Friday, December 3, 2010

Homemade Peppermint Bark

Mmmm... Peppermint Bark.  I love this time of year how peppermint bark starts showing up in stores.  My usual favorite is the pretty pricey ($26.50 for a 1lb box) that you can get from Williams Sonoma

Well, as I was talking to some friends the other night about what to make for Jeremy's work Christmas party (everyone is supposed to bring a dessert - I'm sure there will be tons of sweets) and they both suggested peppermint bark!  Sounds wonderful, and when I started thinking about it, it really made sense that it'd be pretty easy to do.  Right?

Yes!  Of course!

My basic way that I was thinking was to just melt some chocolate and crush up some peppermint and let it harden back up.  Well, I figured that there just had to be a little something more to it than that so I Googled a recipe and decided to go with the one on that I found here.

You can check out their recipe for more details on how much of each ingredient they recommend, or just follow along here for some basic estimates.  I don't really care for exact measurements when making things - that's just one more thing you have to wash - so I tend to really like making things where you can pretty much wing it and still come out with a great finished product.

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Here's what I used:
  • candy canes (any size works but I had a box of the little ones)
  • 1 bag milk chocolate chips (also use semi-sweet, dark chocolate, whatever you want)
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • peppermint extract
  • canola oil

Here's what I did:

First, unwrap your candy canes if necessary and then break them in pieces.  They don't have to be tiny pieces just yet, just a little smaller than whole.  My mini-canes were broken into about 3 pieces each.

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Use a chopper or food processor (or a blender would work too I guess) and chop up your peppermint pieces.  I suppose you could even do this by hand and just put the canes in a plastic bag and break them up - but the chopper is so much faster and easier!

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Once, chopped to your liking - set aside the peppermint pieces for later use.

Set up your dish that you'll use to cool the bark - This time I used 2 9x9 round cake pans, but in the future I think it would be better to have a large cookie sheet.  Line this dish with parchment paper (it doesn't have to be perfect).

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Now, set up a double boiler on your stove to melt the chocolate (milk, semi-sweet, or dark).
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*If you don't know what a double boiler is - or don't have a fancy one... I always just took a pot and put water in it to boil, then a glass Pyrex dish on top and put whatever needs to be melted in there. 

Put a tiny bit of canola oil in your double boiler and then your bag of chocolate chips.  Stir the chips constantly while they melt. 

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Once the chocolate is melted, drop a tiny bit of peppermint extract in there and stir it in really well.  Caution!  A little bit of peppermint extract goes a L O N G way!  Don't overdo it!

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Now pour your melted chocolate out on your cooling pan then sprinkle with crushed peppermint pieces.  Set the dish in the freezer to cool and harden.  *The recipe said to let it cool for an hour, but I checked mine after about 20-30 min and it seemed fine to me, so I moved on to the next step - just test your chocolate to make sure it's hardened a decent amount before moving on.

Now wash your melting bowl, or just get a new one.  You don’t want your white chocolate pieces melting with the remnants of your milk chocolate do you?  Maybe you do… if so, you can skip this step.

Repeat the chocolate melting process with your white chocolate pieces.  The recipe calls for adding the peppermint extract to this layer too – but I didn’t.  It’s your call… just depends on how much of the peppermint flavor you want in there.

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Pull your hardened milk chocolate out of the freezer and spread your white chocolate on top of it, then top with peppermint pieces.  Freeze until completely hardened.

Now break up your pieces of chocolate and enjoy!

See that was simple now wasn’t it?  And tasty too!

I had Jeremy break up the chocolate pieces as I was heading out the door to work in the morning, so I didn’t get any photos of that process or what it looked like afterward.  We took this to his work Christmas party, and then forgot it there.  I did try a small piece and it was very good!  Almost just like the pricey WS box but I probably spent about $8 for ingredients and was able to make more than what you get in that 1lb box.

Things I figured out along the way:
It’s better if you use a thinner layer of each type of chocolate – not too thin, but not too thick either.
It would have probably worked better to lay this out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet instead of the round cake pans – the problem is that my cookie sheets won’t fit in my freezer (it’s a side-by-side) – so I’ll have to figure out a work around on that one.  Any ideas?

A little peppermint extract goes a long way – use sparingly.

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This is very easily a kid-friendly cooking experiment.  Have your child help unwrap candy canes and break them up, they can even help sprinkle the crushed canes over the melted chocolate.  Older children can even help melt the chocolate pieces. Plus, they'll really enjoy it if you let them eat a candy cane - Nora really did!

Enjoy!  What will you be making this holiday season?

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