Thursday, December 13, 2012

Minty Christmas Goodness

I've had several requests for my peppermint bark recipe so I thought I would go ahead and write a whole post about it. First to give credit where credit is due: this is not my recipe... I came upon it though a rather circuitous blogger route several years ago. Call it a recipe passed from friend to friend in blogland! So thank you to Soulemama (check out her peppermint lip balm recipe and you will find her post on peppermint bark) and Molly and Molly's sister Lisa and finally Bon Appetit- where the recipe originated. 
My Ingredients
I have to preface this with the disclaimer that I am a mint lover. I pretty much adore anything mint.  Add mint to chocolate and I am in heaven.  That all being said this is the best peppermint bark I have ever had and absolutely dead easy to make, so all the better. I've introduced some "cheater" options to make it even easier to make. First a few notes:
The first layer ready to be chilled
When buying your white chocolate, make sure that the words “cocoa butter” appear in the list of ingredients. This entire recipe is chocolate so go ahead and splurge- if you try to cheap out on the chocolate you will get an inferior result. This year I used Baker's but I have also used Ghiradelli or Lindt with good success. Molly and Soulemama used callebaut but I haven't been able to get it locally. I highly recommend NOT using candy melts because it just doesn't work well. I have had good luck finding appropriate chocolate in the baking aisle of any local grocery store.
Melting the bittersweet chocolate and mixing in the cream
To crush the peppermints Bon Appétit advises tapping the wrapped candies firmly with the bottom edge of an unopened 15- to 16-ounce can. In the past I used a glass canning jar and that worked too. This year I cut a few more corners and bought a 4.2 oz jar of peppermint crunch from Wal Mart. It was slightly more expensive than just buying the candies but well worth the time saved and way less mess than crushing 60+ mints.
The second layer spread and ready to be chilled
The Recipe:
Three-Layer Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1998

17 oz. white chocolate, finely chopped
30 red-and-white-striped crushed hard peppermint candies (or a 4.2 oz jar peppermint crunch)
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, > 60% cocoa, finely chopped
6 Tbsp. heavy cream or whipping cream (I like heavy cream better)
¾ tsp. peppermint extract

Turn a large baking sheet upside down, and cover it securely with aluminum foil. Measure out and mark a 9- by 12-inch rectangle on the foil.

Put the white chocolate in a metal (or other heatproof) bowl, and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. (Do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water.) Stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted and smooth; if you take its temperature with a candy thermometer, it should register 110°F. Remove the chocolate from the heat. Pour 2/3 cup of it onto the rectangle on the foil. Using an icing spatula, spread the chocolate to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with ¼ cup of the crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the bittersweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a heavy medium saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is just melted and smooth. Cool to barely lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Then remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator, and pour the bittersweet chocolate mixture over the white chocolate rectangle. Using an icing spatula – make sure you cleaned it after using it for the white chocolate, above! – spread the bittersweet chocolate in an even layer. Chill until very cold and firm, about 25 minutes.

Rewarm the remaining white chocolate over barely simmering water to 110°F. Working quickly, pour the white chocolate over the firm bittersweet layer, using your (again, clean) icing spatula to spread it to cover. Sprinkle with remaining crushed peppermints. If you used peppermint crunch then use all of the remaining crunch in the jar. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.

Carefully lift the foil from the baking sheet onto a large cutting board. Trim away any ragged edges of the rectangle. (These are yours to nibble at, a little prize for your efforts.) Cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slip the bark off of the foil and onto the cutting board. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, and then cut each section diagonally into 2 triangles. Or, alternatively, just cut each strip into smaller pieces of whatever size you like. That’s what I did.

Pack into an airtight container, with sheets of wax paper between layers of bark to prevent them from sticking to one another. Store in the refrigerator. Serve cold or, to emphasize the slight softness of the bittersweet layer, let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: This bark will keep for up to 2 weeks, if not more. If you plan to pack it in a tin or baggie with other holiday sweets, be sure to wrap it separately in plastic wrap. Or maybe wax paper and then plastic wrap, so that it doesn’t sweat. If you left it naked, so to speak, to mix and mingle with other cookies or candies, everything might wind up tasting and smelling like peppermint. Also peppermints will melt if they sweat too much so keep that in mind.

Yield: about 36 pieces, or more, if you cut them smaller
The final layer on and ready to be chilled
So a little time consuming but easy peasy!  A few things that I have found to be helpful include:
1. Use a double boiler.  I personally have not had good luck with microwaving the chocolate- I get much better, smoother results on the stove top and it's not that much more time consuming. 
2. Be patient. Make sure your layers are really well chilled before adding the next layer and allowing the bittersweet layer really to cool until almost needing to be melted again prevents blending of the chocolates.
3. Once you start spreading work quickly.  It doesn't have to be perfect because each layer gets covered.
4. Use an icing spatula. I didn't have one the first year and I tried to use a knife- not a good idea.  If you don't have an icing spatula buy or borrow one.
5. Use good quality chocolate.  I know I said it already but it really does matter.  Don't use nestle chocolate chips or try to cheap out on the chocolate because it won't be worth eating in the end.
6. Wash everything right away.  And I mean immediately, go from spreading to rinsing in the sink because washing dried chocolate out of your doubler boiler is a pain.
Ready to be gifted- yum!
Eat and Enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

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