).
- Remove dark chocolate layer from fridge and pour white chocolate over the dark chocolate layer, spreading the white chocolate to form an even layer. Sprinkle with candy canes and return to fridge for about 10 minutes to set up.
- Set on the counter to continue firming up, about one hour, then cut into desired size chunks.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Halloween is tomorrow and since I’ve been 1,896 miles from home for the past week, sadly I haven’t had time to create a Halloween costume.
I have, however, managed to carve a pumpkin – Hubby and I started this tradition just last year, neither of us having carved pumpkins for many years.
In my time away over the last five days I’ve enjoyed a bit of actual autumn weather, got to see some fall colors, and walked 25.25 miles through the trails surrounding the beautiful Chateau Elan in Braselton, GA, while away at work conference. And yes, my legs are very, very sore.
I also learned the bad news from my beloved that, despite following the advice of a trusted website, our pumpkins have already turned to rotting mush in record time and will not be making it to Halloween… It turns out that peppermint soap thing actually does the opposite of preserving your pumpkin.
So today, as I am sitting on a plane hurdling towards home (and 90 degree weather) at 500mph (or around there), anxiously awaiting my return home, I am also mourning the loss of our beloved pumpkins, and have every intention to drown the sorrows of our loss in this bark.
Just like the last bark, I used the sturdier candy molding formula for the base layer of bark because I love the snap it gives the chocolate. I also went with an extra dark chocolate for the base to provide a good contrast to the sweeter milk chocolate flavor for the second layer.
After spreading the second layer of chocolate, I adorned it with some of my favorite candies and a sprinkle of crushed potato chips and set it in the fridge for a few minutes to set up. Start to finish (including chopping time) I was done in under 30 minutes which isn’t bad at all if you ask me.
Even though one day is plenty of time to make this bark in time to hand out for Halloween, it would be an excellent way to use up all of your leftover Halloween candy as well.
I included my favorite candies in the recipe below, but feel free to use whatever candy you find in the bottom of your (or your kid’s) trick-or-treat basket.
- 2 cups dark chocolate (I used this candy molding formula from Chocoley)
- 2 cups milk chocolate (I used this dipping and coating formula , which is a bit thinner than the candy formula)
- 2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter (go with a regular standard peanut butter that won't separate, I always use Jif)
- 1/2 cup mini peanut butter cups; chopped (I used a mix of Trader Joe's dark chocolate and milk chocolate peanut butter cups)
- 1/2 cup mini Oreos (I used mini Reese's Oreos), coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup mini Reese's Pieces
- 1/2 cup potato chips, roughly crushed
- 2 Tablespoons sprinkles
- Melt dark chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Pour melted chocolate onto parchment-lined baking sheet and set in the fridge to solidify, about 5 minutes.
- Melt milk chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and stir in peanut butter until fully incorporated. Pour over hardened chocolate and spread to cover.
- Working quickly, before the top layer of chocolate hardens, sprinkle with assorted toppings (I listed them in the order I sprinkled, but that's not necessary) and place into fridge to harden for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Remove bark from refrigerator and cut into pieces.
Halloween is right around the corner, making this the perfect time to make your own candy! Even if you’ve never made candy before, literally anyone can make a killer bark.
Though I’ve included a recipe for the bark that I made, no real recipe is needed. Just like with any other recipe, though, you will want to think about balance. If you follow a single flavor profile, your bark will end up tasting a bit flat. You might not know what it is missing, but you will definitely know that something is missing. A good place to start is with something sweet, something crunchy, something salty, and go on from there.
For this bark I wanted to stick with Halloweeny flavors, so I started off with candy corn for sweetness, pretzels for crunch, pumpkin Joe-Joe’s (From Trader Joe’s), and then sprinkles just to make it pretty. Since I was using white chocolate for the top layer, I stirred a tiny bit of orange gel food coloring into the white chocolate once it was melted, because everyone knows that Halloween things are better when they’re orange.
