Covered in chopped, roasted nuts or filled with chewy, sweet dried fruit. Chocolate bark is a come one, come all treat. Break it up into classic shards, or use my trick for creating chocolate bark shapes. It's a literal snap to make!
The come one, come all confection
Chocolate is a perfect vehicle for nuts, fruit, candy, pretzels, and more chocolate. Anything goes, truly. Even melting and cooling up a batch of pure chocolate bark to simply sprinkle a little sea salt.
This simple and quick kitchen project can be in your mouth in a matter of minutes, and with just a couple ingredients. Or one, if you're like me and simply love to play with your food.
This is a bit clever to write, for chocolate bark you truly only need the star ingredient to become star baker. A plateful of crunchy garnishes are a fun project for kids, and can add a little protein and fiber to your moment.
All you need is:
- good quality chocolate, chopped
- any garnish that suits your fancy, chopped in small pieces
DO melt far more chocolate than you plan to use. You can always cool it and reuse it. A perfect example of reduce, reuse and recycle in your mouth!
Choosing chocolate for bark
No need to overthink the purchasing here. Do know that the better quality chocolate you buy, the more seductive and delicious your bark will be. As I'm always harping, ingredients matter.
But that doesn't mean we need to spend more on a chocolate treat than dinner (trust me, it could easily happen given the variety of gourmet bars on shelves). I tend to buy the store's brand of organic dark chocolate for home use, and for clients, most often Ghirardelli.
Dark chocolate bark of any kind
For a luscious, nuanced dark chocolate bark, choose a chocolate that is at least 63% percent cocoa. Of course, the darker the chocolate, the more intense and bitter the flavor. Bare minimum for any bark, reach for semi-sweet.
Avoid chocolate with emulsifiers
Steer clear of any chocolate that contains emulsifiers like soy lecithin, and also excess processed oils. Many chocolate chips will come with these ingredients, which is why I prefer a bar chocolate. One chocolate chip brand that I've found does melt well is Enjoy Life. It's also allergen-free, bonus!
How to temper chocolate by the book, just in case
Most of the chocolate you buy at the grocery store is already in temper, or the sugars are crystallized appropriately so it will melt nicely, then set shiny and snap. Tempered chocolate won't suffer fat bloom, or the dreaded oozing of white cocoa fat to the surface. Just in case, I temper any chocolate I procure for coating or confections like bark.
It's a simple process. And if we don't get scientific with a thermometer, because homemade bark is not for sale, it's completely fuss free.
Easy tempered chocolate
Here's how to temper chocolate in three easy steps, no thermometer required. And the most important element of melting chocolate is to remember this:
Begin with a very dry bowl, and be mindful of rogue drops of water. Any water that touches the melted chocolate will cause it to seize, or harden.
#1. Melt most of the chocolate over a double-boiler.
Place two-thirds of your chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a small pot filled with an inch or so of water. Melt over low heat, and stir often.
#2. Temper the melted chocolate by whisking in reserved chocolate.
Off the heat and stirring constantly, add reserved chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. The thermometer in the photo is just to give you an idea of how hot the melted chocolate can be when coming off the heat. There is truly no need to use one.
#3. Let the melted chocolate cool slightly.
Cooling the melted, tempered chocolate a little will allow you to pour and spread it more easily. If it's too hot, the chocolate will spread and you'll end up with thin chocolate paper instead of chunky bark. I find five to ten minutes of cooling is plenty.
#4. Pour and spread chocolate.
On a silicon baking mat or a parchment/wax paper-lined pan, pour and spread chocolate into a rectangle. No need for perfection, one of the beauty's of chocolate bark is its imperfect shape.
Toppings + French-style Bark
This side of the pond, you will often find chocolate bark with the garnishes mixed in. In France, they simply sprinkle the toppings, well, on top. I love this method because it gives you a chocolate confection that is both scrumptious to eat and beautiful to admire.
Kiddos in the kitchen
I especially love making a French-style bark with the kids. After I melt, cool and spread the chocolate, they can literally go nuts. Fun toppings for kids can be pretzels (we use gluten-free), white chocolate chips, candied citrus peel and even just decorating sprinkles.
Fine motor skill development, anyone? ????????????????????????
Creating the finished shards
At room temperature, chocolate bark and all its glorious flavor bits will take an hour to two to set hard. For faster cooling, you can pop the pan in the refrigerator (sacrilege in professional circles, but hey, we're at home here).
I like cutting it first into small rectangles, then halving the small pieces into long, thin triangles. But your kitchen, you're the boss. Break it up with your hands, or bring the kids back in and let them have at it. There is, of course, no wrong way to bark.
Chocolate hearts and more sweet shapes
I'm not one to get overly excited for cupid's arrival on February 14th. But I do get excited about the excuse to eat chocolate. Or play with it. Or both. If you don't own any candy or confection molds, but do have a few cookie cutters lying around, you can create fun and festive chocolate bark.
To shape your bark with a cookie cutter, let it cool until almost hard, but still soft enough you can press the cutters through with a little force. Carve as many as you can or want, but don't remove the shapes until the bark is completely set.
I love making hearts for Valentine's Day. It's a fun family activity, and is much cheaper than sending flowers. And it's edible times.
Yours in chocolate,
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- How to make homemade 'Milano' cookies without all the processed junk
Simple, quick, scrumptious and a fun project for kids. Spice and mix up chocolate bark any way you like, with whatever you have on hand. Or leave it pure and just have fun playing with chocolate!
For French-style chocolate bark, sprinkle the garnishes on top the poured chocolate. Otherwise, mix the garnishes in before spreading.
- 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (Ghirardelli or similar quality brand recommended)
Bark Garnish Ideas
- small pieces of dried fruit
- sliced or chopped nuts
- crushed pretzels
- crystallized ginger or citrus peel
- rice cereal (mix in before spreading)
- any flavor baking chips
- marshmallows and graham cracker crumbs for s'mores chocolate bark
Melt + temper chocolate
- Set a small pot with an inch of water over medium-low heat.
- Place all but about a third of the chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl, and set it over the pot.
- Stir frequently until chocolate is completely melted.
- Remove from heat and cool a few minutes (to 95° F to be exact).
- Stir or whisk in remaining chopped chocolate. Mix in garnishes at this step for American-style chocolate bark.
Pour + garnish chocolate bark
- Onto parchment paper, pour melted chocolate and spread evenly with the back of a spoon or offset spatula.
- For French-style bark sprinkle garnishes on top of spread chocolate after pouring.
- Cool at room temperature until set.
For Chocolate Bark Shapes
After spreading and garnishes chocolate, let cool until ALMOST set. Press and remove a cutter into the bark to create desired shapes. Let cool completely before separating shapes.
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