Some days – the grey, mizzly ones that made up most of our ‘summer’ – you just need to snuggle up on the sofa with a mug of tea and a big bar of chocolate. And if you’re looking for something more sophisticated than Dairy Milk, then chocolate bark is for you.
Made by melting good quality chocolate into a thinner, more rustic slab and drizzling it with all sorts of tasty topping combinations, it not only hits those chocolate cravings but makes an impressive gift. And it’s seasonal… you can smash your Easter Eggs over it, crumble over candy canes or simply break up pieces of your favourite chocolate bar, dried fruit or nuts. Mine is a grown-up version, using high-cocoa content dark chocolate, pistachios and cranberries – but it's well worth experimenting to come up with your own twist. There are some ideas for alternative flavour combos below.
Also, if you're feeling frustrated by someone/something/life in general, bashing the chocolate into pieces with a rolling pin is VERY satisfying. Just try not to get it all over your kitchen.
Makes 8-10 slabs of bark
300g good quality dark chocolate, at least 65% cocoa solids
75g sweetened dried cranberries
Prepare a board to make your slab by securing a piece of greaseproof paper over a large chopping board (I like to hold it tight and sellotape it underneath – you don’t want any lumps or bumps).
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a Pyrex bowl. I do mine in the microwave, stirring between 20-second bursts, but you can also do it over a saucepan of boiling water on the hob. Be careful not to over-stir or the chocolate will go grainy.
When it’s just melted, take it off the heat and, using a spatula and palette knife, spread the chocolate out on the board to a thickness of 3-4mm. Don’t worry If you’re left with a few ridges – this will only add to the rustic feel.
Shell and roughly chop the pistachios. Sprinkle these evenly over the melted chocolate, followed by the cranberries (again, you can chop these but I prefer mine whole). Try not to be too uniform – it looks better messy. Leave the bark to harden for a few hours. I prefer this to putting it in the fridge, as the sudden drop in temperature can make the chocolate oxidise and go a little white on top.
Once the bark is hard, use the end of a rolling pin to smash it into large, misshapen shards. Store in a cool place, in a sealed container, for up to a week. Or, if you're feeling generous, wrap the bark in cellophane and secure the ends with ribbon to make a stylish gift.
Alternative flavour combinations...
White chocolate (300g), dried strawberries (100g) and a healthy pinch of black pepper (sounds weird but I promise it tastes amazing)
Milk chocolate (300g), chopped crystallised ginger (75g) and a teaspoonful of cinnamon
Dark chocolate (300g), roasted almonds (50g) and a few pinches of sea salt
Milk chocolate (300g), crunchy peanut butter (100g) and a few pinches of sea salt. For this one, you'll need to swirl the peanut butter through the chocolate before it sets - use a skewer or a sharp knife to create a ripple effect
Dark chocolate (300g), toasted hazelnuts (75g) and candied orange/mixed peel (75g). You can make your own candied orange by heating thin slices in a small saucepan of 100ml boiling water and a teaspoon of caster sugar
White chocolate (300g), cashew nuts (50g) and chopped dried apricot pieces (75g)
Milk chocolate (300g), broken bits of salted pretzels (35g) and chopped glacier mints or other boiled sweets (35g)
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