Christmas was a fun time to work at The Chocolate House of Ann Arbor. I loved standing behind the stainless steel counter in the cozy shop, leveling chocolate for barks as I watched Townies walk past outside, all bundled up like babushkas. We didn’t need to decorate the shop much for the holidays, because the chocolates did it for us. Granted, we couldn’t afford many decorations, so we dressed up the chocolates to compensate. Chocolate-covered pretzels and graham crackers with swirling designs in red and green-dyed white chocolate, winter truffles like pumpkin pie and mint, and festive barks like cranberry almond and peppermint. Peppermint bark was my favorite to make because I got to smash candy canes with a big hammer! It’s all about life’s little pleasures…
I felt compelled to make some last Thursday night, since it was the first day of December. As I melted chocolate and leveled it out, I suddenly wondered who the hell was going to eat all of this peppermint bark. I can’t have it because of the white chocolate, and I wasn’t about to let Bronson eat himself sick, so I thought about bringing it to work the next day. I’ve been having a blast getting to know my coworkers at my new job and I figured that if I hadn’t secured myself a spot in their hearts yet, bringing peppermint bark to work would do it. That doesn’t sound too much like bribery, does it?
One of the reasons why I spontaneously decided to make some bark the other night was because it’s so easy – I could start making it at 8:30 pm and wouldn’t have to stay up until midnight preparing the bark. It has three ingredients and doesn’t require a lot of time or effort. You can make barks in between doing other things and come back to it when you’re ready for the next step, because it just hangs out in your freezer. Peppermint bark starts by melting dark chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or a double-boiler – make sure that the chocolate is properly tempered before melting if you’re using high-quality chocolate! Otherwise, you’ll get those orange oxidization spots in your first layer! If you’re melting your chocolate in the microwave, put it in for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between intervals.
Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil or wax paper. Pour the melted dark chocolate onto the covered sheet tray and gently use a spoon or split-level spatula to push the chocolate outward in a thin layer. Try to keep the top of the warm chocolate as even as you can. Lightly tap the sheet tray against the counter to pop any air bubbles. When you’re satisfied with the layer, place it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until it’s fully chilled.
While the dark chocolate is chilling, unwrap peppermint candy canes and place them in a Ziplock bag. I ended up using about half of a box of mini candy canes. Seal the bag and place it on top of a kitchen towel. Then take a hammer and beat it like it stole something from you! Leave no candy cane unharmed! Seriously, you don’t want giant chunks of candy cane in the bark, it’s not very palatable.
Melt the white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or a double-boiler. Use the same directions as above for melting in the microwave. Pull the sheet tray from the freezer and pour the melted white chocolate on top of the dark chocolate layer. Smooth out the layer as described above. Be very gentle with this layer of chocolate, because the heat in the white chocolate will start to melt the dark below it and they’ll mix together.
When the white chocolate layer is set, evenly sprinkle the broken candy canes over top. Set the sheet tray in the freezer for 15-20 minutes to ensure that it is fully-chilled before you try and break it. When the bark is set and chilled, remove it from the freezer and place it on the counter. Separate the bark from the sheet tray’s lining and smack it down on the sheet to break it. Again, imagine that it stole something from you. When you’re satisfied with the size and number of chocolate shards that you have, scoop them into a Tupperware container or plastic bag, or even a shiny, holiday-themed box to give to someone!
I’m guessing that the peppermint bark was a success, because I brought an empty plate home with me Friday evening. Everyone seemed to love the rich, creamy, minty chocolates. If you have a new troop of nice people to connect with or want to give someone a sweet, little gift this winter, they’ll love this peppermint bark and probably you, too.
Recipe for Peppermint Bark
2 lbs. dark chocolate – tempered, if high-quality chocolate
1 lb. white chocolate
1/2 box unwrapped mini peppermint candy canes OR 6-8 full-size candy canes
Melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between intervals, until almost fully melted. When only small pieces of firm chocolate remain, stir with a spoon until they are fully melted.
Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil or wax paper. Pour dark chocolate on top and spread into an even, thin layer. Freeze for 10-15 minutes or until fully chilled. Place candy canes in a Ziplock bag and seal the bag. Place the bag on top of a kitchen towel on a counter. Beat the bag of candy canes with a hammer until only small chunks remain. Melt white chocolate by following the same directions as described above. Pour the melted white chocolate over the layer of dark chocolate. Evenly sprinkle broken candy canes on top of white chocolate. Place in freezer for 15-20 minutes. Pull out of freezer when the chocolate is fully frozen and separate it from the sheet lining. Smash the chocolate against the sheet tray until only small-to-medium-sized shards remain.