Around the holidays we see a lot of peppermint bark, one of my (and many others’) favorite holiday treats. What most people don’t know is that peppermint bark isn’t the only type of bark that’s particularly tasty. If you’ve ever been to a chocolate store, you’ve seen the clear glass display cases full of fudge, bon-bons, truffles, bars, and last but not least, the barks. The best thing about working with chocolate is you can do pretty much anything and not mess it up. There are two primary steps in making chocolate bark: Step 1: melt chocolate; Step 2: sprinkle tasty things on top; Step 3: wait for the bark to harden.I promise it looks a lot more intimidating then it actually is. It is actually an incredibly versatile method, meaning you can put anything from butterscotch to bacon in it and it will still taste pretty darn good. The only thing to worry about is proportions; for instance the sweet to salty ratio, savory to sweet, light to rich; all of those factors can make or break your bark. Best part? When you're making bark as a gift, you can still eat all the good parts and edges and they will never know due to the asymmetrical way bark is cut. It's like taking the best slice of pizza without anyone seeing, except it's chocolate, therefore even better.
I made four barks: salted caramel and potato chip bark, MnM and pretzel bark, pecan pie bark, and the traditional peppermint bark. Before I say anything, let me just say that the unanimous winner (chosen by those near and dear to me) was the pecan pie bark, which I made as a side note not intended as one of the main flavors but more of an experiment. When I was cutting the bark, I tried a little piece and almost laughed it was so good, considering I wasn’t going to make it at all. Point being: never be afraid to try something unique, different, or just straight-up weird because you never know what may come out of it.
The “Bark” Method-The Salted Caramel Potato Chip Bark was one that most of the samplers were hesitant to try, but turned out to be the favorite of the “main” barks (there was only a tiny bit of the pecan pie to sample). The reason it works is short and sweet: texture. By using kettle-cooked potato chips, they stayed hard and crisp through the process and kept the flavor. The caramel and sea salt just keeps it from getting too salty, while still tasting each individual flavor.
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup dark chocolate chips
2 cups WHOLE (not crushed) potato chips
8 soft caramels
¼ teaspoon Sea salt
1. Roll out a piece of parchment paper (or tin foil) about 1 ¾ feet. Place the sheet on a flat surface, such as a cookie baking sheet (I find the ones with ridges work the best). If the ends try to curl up, place a butter knife or a fork on each side to hold them down.
2. Melt together the milk and dark chocolate chips in the microwave at 20-second intervals, mixing between each one until the chocolate is around 90% melted. Take out the bowl and stir until it is completely melted.
3. Pour all but about ¼ of a cup of the chocolate onto the parchment paper and spread it out with a rubber spatula until it is about 1/8 inch thick and forms a rectangular shape with a relatively even surface.
4. Take the (whole) potato chips and drop them onto the chocolate. Use as little or as many as you want, but I would suggest covering at least 50% of the surface area with chips. It’s okay if they stick up or out, the best barks are never perfect or symmetrical.
5. Put the caramels in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds (or until they start to bubble) and use a fork to drizzle the caramel over the chips and chocolate. If it starts to harden, remove the fork and put it back in the microwave for 30 more seconds.
6. Drizzle with the remaining chocolate and sprinkle the sea salt over the top. Put in freezer to harden.
-The Pretzel and MnM Bark follows the exact same directions as above, but instead of caramel, sea salt, and potato chips, it uses (believe it or not) pretzels and MnM’s! After step 3 above, sprinkle the pretzels and mnms ( about ½ cup mnm’s and 1 cup pretzels) on top and garnish with sea salt if you’s like. Drizzle with remaining chocolate.
-The Peppermint Bark uses all dark chocolate (2 cups) and also white chocolate (2 cups). ASfter melting and spreading the dark, let it harden in the freezer. Once firm, pour melted white chocolate over the top and spread gently (as to not re-melt the dark chocolate as well) until it is one even layer, and top with crushed peppermint (8 candy canes, crushed).
-As for the Pecan Pie Bark, if you ever, for some unfathomable reason, have any left-over pecan pie you can use it here. This bark was melted chocolate (2 cups milk chocolate chips), topped with pecan pie filling (no measurement, just try to cover a good amount of surface area and give it all you’ve got), then topped with some of the pie crust crumbles (edges work best) and a dash of sea salt, melted dark chocolate (I cup chips) and a tiny bit more pie crust crumbles.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!