Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peppermint Bark

I always thought of myself as a dark chocolate kind of girl. I love to savor a small little chunk of super dark right after a meal. (I have this seriously intense chocolate craving the second I finish the last bite of my dinner). Dark chocolate really satisfies the craving and also makes me feel pretty darn good about myself... you know with all of the health giving antioxidants and such.

So anything with white chocolate I tend to think of as "not worth it"... but let me tell you, one little taste of this peppermint bark had my taste buds singing praises to white chocolate... even with it's lack of anti-oxidants. 'Tis the season, right? The silky smooth white blends amazingly with the dark. Add some crunchy freshness with smashed candy cane and you've got the perfect holiday treat.

 I had never made any kind of bark before this. My husband is a big fan and wanted to make some (read: he wanted me to make some) for us to give out (read: give out half and gorge ourselves on the other half). So off to the store I went for chocolate and peppermint extract.

We had a GIANT homemade candy cane from one of Scott's co-workers so we used that for our topping. See how big it is? I was a little sad to destroy it, but happy that it went to good use (and a portion of it back to work with Scott)

 I sort of wish I would have made more. I wasn't sure exactly how much the recipe would make, but figured I could always make another batch. 

I am definitely going to make another batch.

 The original recipe calls for the dark chocolate mixture to be melted directly in a saucepan, but mine morphed into some weird chunky slimy glop. It was totally irreversible and I had to toss it. I don't know what happened, but I had enough chocolate and whipping cream to do another batch, which I did with a double boiler and it came out fine. The 3/4 of a teaspoon of Peppermint extract in the dark mixture really gives it that extra punch of minty freshness... like you're in a Peppermint Patty commercial. Really.

So the key is to give each layer a chance to set up completely and have the next layer of melty chocolate be just lukewarm. Spreadable, but not hot enough to start smearing the layer underneath. We want a clean separation of white and dark here.

 I sort of ran out of white chocolate for the top layer. My edges left the layers exposed, but I kind of like the way it looks. Like a peppermint bark pizza!

Trim it up as directed below and package however you wish. These little 4x6 inch "treat bags" from Michael's allowed for the perfect serving size. Not so much that people hate you for single-handedly causing 5 lbs in holiday weight gain. Just enough to make them love you and ask you for the recipe.

Layered Peppermint Bark Crunch
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 36 pieces

17 ounces good-quality white chocolate
6 ounces coarsely crushed peppermint candies (about12 regular candy canes)
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
6 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Place the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water to create a double boiler. Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth and a candy thermometer registers 110°F. Pour 2/3 cup of the melted white chocolate onto the baking sheet, and using an offset spatula, spread it into about a 9x12-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermints. Refrigerate until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together the bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in a double boiler or a bowl set over simmering water until just melted and smooth. Cool until it is lukewarm. Pour the dark chocolate mixture in long lines over the white chocolate rectangle. This is important to not melt the white chocolate layer. Using a clean spatula, spread the chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm, at least 25 minutes.

Rewarm the bowl of white chocolate over barely simmering water again, to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet chocolate layer and spread evenly to cover. Immediately sprinkle the remaining crushed candy cane over the surface of the candy. Chill until firm, at least 20 minutes. I left mine in overnight before cutting.

If using a silicone mat, slide a spatula under the slab and move it to a cutting board. If using foil, lift the foil with the bark on it to a cutting board and trim it directly on the foil. Trim the edges of the slab to obtain nice clean edges with the layers visible, then cut the bark into pieces. You can snack on the edge pieces, or if you don't care about having perfect pieces, you can include the edges in your packaged up gift bags.

Can be made 2 weeks ahead and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Merry Christmas!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Modern Diaper Bag

A while back I promised my sister I would make her a weekend travel bag. I really liked the way Amy Butler's Weekender Bag was styled, so I bought the pattern, the fabric and all of the other items I would need to get the bag started... Some time passed as I pondered (dreaded) the journey ahead of me. I began procrastinating like I was back in college. I was out partying when I should have been studying for finals.

Searching through Blogland for people who had made the bag before me did not help me to overcome my  tendency toward procrastination. I read post after post after post of people who had put their blood sweat and tears (literally) into the Weekender. I was absolutely intimidated. All the talk of broken needles, layers of cording and the excessive use of their seam rippers had me regretting my promise to my sister. It was a big project, one of the likes I had never attempted before.

So when my sister found out she was pregnant over the summer, I decided she would probably need a diaper bag more than a weekend travel bag (I can almost hear all of you mom's nodding in agreement) and I switched gears a bit. I bought Amy Butler's Little Stitches for Little Ones and after quick flip through the pages I saw the Modern Diaper Bag. I knew Michele would be happy to have that instead. This bag took me about 6 sessions of 4 hours each to complete. There was a lot of cutting, a lot of interfacing and quite a few ripped seams. But all in all, it was totally worth it.

Here she is at her baby shower this past weekend.
I think she loves it.
Can't wait to meet my little nephew, due January 26th, 2011!!