We had the opportunity to travel on a family vacation to France back in 2009.…
Christmas is the time we get a lot of treats that for some reason, we don’t make during the rest of the year. I was at a couple of events (and visiting the store) where a certain kitchen store that also sells a lot of seasonal food items was sampling their peppermint bark. I thought it was very good until I saw the price – $26.95 for one pound! You’ve got to be kidding me! That’s crazy….
It’s only 3 or 4 ingredients, so how hard can it be? Well….it turns out not that hard, but as usual, the quality of the ingredients is critical. So I set off to make some peppermint bark! I decided to be a little different and put my white chocolate on the bottom rather than on the top like the unnamed kitchen store does.
As I was in the store looking for the ingredients, I got some “White Baking Chips” from one of my normally favorite brands – Ghirardelli. I was not careful and did not really notice that they were very careful about not saying White CHOCOLATE Baking Chips and here I learned my first lesson. When trying to melt those chips over the double boiler, they really didn’t want to melt. I kept bringing the water back to a boil, but never got a smooth consistency – it was a pasty, white goo. I went ahead and put it on the pan and spread it with the offset spatula – it was NOT easy to spread – it was more like wrestling it onto the pan. Once I had that done, the rest went pretty easily.
I had crushed some candy canes using my meat pounder (and may have gone a bit overboard on the pounding as I had a fair amount of peppermint dust….). I sprinkled a little bit over the white chocolate – I found you don’t want really big pieces in the middle because it makes the chocolate harder to spread, but I liked a little bit in the middle. Next I melted the semi-sweet chocolate (I used the 60% chips from Ghirardelli) and these melted beautifully! Once I had a nice smooth chocolate, I poured it on top of the white chocolate and spread it out with the offset spatula. Then I sprinkled the candy cane pieces and dust around the top until it was covered the way I wanted. I put it all in the refrigerator to harden up.
Once I took it out of the refrigerator, I pulled it out of the pan by using the aluminum foil handles and put it on a cutting board. I chose to cut mine smaller than the aforementioned kitchen store does since I really am not supposed to eat it, but if I have a little piece – well – that’ll be OK….I ended up using a pizza cutter to cut it. It really shattered rather than cut since I did it straight out of the refrigerator. If you want a cleaner cut, let it warm up towards room temp. (And the chocolate will taste much better at room temp than straight out of the refrigerator!)
So, now it was time to go back to the lesson on white chocolate…..I looked at the ingredients on the “White Baking Chips” and found several kinds of fat, but NO Cocoa Butter (We’ll just refer to this as the BAD stuff….). Cocoa Butter is the fat out of standard chocolate. US Regulations require at least 20% cocoa butter to label something as “white chocolate.” We were heading to Nashville that Saturday, so I made a white chocolate hunting trip out of it. I found white chocolate chips at Trader Joe’s and at Whole Foods. The key is that the ingredient list should have cocoa butter first or second (behind sugar). I came home with a variety of white chocolates!
In reviewing the web page of the unnamed kitchen store, they state that they use Guittard Chocolate and Peppermint Oil. I had some Peppermint Extract which is not as strong as peppermint oil, but I decided to add a little bit the second try anyway – didn’t have time to find the oil today….
Back in the kitchen, and I’m off on the second batch of peppermint bark. Lo and behold, the white CHOCOLATE chips melted beautifully! It spread much easier and tasted much better (now, don’t get me wrong, the first batch was really good!). I added a little bit of the extract did the same process and now I am very happy with my peppermint bark. If you want, you can use a higher quality chocolate than the Ghirardelli (like Guitard, Scharffenberger, Callebaut, etc.), but I am happy with the taste of the 60% chips. All in all, I have about $8 in the recipe that makes 2 pounds – so, $4.00 for a $27.00 (ok – $26.95) box of bark – not a bad markup……
14 ounces white chocolate (make sure it is cocoa butter only!!!)
16 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 peppermint candy canes
Peppermint Oil or Extract (optional)
Prepare a sheet pan by covering in aluminum foil (or parchment paper). Make sure foil hangs over edges to give you a handle to lift bark out. Very lightly spray the foil with non-stick spray.
In a thick plastic zip top bag, crush the candy canes into size pieces desired (I usually get a little carried away – something about stress relief….)
Over a pan of just simmering water with the burner turned off, put the white chocolate into a heat proof bowl and melt until smooth. Remove bowl from the top of the pan, wiping bottom of bowl to make sure no water gets into the chocolate. Mix in Peppermint oil or extract if using. Pour white chocolate onto sheet pan and using offset spatula, spread the chocolate over the pan. Sprinkle on a little of the crushed candy canes – not too much, as it makes it much harder to spread the chocolate next (or you can leave off and just use on the top). Let harden slightly in refrigerator.
Melt semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in the same way. Once smooth and melted, pour over the white chocolate. Use offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the whole pan. (If you used the crushed candy cane in the white chocolate, you may have to work around those pieces as you spread the chocolate.) Sprinkle crushed candy canes over the top. Put in refrigerator to harden.
Remove bark from the pan using “handles” of the aluminum foil or parchment. Put on a cutting board and either break into pieces or use pizza cutter to cut into pieces. You will get more breaking than cutting, but that’s OK – get the bark to whatever size pieces you prefer.
Makes approx 2 pounds of bark.