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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Barking Up the Right Tree

Even though the stores have been festooned with holiday decorations for months, the holiday season has now officially begun.  I no longer get annoyed at the twinkle lights adorning the mall.  It's okay now.  Thanksgiving is past and we are now officially on to Christmas, Hanukah, and eventually, 2015.

Back in the olden days, when I was just a young pup, Thanksgiving meant something.  Sure, it was a day to give thanks, but moreover, Thanksgiving was an actual dividing line.  Sometime on Thanksgiving, the Holiday Elves would sneak into malls across America (and the world, I think), and overnight entire shopping centers would be transformed into twinkling winter wonderlands.  Shopping malls would go from the harvest theme to a winter snow scene in just the blink of an eye.  Santa would arrive with his cadre of elves.  It was magical.

Gone are those days.  Pre-holiday sales start sometime around Halloween, and Thanksgiving is just another day on the retail calendar.  Santa arrives right after the Great Pumpkin display is dismantled.  I don't mean to be preachy, because I do not judge, (remind me to tell you a funny story about our tour guide at Middlebury College), but dammit, I'm judging.  It's just plain wrong.

The point of this rant is that I have made it my personal mission to not give the holidays one iota of thought prior to the passage of Thanksgiving.  Not one.  I block out all glistening snow scenes and search Target for cornucopias instead.
Fast forward.  Thanksgiving was a week ago and as such, I have decided to indulge in one of my favorite holiday pastimes: making chocolate peppermint bark and French chocolate bark.   I will plan to give these treats to others, but this is a lie.  I will put it all in containers and then spend the next couple of weeks breaking off just a nibble.

Actually, this is not entirely true.  Kate has requested that I send she and her friends a care package filled with chocolate peppermint bark to help them get through finals.  No problem.  I bought extra chocolate so whipping up another batch or two will be no problem.

Let the holidays begin.

Recipe:  Ina Garten's French Chocolate Bark


8 ounces very good semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces very good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cranberries


Melt the 2 chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

Meanwhile, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using a ruler and a pencil, draw a 9 by 10-inch rectangle on the paper. Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a rectangle, using the outline. Sprinkle the cashews, apricots and cranberries over the chocolate. Set aside for 2 hours until firm. Cut the bark in 1 by 3-inch pieces and serve at room temperature.

Recipe:  You Little Tarte's Triple Layer Chocolate Peppermint Bark


6 ounces semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
12 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup Peppermint Snow or crushed candy canes


Start by lining a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Draw an 8 by 8 inch square on the paper.  Turn the paper facedown on the baking sheet.

Melt half of the white chocolate with 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Once the chocolate is melted, add1/4 teaspoon of the peppermint extract and stir well.  Pour the melted chocolate over the paper and spread to form a square, using the outline.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until hard.

Melt all of the semi sweet chocolate, along with 1/2 teaspoon of the canola oil.  Pour it over the hardened white chocolate and spread to cover the bottom layer of white chocolate.  Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until hard.

Melt the remaining white chocolate, along with a 1/2 teaspoon of canola oil.  Once the white chocolate is melted, add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and stir well.  Pour and spread over the refrigerated chocolate layers.  Sprinkle the Peppermint Snow (or candy canes) evenly over the top white chocolate layer.  Return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, making sure the chocolate is completely hardened before continuing.

Remove the bark from the refrigerator and break into 1 to 2 inch pieces.  Refrigerate in a tightly sealed plastic container until use.  

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