Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.
We’ll Likely Never Buy It Ready-Made Again
Bo and I love our peppermint bark, and always make sure to have some at our house every year throughout the holidays. Years ago, we bought it, either at Williams-Sonoma, or the bags of little squares by Ghirardelli at the grocery store — and both brands are delicious. Then one year, on the night before Christmas Eve, we had run out of the supply we bought, and we decided to try making our own. It was easy and fun — so much so, we never bought it again. We now make enough to share it with friends and relatives.
We're Always Open to Trying New Things in Our Kitchen
This year we changed the process we use to make this delicious candy. First, I'll share the older way, then the new way. Both work fine, but Bo thought of a method he wanted to try, so we did.
The Old Method
We used two bags of chocolate chips, one of dark chocolate, and one of white chocolate, plus a large stick of peppermint candy. Bo melted the dark chocolate in a double boiler and poured it onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I used an extra-wide cookie spatula to spread the chocolate until it was a thin, smooth layer, but it was never a completely even thickness. We then put it into the fridge to harden.
A Lesson Learned the Hard Way
Be sure to take the dark chocolate out of the fridge a few minutes before the white chocolate is completely melted. We learned the hard way that, if the dark chocolate is too cold, it causes the white chocolate to begin cooling immediately. Then it cannot be spread smoothly or completely. That resulted in a chocolate mess — lesson learned.
Crushing the Peppermint
While the dark chocolate chilled, we put the peppermint stick into a zip-close bag, and crushed it with a meat cleaver. That was a good way to take out any frustrations you may have, and it's kind of fun.
After the peppermint is crushed, set it aside while waiting for the white chocolate to be ready to receive it. We can't find those large peppermint sticks anymore, but a couple of years ago, we found this reusable little jar of crushed peppermint. Using it saved us time for both crushing and cleaning the mess those little pieces of peppermint that, somehow, go everywhere.
We Found a Better Way to Do the Peppermint
Adding the White Chocolate Layer
When the white chocolate in the double boiler has melted, pour it over the dark chocolate, spreading it to a smooth, even, top layer.
Immediately, while it is still warm and soft, begin sprinkling crushed peppermint over the white chocolate, and patting it in place so it won't fall off when the chocolate hardened.
The New Method -- Trial and Error
When we made this candy in the past, the bottom (dark chocolate) layer was never even. It always had high and low places, causing the white chocolate top layer to be thicker in places where it had settled into the low spots below. It quickly became clear that my engineer husband had been thinking about this, and here's what he did:
Instead of putting the parchment paper on a large cookie sheet, then putting it into an already over-crowded fridge, Bo decided to try making it on the counter top.
New Method -- Step 1
First, he put down four yardsticks, stacked two-deep and parallel to each other. The distance between them was a little less than the length of our rolling pin, so the ends of rolling pin could "ride" on the yardsticks to roll out the thickness of the chocolate. (See next photo.)
New Method -- Step 2
Next, he put a sheet of parchment paper over the yardsticks (because they are not sterile; and also to keep sticky chocolate off of them), and poured the chocolate onto it. He then put a 2nd sheet of parchment paper over the chocolate.
New Method -- Step 3
Next, we used the rolling pin to spread the chocolate between the 2 rows of yardsticks, making the chocolate an even thickness throughout.
Well, there were a few air bubbles that left small "pot holes" in the chocolate. You can see them through the parchment in the photo below. No worries — the white chocolate will fill those.
Waiting for the Chocolate to Cool
When using the countertop method instead of a cookie sheet that can be put in the fridge, it will take longer for the first layer of chocolate to cool and harden enough to add the top layer, so be prepared to wait a while before adding the white chocolate and the peppermint. The wait is well worth it.
When the candy is completely hardened, it can be broken into pieces of any size. We made some medium-sized pieces and some tiny bite-size pieces.
Another Idea For Next Year
Yep! We've already thought of another change we want to make next time we make this recipe. Again, the engineer had a better idea for the crushed peppermint. He suggested stirring it into the melted white chocolate, and spreading both over the dark chocolate at once.
The reason? If the tiny pieces of peppermint are embedded in the top layer of chocolate, they shouldn’t break loose, and fall off when you take a bite.
Sounds like a great idea to me. Maybe we won't wait a year to try it….
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