minty sweets and holiday treats!

i finally finished the fall semester!  it seemed like one of the longest 4 1/2 months of my life (for various reasons), but i made it through with flying colors.  four classes, straight a’s and one brand new language later, i am finally home and enjoying the holidays with my family.

one of our great many traditions in my house is making christmas candy to give away as gifts.  i was originally going to blog about the best, richest, smoothest, and most chocolatey fudge in existence, but my mother insisted it was a secret family recipe and my camera was not welcome in the kitchen that afternoon. we compromised and i talked my way in to photographing and sampling some decadent peppermint bark.  it is super easy to make and turn in to fabulous additions to the regular spread of christmas desserts.  let’s get started!

for the peppermint bark, you can really choose whatever kind of chocolate you personally like.  the traditional combination is milk chocolate and white chocolate, but my family are dark chocolate lovers so we swapped the milk for dark.  i despise white chocolate but others seem to really enjoy it so we kept it in this batch (mostly because its a beautiful contrast against the dark chocolate!)  the only other ingredients you’ll need are a little vegetable oil, peppermint oil (not extract– i’ll show you why later!) and crushed candy canes or peppermint candies.

the shopping list:
-one bag (12 oz.) dark chocolate chips
-one bag (12 oz.) white chocolate chips
-2 tbsp. vegetable oil (or any flavorless oil)
-1/2 to 1 tsp. peppermint oil (NOT EXTRACT!)
-crushed peppermint candies or candy canes

first thing’s first: let me tell you about the terrible, terrible things that can happen to chocolate when it mixes with water.  this is a warning in advance so that you don’t lose a whole entire batch of chocolate because it seized up!  water and chocolate DO NOT MIX.  even so much as one teensy weensy drop in the bowl you’re using to melt in, or a damp bowl that’s just been cleaned can ruin a batch of chocolate in no time flat.  make sure that whatever vessel you choose to melt in is perfectly dry and that no water comes in contact with the chocolate at any point!  you don’t want your chocolate to look like this, but it should look like this instead!

okay so to start, grab a 9×13 inch baking sheet and either grease it with a little butter or spray it with nonstick spray (just to make sure the bark won’t stick when you’re all done).  take a large glass bowl and add your dark chocolate chips and one tbsp of vegetable oil (to keep the chocolate shiny!).  pop it in the microwave in 30 second increments at 3/4 power (gently melting), and stir every 30 seconds until the chocolate is all melted.  at this point, add your 1/2 tsp of peppermint oil* and stir together.

**side note: remember how we just talked about chocolate not liking water?  well if you wanted to make your chocolate pepperminty and added peppermint extract (which is like water) to your bowl, it would act just like water and seize up your beautiful dark chocolate.  instead, any baking supply store (and even some supermarkets now!) have peppermint OIL which is much stronger but in an oil form so it won’t affect your chocolate!

when the chocolate is melted and the peppermint has been added, taste and see if its pepperminty enough for you.  remember, the white chocolate won’t get peppermint flavoring so the dark chocolate needs to be pepperminty for both!  your chocolate will look like this:

once the chocolate is sufficiently pepperminty, pour it in to your buttered pan and smooth it out evenly with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula which is my favorite cooking utensil in the world and everyone should have one because they are the best okay sorry :)

put the dark chocolate in to the freezer to harden while you melt the white chocolate.  ideally the dark will chill for 20 minutes to get hard (unless you want to swirl your bark, in which case you’ll need both chocolates to be liquid in order to make this design— if you like this, pour the white on top of the still warm dark and swirl with a toothpick!)

melt the white chocolate the same way as the dark (no water, remember!) but this time don’t add the peppermint oil or else the bark will be too strongly flavored.  while the white is melting and the dark is chilling, crush up some candy canes or peppermint candies in to small and larger chunks to sprinkle on the top of your white chocolate.  get this ready in advance because once you pour the warm white chocolate on the cold dark chocolate, the white will firm up almost instantly when it hits the cold dark chocolate and the peppermint candies won’t stick when it sets!  my crushed pieces looked like this:

next, take the melted white chocolate and pour and spread it over the chilled dark chocolate.  while its still wet, sprinkle the white chocolate with the crushed candy pieces making sure to tap them in lightly with the palm of your hand to make sure that they stick. 

chill this entire pan in the fridge for an hour before you take it out and break it in to pieces.  you can either snap pieces off with your hands, or sometimes its even more fun to pick up the entire bark and drop it down again on to the pan.  it should shatter in to nice pretty chunks!  store this in the fridge until its time to give it away or snack on it during the holidays.  i hope you enjoy it!

happy holidays to you and yours!