To make sure I got a good “snap” from my bark, I used Chocoley’s candy molding formula for the bottom layer of chocolate. I love using their candy molding formula for projects like this because it gives you a great sturdy base with the snap of a tempered chocolate without having to actually temper any chocolate. Then, for the top layer, I used their dipping and coating chocolate formula. That formula is a bit thinner than their candy formula and so it sets up a little bit softer, but either one would work perfectly.
Since I used a couple of items (candy corn and pretzels) that aren’t prone to snapping along chocolate’s natural fault lines, I chose to cut this bark with a knife. That allowed me to get nice, clean cuts with my pretzel and candy corn pieces on each piece of bark.
- 2 cups dark chocolate melting chips (I used this candy molding formula from Chocoley)
- 2 cups white chocolate melting chips, (I used this dipping and coating formula , which is a bit thinner than the candy formula)
- 1 cup candy corn
- 1/2 cup pretzels, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup sandwich cookies, chopped
- 1 Tablespoon sprinkles
- Melt dark chocolate in double boiler or microwave. Pour melted chocolate onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Set in fridge to solidify, about 5 minutes.
- Melt white chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Pour over hardened chocolate.
- Working quickly, sprinkle with assorted toppings and place into fridge to harden, about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Cut or break into pieces (I cut mine since I had larger toppings that weren't likely to divide evenly if I just broke the chocolate into pieces)
By the time you read this, I should be on my way to California… on VACATIONNNNN!!!
So, since this will be the last post for awhile, and the last March (cake) Madness post, it is only fitting that I would combine two of my favorite things: chocolate and peanut butter. And Reese’s cups, to make it more redundant. And more delicious.
This cake was arguably the first “recipe” I ever made. Once upon a time ago, when I was a little girl baking with my momma, we needed to make a dessert for our neighborhood block party (remember those?). Mom asked what we should bring and of course my brain immediately went to my then (and still) favorite candy, Reese’s Cups. In cake form.
Of course back then it was just a box cake mix and a bajillion chopped up Reese’s cups. Mixed into the cake, adorning the top, dumped into the hole in the middle… I even halved them and made a little Reese’s border along the outside of the cake.
I didn’t have enough mini Reese’s to do that this time.
I didn’t really miss them. (Ok, maybe I missed them a little bit)
This cake was so good, as soon as I took a bite I was immediately upset, because I knew that it was suddenly a choice between cake and dinner… No one should ever need to make that choice.
Especially when ganache and Reese’s are involved.
It was even better the next day, in case yours lasts that long.
Reese’s Cup Bundt Cake
Makes 1 bundt cake
For the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
⅓ cup dutch processed cocoa powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt (unless your peanut butter is really salty)
⅓ cup creamy peanut butter (I always use Jif)
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 large room temperature eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup sour cream; room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 reeses cups, roughly chopped (usually easier to chop if they’re chilled)
Mini reeses, for decorating (optional)
For the chocolate glaze:
½ cup chocolate chips (or 4 ounces chopped chocolate)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1. Heat butter, peanut butter, and water over medium heat in a small saucepan until butter and peanut butter are just melted. Stir in cocoa powder and set aside to cool to room temperature. To ensure my impatience didn’t get in my way, I decided to wait to preheat the oven until this point and didn’t let myself mix anything until the oven beeped.
2. Preheat oven to 350˚F and prep a bundt pan with butter and flour or with Pam for Baking
3. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda until well mixed.
4. Slowly whisk or beat in the melted butter mixture until combined, making sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk to incorporate. Stir in sour cream until combined.
5. Option 1: Pour half of batter into prepared pan, sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups, and pour remaining half of batter over the Reese’s.
Option 2: Stir peanut butter cups into batter and pour into prepared pan.
6. Bake 40 to 45 minutes until done. Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a wire rack and remove pan to finish cooling completely.
7. Once your cake is cooled, make your ganache by heating your cream just until it starts to bubble. I usually do that by heating it in a 2-cup measuring cup in the microwave, but you can use a saucepan on the stove if you like.
Add chocolate and corn syrup and whisk to combine (if you used a pan for your cream, pour the cream over the chocolate instead). At first it will look like it’s going well, then it will look like it’s going very poorly, then if you just keep whisking you’ll be relieved when it all comes back together again.