Looking for an easy way to impress your Valentine this year? Try making some custom-made Chocolate Bark for a personalized gift that is fantastic!
Start with a high quality dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains the alkaloid theobromine which is very similar to caffeine, and a compound called phenylethylamine, an endorphin released in the brain when you’re falling in love. It also packs lots of anti-oxidants which are good for general health and well-being. For me I like it really dark, somewhere around the 70% mark, but make sure your chocolate is at least 55% dark. (Milk chocolate is softer and won’t behave quite as well anyway.)
Set up a double boiler on your stove to melt the chocolate. Some people do this step in the microwave, but I have had mixed results with that, and anyone with a small saucepan and a bowl can create a double-boiler.
Break the chocolate into pieces and place in the bowl. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring just enough to get everything smoothed out.
Select your ingredients. I like fruits and nuts in my bark, and will use a selection that might include pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds (especially if your beloved has a nut allergy!), cashews, shredded coconut, even flax seeds. For the dried fruits I like smaller currants rather than larger raisins, cranberries, cherries (cut into smaller bits), and if I have larger dried fruits around like peaches, nectarines, pineapple etc, I will take a pair of kitchen snips and cut them into small bits. Another way you can go is to use crushed candy such as peppermint (what a great way to use up those leftover candy canes!) or even butterscotch or toffee candies. Use a hammer and get your Candy Crush on to create a crumbly mixture. Once the chocolate is melted, stir your other ingredients in. You can coat them thoroughly, or only stir them lightly to allow some of the ingredients to remain uncoated and visible.
I love to use my silicone mats for this. I line a cookie sheet with two of them and then pour the chocolate mixture out, smoothing it to the edges with a spatula. Make sure your ingredients are distributed evenly throughout the pan. If you want to add a topping such as a nice specialty salt or a dusting of cinnamon, do it quickly before the chocolate starts to harden.
Place the pan in a cool place until the chocolate hardens. Don’t bother putting it in the freezer, it won’t take that long. About 10 minutes in the fridge will take care of it.
Remove the pan and break up the bark into pieces. Store at room temperature. Find a pretty container and line it with some parchment (don’t use red tissue paper – it probably isn’t food safe). Fill it with your bark and be prepared to get lots of thank-you kisses from your sweetie!