It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.
Today: With help from Sarah Kieffer of The Vanilla Bean Blog, the hardest part about making classic peppermint bark (and its new age, quinoa-loaded cousin) at home is waiting for the chocolate to set.
When I think of the holiday season, the flavors of chocolate and mint instantly come to mind: peppermint ice cream shaped like Christmas trees, cafe mochas laced with mint, and bittersweet chocolate cakes covered in glittering, crushed candy canes. The pairing reminds me of winter vacation days spent baking with my mother and sister, my grandmother’s living room decorated with silver tinsel and countless bowls of minty candies, and when I used to work all day on Christmas Eve (for years! and years!) with a chocolate-and-mint coffee drink tucked just out of site from the frantic, last-minute shoppers.
So it's only natural that I should somehow continue the tradition of pairing chocolate with mint in my own home, and easy-to-make chocolate bark seemed liked a perfect solution. My kids and I have made Molly Wizenberg’s famous peppermint bark the last few years, passing it out to our family and neighbors.
This year I changed things up a bit, making it with two layers of chocolate instead of just one. It’s rich and dreamy, with a bottom layer of bittersweet chocolate, a layer of minty chocolate ganache, and a coating of white chocolate and crushed peppermint to top it all off. You’ll be sneaking pieces out of the fridge for days.
I also decided to make a version with white chocolate, pomegranate seeds, and toasted quinoa. I’ve been enamored with the combination of white chocolate and pomegranate for a while, and I threw in some toasted quinoa on a whim. It was delicious -- the pomegranate seeds burst open in my mouth and their slight bitterness was tamed by the white chocolate. The quinoa added just the right amount of crunch.
Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Bon Appétit and Molly Wizenberg
Makes about 30 pieces
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% to 70%), finely chopped
30 hard peppermint candies, or 4 candy canes, coarsely crushed
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
8 ounces high-quality white chocolate, finely chopped
Crush the peppermint candies or candy canes in a plastic bag using a small mallet, a utensil, or a rolling pin. Reserve for sprinkling.
On a piece of parchment paper, measure out a 9- x 12-inch rectangle. Turn the paper over so you won’t get ink or pencil on your bark, and place it on a sheet pan.
Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl, and set it over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir the chocolate every once in awhile, until it is melted and very smooth.
Remove from the heat, and pour the chocolate onto the prepared rectangle. Using a cake spatula or a knife, spread the chocolate to fill the rectangle. Sprinkle with half the crushed peppermints, and then chill until set, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the semi-sweet chocolate, cream, and peppermint extract in a bowl. Melt this mixture over the barely simmering water, just like you did with the first. Once smooth and melted, cool the chocolate until lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour this semi-sweet chocolate mixture over the first chocolate rectangle, and spread in an even layer. Chill until very cold and firm, about 40 minutes.
Finally, it's time for the white chocolate layer. You know the drill: Warm the the white chocolate over barely simmering water until melted and smooth. Quickly pour the white chocolate over the firm semi-sweet layer, and use a clean spatula to spread it over evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed peppermints, then chill just until firm, about 20 minutes.
Move the parchment to a cutting board. Trim away any uneven edges of the rectangle, and then cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch wide strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections, and then cut each section diagonally into 2 triangles.
Put the bark in an airtight container, with parchment paper between layers of bark to prevent them from sticking to one another. Store the chocolate bark in the refrigerator. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. The bark will last at least 2 weeks.
20 ounces high-quality white chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon toasted quinoa
6 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (or more, if desired)
Photos by Sarah Kieffer